Mi'kmaq flag raised at Mount A as powwow participants defy snowstorm

Just as a major snowstorm hit the region, Indigenous and non-Indigenous students and community members gathered at Mount Allison University on Thursday to raise the school's new permanent Mi'kmaq flag.

Mount Allison University hosts its 1st powwow

The new Mi'kmaq flag is raised at Mount Allison University for the first time. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

Just as a major snowstorm hit the region, Indigenous students and community members gathered at Mount Allison University on Thursday to raise the school's new permanent Mi'kmaq flag.

The crowd then walked down the street to the campus gym to celebrate Mount Allison's first powwow. 

It's all about learning and accepting — for the Indigenous people to accept others but more importantly for the others to accept Indigenous people.- Doreen Richard

More than 100 people watched as the Mi'kmaq flag led dancers into the gym, with music coming from a circle of drummers at the centre of the room.

"I think it's surreal, and despite the storm, there's a lot of people here," said Emma Hassencahl-Perley, a Maliseet dancer and Mount A's Indigenous co-ordinator. 

"I think it's really important for them to feel like they matter on campus and they are loved, and we really wanted to get together and celebrate our culture."

The bleachers cleared when the MC, Possesom Paul from St. Mary's First Nation, invited the crowd to join the dance. Two circles moving in opposite directions were formed to accommodate everyone who wanted to participate.

Plans for annual powwow

Project manager Talon Simon described it as "absolutely amazing."

He is a first-year student and a member of Elsipogtog First Nation.

"Powwows were originally just gatherings and we're glad that we can have them here at Mount Allison now," Simon said. "It means a lot to indigenous students."

Talon said he will organize another powwow again next year and plans to leave behind plans for after he graduates.

"I'm going to leave a ... little package: this is how you plan a powwow."

A 'good start'

Doreen Richard, the university's former Indigenous co-ordinator, welled up with tears during her remarks at the ceremonies.

"It's time the university made space for Indigenous people, and this is a good start," she said after.

She described the event as powerful.

"It's all about learning and accepting — for the Indigenous people to accept others but more importantly for the others to accept Indigenous people."

About the Author

Tori Weldon

Reporter

Tori Weldon is a reporter based in Moncton. She's been working for the CBC since 2008.