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Mi’kmaq History Month

Reflection, learning and celebration at Grenfell Campus

Campus and Community

By Kaila Mintz

Grenfell Campus celebrated Mi’kmaq History Month with a series of community events in October.

“As we reflect on our history and celebrate Mi’kmaw and Indigenous culture, we do with great respect and honour for our traditions, elders and partners,” said Kristen Pittman, who joined Grenfell Campus as manager of Indigenous affairs in September. “We were delighted to join with Qalipu First Nation, Western Regional School of Nursing and our valued community members for a series of events to mark this month.”

Activities included a sharing circle with Erica Samms Hurley to discuss Mi’kmaw culture, connections and identity.

Ferriss Hodgett Library showcased a display of Mi’kmaw literature.

Knowledge Keeper Kevin Barnes led a medicine walk to provide information regarding local medicines and their traditional usages.

Kevin Barnes stands in front of a group holding plants during a sunny day.
At left, Kevin Barnes, a knowledge keeper, led a medicine walk to teach participants about local medicines and their traditional usages.
Photo: Lori Lee Pike

Sherry Dean, Qalipu ward councillor, spoke on spirituality and Indigenous culture, during the Western Regional School of Nursing’s Spiritual Care week.

Traditional game

Activities concluded with the resumption of the annual Waltes game competition between Chief Brendan Mitchell, a Grenfell alumnus, and Dr. Ian Sutherland, Grenfell’s vice-president (pro tempore).

Waltes is a traditional game of chance that has been played by Mi’kmaw people for hundreds of years.

In Atlantic Canada in particular, Waltes has been used for numerous reasons, including for celebrations and to settle disputes. Spectators are encouraged to witness a game of Waltes.

“I enjoyed the friendly competition with Chief Mitchell,” said Dr. Sutherland. “What makes this campus tradition particularly special is the chief’s longstanding custom of generously contributing to Grenfell’s Student Food Bank after a Waltes game — win or lose.”

From left, Dr. Ian Sutherland, a student and Chief Brendan Mitchell play Waltes in an atrium.
From left, Dr. Ian Sutherland, a student and Chief Brendan Mitchell play Waltes.
Photo: Lori Lee Pike

(Turns out that Chief Mitchell won the game.)

“The Qalipu First Nation is really proud of our relationship with Grenfell Campus, Memorial University,” said Chief Mitchell following the game. “Mi’kmaq History Month is an important time for us, and we really do appreciate the support, the consideration and acknowledgement that we continue to have at Grenfell. We have an MOU with Memorial University, and we look forward to opportunities in the future. We have a lot to offer each other in support of Indigenous people in our communities and the province.”

Greater understanding

In addition, the first Introduction to Mi’kmaw Reading, Writing and Conversation course, will soon be launched.

The course, established through Grenfell’s Extended Learning, is led by expert facilitator, Dean Simon.

Open to anyone in the community, participants are learning to read and write using Smith-Francis orthography, with comparative coverage of other orthographies. Each class includes conversational practice.

“I hope this will be the beginning of regular instruction of Mi’kmaw at Grenfell Campus for students and the general public,” said Mr. Simon.

Details and registration for the introductory course, which begins on Nov. 4 and runs for six weeks, are available online here.

The new language course represents an important educational activity under the memorandum of understanding signed between Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band and Grenfell Campus in June 2021.

Through the agreement, the parties commit to “celebrate and promote greater understanding of Indigenous culture and heritage at Grenfell and within the broader community and region,” amongst other shared objectives.

Learn more about Indigenous Affairs at Grenfell here.

In addition to Grenfell Campus’s social media (@GrenfellCampus), follow Grenfell Indigenous Affairs on Facebook and Instagram for more details on future events.

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