Indigenous Renaissance: Healing and Reconciliation through the Arts

Aboriginal Gathering

Acadia University is welcoming Aboriginal artists from across the region, and the general public, to engage with traditional and modern forms of Aboriginal art, including this year, bodies in motion thanks to a Parkour demonstration!  The 3rd annual Aboriginal Arts Mawio’mi will be hosted at Acadia University’s K.C. Irving Centre for the Environmental Science Centre and the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens, from 20  - 22 September 2015, beginning with a Sunrise Ceremony at 7:01 to which all are welcome. 

The word Mawi'omi means “gathering place” in Mi’kmaq.  A sacred fire will be lit on Friday, 18 September, by Spiritual Advisor, Joe Michael, and it will be tended 24/7 by firekeepers until the event closes. 

The community hosts for the event include Mi’kmaw Family and Children’s Services and Mi’kmaq Legal Support Network, and throughout the Mawio’mi, missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls, men and boys, and their families will be honoured and remembered.  The event will focus on the theme:  “How can we coexist, in a just and peaceful way, with the Land and within ourselves and each other as humans?”

The official opening on Sunday includes a “Grand Entry” to honour Leaders, Veterans, RCMP and Firefighters, and those in the Helping and Healing Professions.  If you or someone you know serves in this way, please come in your uniform or regalia so that we can honour your community service.  Darlene Copeland and Diane Christmas, from Mi’kmaw Family and Children’s Services, will be preparing moose meat stew for the first public feast of the Mawio’mi on Sunday afternoon. 

The campus organizers, Dr. Andrea Schwenke Wyile (Dept. of English), Maggie Jean Neilson (Acadia Library), and Dr. Cynthia Alexander (Department of Politics), say that the Mawio’mi is a timely and important gathering this year, an election year, given the 94 recommendations in the Report of the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission in June 2015, and the 20th anniversary of the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in 1996, which Dr. Alexander observes have been largely ignored across Canada, despite the human rights issues Indigenous peoples in Canada face, from homelessness to hunger, documented by the United Nations Special Investigator, Dr. James Anaya, in his May 2014 Report.  The Mawio’mi, says Dr. Alexander, who teaches Indigenous Law at Acadia, provides a welcoming place: 

“We have things to learn about, to unlearn, to discuss and reflect upon, including some difficult issues. 

We have the opportunity to honour the trust of Indigenous Elders, artists and community members, and to listen and learn about ancient ways of being, knowledge systems, laws of the land, and languages and cultures. 

We have a common future to envision, and individual and collective actions to deliberate and follow through upon.”

The Mawio’mi promises to be a celebration unlike any seen in Wolfville and the Valley.   At the outdoor amphitheatre the general public, young and old alike, are invited to share music, humour, dance, and more during the Open Mic.  The organizers say:  “Bring your voice and your instrument, and share a story, a joke, a song, and dance.”

Dr. Schwenke Wyile noted Acadia students’ increased interest and respect for the dynamic, resilient, and unique place Aboriginal peoples hold in Nova Scotia and across Canada after engaging with artists at last year’s Mawio’mi.   Acadia welcomes special guests and artists who will share their art, stories, workshops, including: 

  • Tina Keeper (actress, North of 60, producer, and former Member of Parliament for Churchill, Manitoba) will facilitate a Youth Dialogue Sunday evening, to which all are invited, and deliver a keynote talk Monday evening.  Zabrina WhitmanAli Barnaby, and Moyrah McKee are among the youth who will participate in the Youth Dialogue, addressing the question:  How can we co-exist, in a just and peaceful way.  Quentin Syliboy and Logan Mulhern, two artists, one Indigenous and one not, will co-create art as they listen to the Youth  Dialogue, facilitated by Tina Keeper.
  • Poets in Residence include:  Shalan Joudry, a community ecologist, cultural teacher from Bear River First Nation, will read from her first book, Generations Re-merging (Gaspereau Press, 2014), and lead an Earth Walk through the gardens and forests on campus; Former Edmonton Poet Laureate, Anne Marie Sewell, will share her poetry and offer a writing workshop; and Debbie Toney, an Acadia University student.    
  • Paula (Christmas) SevestreQuentin Syliboy, and Spencer Isaacwill share their personal journeys to healing and reconciliation, while Bev Walker, will offer virtue colour therapy workshops and faceless doll-making workshop for participants wishing to join 1000s of Canadians calling for a national inquiry into Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women and Girls, in collaboration with community co-hosts, Darlene Copeland and Diane Christmas, from Mi’kmaw Family and Children’s Services. 
  • Dr. Pam Palmeter, who holds the Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University, will deliver the final keynote address on Tuesday evening. 
  • Welkaqnik Eagles in Residence include:  Spiritual Advisor Joe Michael, film-maker Cathy Martin (a co-host of the event), artist Gerald Gloade, Indigenous Law court worker and cultural teacher Barry Bernard, legal healing circle facilitator and artistHolly Meuse.
  • Welkaqnik Young Eagle Glenn Knockwood, a TEDtalks speaker, will offer a Parkour demonstration and share how he has infused his father, Dr. Doug Knockwood’s teachings into his bodies in motion practice.

For further information: 

Dr. Cynthia Alexander (Dept. of Politics): and Dr. Andrea Schwenke Wyile:  or (902) 585-1502 (Dept. of English & Theatre).  Please see for the programme and protocols.


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