In honour of Mi’kmaw History Month, Acadia today raised the Grand Council Flag of the Mi’kmaw Nation above University Hall where it will fly permanently alongside the Canadian, Nova Scotian, and Acadia University flags.
“The flying of the Grand Council flag on University Hall is a permanent symbolic gesture of the developing and ongoing commitment Acadia University has to its Indigenous students, employees and extended community,” says Dr. Donna Hurlburt (’97), Acadia’s Aboriginal Student Advisor. “It’s an important first step that openly states that we recognize that our campus is built on the unceded lands of the Mi’kmaq. They are a symbolic gesture, one that Acadia must back up with ongoing commitment and action on the ground.”
To student Mackenzie O’Quinn, the raising of the Grand Council flag serves as a powerful reminder. “The fact that the flag is flying over University Hall is the greatest act of reconciliation I have seen since coming to Acadia,” she says. “It's like Acadia herself is saying to me, ‘I see you, I hear you, you belong here.’ This is our land. It has been our land for thousands of years. And suddenly it feels like we are sharing it again, like we have regained a place on it. There is absolutely more work to be done, but this small action means the world to me.”
To some, the flag raising is seen as a great sign of respect. “By flying this flag above University Hall, this is a reclamation of the land, and the identification that Canadian Colonial Society (The Canadian Flag) and the Miq'Maw society (Miq'Maw Flag) can coexist peacefully, and move forward together,” says Rachel Watts, president of the Indigenous Student Society of Acadia. “To me, this action is a sign of respect to the Miq'Maw community, which is the basis for all Indigenous society. With the raising of the flag, I hope we continue to move forward as an institution and show signs of gratitude and respect toward our first people.”
The flag raising is just one of the steps Acadia is taking to promote reconciliation on campus. A Presidential Advisory Council on Decolonization has been formed on campus to support the reconciliation process. Prior to Mi’kmaq History month, Acadia was host to a number of events including Indspire Acadia, Authors@Acadia presents The Power of Stories: The Outside Circle, with author Patti LaBoucane-Benson and artist Kelly Mellings, and the first of three Turtle Island, Reading to “Discover” sessions put on by the English Department. Moving forward, there are plans to expand Welkaqnik, Acadia’s Indigenous Resource Centre.
While these steps towards reconciliation are great, Hurlburt acknowledges that there is still work to be done on campus to further the reconciliation effort. “The challenge will be to support these initiatives over the long term and to ensure that they are having positive impacts on the communities they are intended to serve,” she says. “Most importantly though, we need to be thoughtful in our approach and make sure that we hear and respond to Indigenous voices as we move forward. Reconciliation means that you actually have to build relationships and converse in meaningful ways.”
For photos of the ceremony please see our photo gallery: https://goo.gl/rZt9Mx