Acadia University is pleased to announce that Mi’kmaw Elder Dr. Joe Michael is joining our campus as an Elder in Residence. In this role, he will provide support and resources, primarily to Indigenous students and Indigenous staff, from a holistic Mi’kmaw perspective. This support will address mental, spiritual, cultural, emotional and physical health needs.
“Msit No’kmaq – All My Relations – is a phrase we are coming to understand and live by at Acadia University,” says Dr. Peter Ricketts, President and Vice-Chancellor. “The phrase reinforces that everyone and everything has a purpose, is worthy of respect and caring, and has a place in the grand scheme of life. I am so pleased that Elder Dr. Joe Michael will join us at Acadia and support our students and campus.
“As part of reconciliation, universities have a fundamental role to play in getting it right with the next generation of Canadians,” Ricketts says. “For Acadia, that means making a conscious effort to bring Indigenous peoples, as well as their philosophies and cultures, into the fabric of our campus and curriculum. It is an exciting opportunity for all of us to learn together and make a welcoming space for Indigenous students, scholars, employees, and community members.”
Elder Joe Michael, who was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humanities from Acadia in 2019, is a highly regarded inspirational and spiritual leader within the Mi’kmaw Nation, Indigenous communities across Canada, and on Acadia’s campus, particularly with students interested in learning traditional knowledge.
His passion for educating youth has made him a regular visitor to university campuses in Nova Scotia. At Acadia, he has played a key role in Mawio’mi events since 2015. In addition to his consulting and teaching, Elder Joe Michael carves talking sticks that have made their way around the world and are a symbol of his belief in the power of storytelling and finding balance.
Elder Joe Michael sees his role as Elder in Residence as encompassing cultural awareness, not only for the Acadia community but for Indigenous students coming from Aboriginal communities who now find themselves in non-Indigenous surroundings.
“You have to prepare Indigenous students for the environment that’s around them,” he says. “The elder’s role is ensuring that it’s a safe environment, and building up trust.”
Trust is key, he believes. “The students should be able to come to my office and trust me to help. I bring life skills and experience that they don’t have. My goal is for the students to reach for the stars,” he says.
Elder Joe Michael has found Acadia to be a very welcoming university.
“Aboriginals welcome strangers, and that’s what Acadia is doing with a warm heart,” he says. “The welcome isn’t just providing additional tutoring, because it’s not only language that’s involved. It’s cultural awareness. The parents sending their children to university – did they finish high school? Are they survivors of the residential schools or the Indian day schools? Not supporting the students to achieve their goals would be like sending a child out in rainy weather without a raincoat.”
Elder Joe Michael was the first Mi’kmaw member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. During his 25-year RCMP career, he earned respect from Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. He combined his traditional knowledge with contemporary policing practices to increase cross-cultural awareness and develop the RCMP’s Aboriginal Community Policing model that remains part of the force’s cadet training program in Regina. Before retiring from the RCMP as Detachment Commander, he became the force’s Pipe Carrier responsible for performing sacred rituals and ceremonies and helping all people better understand the Indigenous culture.
“Elder Joe Michael’s focus is to ensure Indigenous students have the tools and supports they need to be successful in both their academic and personal lives,” says Zabrina Whitman, Coordinator of Indigenous Affairs and Student Advising at Acadia.”
In the new year, the Elder in Residence will be working with department heads and deans to meet with Indigenous students in their programs.
Office hours will be posted on Indigenous Services Instagram.
Msit No’kmaq – All My Relations.