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Step toward reconciliation

Indigenous leaders present Grenfell Campus with Grand Council flag

Campus and Community

By Melanie Callahan

Grenfell Campus is working toward Indigenization by committing to fly the Grand Council flag of the Mi’kmaw Nation on campus permanently.

From left are Chief Brendan Mitchell, Qalipu First Nation, Chief Mi’sel Joe, Miawpukek First Nation, President Vianne Timmons and Dr. Jeff Keshen, vice-president (Grenfell Campus).
Photo: Lori Lee Pike

Chief Mi’sel Joe of the Miawpukek First Nation and Chief Brendan Mitchell of the Qalipu First Nation presented President Vianne Timmons and Dr. Jeff Keshen, vice-president (Grenfell Campus) last week.

The flag will be raised in a ceremony at the campus in the spring, when it will fly permanently. It will fly next to the Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Memorial University flags.

The Grand Council flag, which signifies alliances between people in Mi’kmaw territory, features a cross that represents mankind, white to represent the purity of creation, the sun to represent the forces of the day and the moon to represent forces of the night.

Grenfell Campus also flies the flags of many of the province’s Indigenous Peoples in the Arts and Science atrium, along with flags representing students’ countries of origin.

Watch the presentation in the video below.

“I thank Chief Dr. Mi’sel Joe, Chief Brendan Mitchell and the Mi’kmaw Grand Council for presenting us this gift,” said Dr. Timmons.

“The lands that we study on, benefit from and where Memorial’s campuses are located have been occupied, managed and governed since time immemorial by Indigenous Peoples. As president, I recognize the importance of having this flag on display at Grenfell; as a person of Mi’kmaw descent, I’ll be thrilled to see it flying.”

Traditional Mi’kmaw territory

Reconciliation in Canada takes many forms, says Chief Mitchell.

“On behalf of our nation, I am pleased to see that we are taking an important step today in presenting the flag to be flown at Grenfell Campus, on the traditional territory of the Qalipu First Nation,” he said.

“I thank President Timmons and Vice-president Keshen for acknowledging the Mi’kmaw Nation in Newfoundland and Labrador. Today, we mark an important step toward our own reconciliation, with the Grand Council flag being proudly displayed in recognition of the First Peoples of this province. I also wish to thank the Mi’kmaw Grand Council for its support in this significant milestone.”

“I hope people see this as a school book, not just a piece of fabric.” — Chief Mi’sel Joe

The Grand Council flag, in use since the 19th century, is a sign and symbol of opportunity to teach others about the Grand Council, says Chief Joe.

“I hope people see this as a school book, not just a piece of fabric, that will teach us about hundreds of years of the history of our people,” he said.

“Mi’kmaw people have an obligation to educate people. The more we know, the more we can learn. We can look to this flag and how our history is being taught in schools and universities as has been identified as an important part of truth and reconciliation.”

‘Much to learn’

There are more than 300 Indigenous (having First Nations, Inuit or Métis ancestry) currently enrolled at Grenfell Campus.

“We value our role as leaders in creating opportunity for Indigenous populations, and we recognize we have much to learn as we work toward Indigenization,” said Dr. Keshen.

“The raising of the Grand Council flag is an ongoing territorial acknowledgement that Grenfell Campus is situated on Mi’kmaw territory. This is a significant step towards building a campus that celebrates the ancestry and cultures of our Indigenous students.”

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