Acadia and Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq Sign Historic Agreement
Acadia University and the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq (CMM) today signed a memorandum of understanding that commits the two organizations to work together to improve Aboriginal student participation in post-secondary education and open Aboriginal communities to academic research.
The goal of this new relationship is to break down many of the barriers that exist between Aboriginal people and their communities and post-secondary education with the hope that more young Aboriginal students will pursue a university education and university communities will become more sensitive to their unique needs and learning objectives.
“It’s imperative that we proactively encourage more of Canada’s Aboriginal youth to pursue post-secondary education,” said Ray Ivany, Acadia’s President and Vice-Chancellor. “Our discussions with the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq lead us to conclude that the traditional structures and processes of universities are often barriers to the entry and success of Aboriginal students, and that needs to change. The only way we’ll be successful is if we work together with Aboriginal community leaders and students to create a campus environment where we can learn from one another and provide student support systems that encourage cross-cultural understanding and eliminate these unnecessary barriers.”
During the signing of the memorandum, representatives of the university and Aboriginal communities received a blessing and opening prayer from Elder Doug Knockwood, as well as singing of the Honour Song by drummers Michael Stevens and Carolyn Landry, an Acadia master’s student.
Dr. Don Julien, Executive Director of the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq addressed the crowd. As a guest lecturer on campus and the parent of two Acadia alumni, Dr. Julien has long-recognized the need to offer improved support for Aboriginal students at Acadia.
“This is a very special and historic day,” he said. “The Acadia University community is welcoming Aboriginal and First Nations students to its campus and providing a place to meet where they can be offered social and academic support. Working together, we can accomplish a lot of great things.”
Fourth-year Acadia student Wayne Toney came to Acadia to study a double major in psychology and sociology as a mature student. He addressed the gathering by first thanking each of the elders from his community who taught him about the importance of community – a trait he says Acadia shares.
“Today is an acknowledgement of the feelings I have always felt as a First Nations person,” he said. “Acadia has allowed me to excel and identify who I am. Together, we are going to give our student centre some culture and help establish programs, hold ceremonies, and invite all of campus to learn about our culture.”
The MOU commits Acadia and the CMM to work cooperatively in the following areas:
- Increasing aboriginal attainment of post-secondary education;
- Creation of holistic education systems that contribute to life-long learning and community development in Aboriginal communities;
- The development of curriculum and culturally sensitive materials in post secondary institutions that address Aboriginal needs such as capacity development and the human resource needs of First Nations people and communities; and
- The establishment of a connection between academic research and the needs of Aboriginal communities.
The first initiative underway is the creation of a gathering space on Acadia’s campus for Aboriginal students and the CMM. It’s expected that this space will become the centre of cross-cultural social and educational activities while giving the CMM a regular presence on campus. The next step will be creating a principal point of contact within Acadia for Aboriginal students to help them with such issues as course selection, academic tutoring, career path planning and student financial aid.
Acadia University, in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, has long been recognized as one of Canada’s premier post-secondary institutions. With its nationally and internationally recognized undergraduate and graduate research initiatives, small classes and technology-rich teaching and learning environment, Acadia offers students an experience that includes academic achievement combined with personal growth and development. Acadia also offers distance learning, certificate programs, language training and other university extension programs through Open Acadia. For more information about Acadia University, visit our website at www.acadiau.ca.