Today (February 10, 2020), the Aboriginal Student Centre and Office of the President at Mount Saint Vincent University hosted the annual Mi’kmaw Mid-Winter feast. The event is in its third year at MSVU and unites students, faculty, staff, and community members in a traditional celebration of thanksgiving. It’s also an important education opportunity.
“The Mi’kmaw Mid-Winter Feast is an ancient Mi’kmaw Feast. It was traditionally celebrated shortly after the first new moon of Punamuiku’s (January). Mid-winter was the end of the year and the start of the new ceremonial year for the ancient Mi’kmaq. The Mid-Winter Feast purpose was the presentation of thanksgiving to all the spiritual forces, especially to the Great spirit, for the blessings of life, health, and sustenance and the privileges of social life.” (source: Potlotek First Nation)
The event kicked off with drumming and singing by Stoney Bear and dancing by youth dancers Lyndon Julian and Jaici Syliboy. Attendees then enjoyed a traditional Mi’kmaw meal, including salmon, stew, vegetables, berries, and bannock.
Kathleen Arsenault, a recent MSVU student and now assistant in the Aboriginal Student Centre (ASC) on campus, served as event emcee. Kathleen is originally from the Inuit Nation of Newfoundland and Labrador. She spoke about the importance of celebrating and learning about Indigenous culture. Kathleen also acknowledged MSVU’s continued efforts to support Indigenous students.
Ashley Dubois is the Indigenous Student Representative on the MSVU Students’ Representative Council. She thanked everyone for gathering and noted the ASC as a place through which the University community can learn about Indigenous culture, as well as a place for Indigenous community connection.
MSVU president and Vice Chancellor Dr. Mary Bluechardt (pictured above with Trevor Sanipass) stressed the significance of events like the Mid-Winter Feast, noting the importance of celebrating the unique cultures that make up MSVU’s student, faculty and staff population. She also expressed her thankfulness for the community gathered, in the spirit of the feast’s focus on thanksgiving for the blessings of life, health and sustenance, and the privileges of social life.
Trevor Sanipass (pictured above with Dr. Bluechardt) delivered the event keynote. Trevor is a Mi’kmaq community member and descendant of Grand Chief John Denny Jr. He works as an Indigenous Liaison Officer at the Nova Scotia Department of Justice, as well as a regular community speaker. He’s helped many organizations with their reconciliation efforts. (Fun fact: Trevor also happens to be one of the top-ranked arm wrestlers in the world!)
In his address, Trevor talked about the history of the Mid-Winter Feast and its importance to the Mi’kmaq people as a tradition that dates back thousands of years. He also touched on the importance of being proud of your culture and celebrating it.
The Mid-Winter Feast concluded with a round dance, uniting all attendees in movement to the beat of the drum.