Today, September 30, is Orange Shirt Day, a day to create awareness of the individual, family and community inter-generational impacts of Indian Residential Schools – impacts of which have been experienced for over a century and continue today. We wear orange as a demonstration of support of the key tenet of Orange Shirt Day – that Every Child Matters. We encourage you to join us in wearing orange today and, if you’re able, to share photos of yourself on social media using the hashtag #MSVUOrangeShirtDay. Take a look at this video featuring members of the MSVU community marking Orange Shirt Day:

Today is also the eve of Treaty Day, an annual celebration recognizing the Treaty of 1752 that was signed between the British Empire and the Mi’kmaq people. Treaty Day is of particular importance this year as tensions continue to rise in relation to the Sipekne’katik First Nation fishers exercising their legal right to fish for lobster outside of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans regime. As Patrick Small Legs-Nagge discussed in a recent social media post on this topic, it is apparent that many in our province do not fully understand the moderate livelihood clause nor the scope of the Atlantic Peace and Friendship Treaties. We encourage all who are not familiar with the Treaty of 1752 to learn more online.

Treaty Day also heralds the onset of Mi’kmaw History Month, which is currently in its 27th year. October was designated as the official month to recognize and celebrate Mi’kmaw culture and heritage – and I ask that you make the time to do just that, as doing so will not only be educationally rewarding, but life-enriching.

Normally, we would look forward to experiencing Mi’kmaw History Month together on campus.  While that is not our reality this year, we can come together as a community in devoting time to not only look ahead, but to reflect on some of MSVU’s milestone moments, including:

  • Opening the MSVU Aboriginal Student Centre in 2013
    • A reminder that our ASC is open on Wednesdays, and accessible by appointment (more info on the ASC webpage). Please take the opportunity to visit, and in doing so build upon your knowledge of and appreciation for the Mi’kmaq culture.
  • Installing the wikuom in 2017
    • MSVU was the first university in Nova Scotia to add a wikuom to its campus.
  • Appointment of the first Special Advisor to the President on Aboriginal Affairs at MSVU in 2017 – Patrick Small Legs-Nagge
    •  Patrick has focused on finding and creating opportunities for community engagement; ensuring that the University, including academic courses, takes on more Indigenous worldviews; presenting to all faculties on Indigenous worldviews; and continually providing strategic counsel to the MSVU leadership team.
  • Formation of the L’nu Advisory Circle in 2019
    • We are indebted to our Advisory Circle members for their investment of time and sage advice on the contribution we can make in support of Indigenous learners and communities.
  • Celebration of the inaugural Aboriginal Academic Access Post-Secondary program (AAAPS) in partnership with the Mi’Kmaw Native Friendship Centre.
    • The program is designed to assist Indigenous students successfully transition to university. Ten students have completed the program, with the majority of them now enrolled in university or college. Two have joined us at MSVU.

While it’s important to recall milestones, it’s equally important to look forward to the work that awaits, including:

  • Dialogue with the L’nu Advisory Circle team on September 30 pertaining to one of our Strategic Plan themes: Truth and Reconciliation. The guidance of the L’nu Advisory Circle will not only inform the finalization of the theme and objectives, but will also assist in developing the blueprint for the work required to meet our goals.
  • Building upon the success of the AAAPS foundation year, with leadership from Dr. Carrie Dawson, Dean of Arts and Science, and Brittany Whynot, program coordinator at the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre. Having participated in the fall term faculty orientation day, we can attest that we are well positioned to do just that. The orientation session included a Blanket Exercise, followed by a screening of “Is it Really Genocide? In Canada?” If you haven’t had the opportunity to view this film, I strongly encourage you to do so. Within the fall term, we also look forward to welcoming D. Marie Battiste, a renowned Mi’kmaw scholar, as our first speaker.
  • Furthering Indigenous research initiatives at MSVU. In the absence of opportunities to present face-to-face research, Dr. Derek Fisher, in conjunction with his team, has initiated the MSVU Research Minutes video series. These weekly videos feature research activity happening at MSVU. Keep an eye out for the October 1 release, which will be wholly in keeping with Mi’kmaw History Month.

Later this week, Patrick Small Legs-Nagge, Special Advisor to the President on Aboriginal Affairs, will be sharing with the university community important information about how we can all engage in truth and reconciliation this month and beyond. We encourage you to take time to review his message and consider how best you can be part of this critical effort.