PEI

Aboriginal Week celebrated at UPEI

Students at the University of Prince Edward Island are getting lessons this week in the culture of the first Islanders.

Powwow will mark end of university's Mi'kmaq celebration on Friday

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6 years ago
Duration 1:29
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Students at the University of Prince Edward Island are getting lessons this week in the culture of the first Islanders.

Aboriginal Week at the university is a celebration of an ancient Mi'kmaq festival.

Three UPEI students enjoy the traditional Mi'kmaq game, Waltis, part of Aboriginal Week at the school. (CBC)

"Mawiomi, which means the gathering of all people," explained Dion Bernard, a Mi'kmaq who is helping out with the celebration.

"So it doesn't matter what race you come from or what religion, you're welcome to share ours."

On Tuesday Bernard was teaching students a traditional Mi'kmaq gambling game, Waltes. The students were playing with sticks, not money, but the competition was still fierce.

"As soon as you get into it you can't stop, like you want to keep winning," said student Jane DiCarlo.

"So, yeah, I got a little competitive."

An historic photo shows a game of Waltes underway. (Mi'kmaw Daily Life website)

The game is played with stones, marked on one side, that you have to try and flip over by banging the board on the table.

Read more about the traditional game of Waltes here.

Remembering the murdered and missing

The Waltes tournament is one of a number of fun events arranged to help students learn about Mi'kmaq culture.

They have been touched either by a family member a friend.- Sherri Russell

Organizers are also taking the opportunity to remind students of some tragic truths of being aboriginal in Canada today.

Something new to the celebrations this year is hanging red dresses around the campus, which is part of a national campaign to draw attention to the thousands of missing and murdered aboriginal women in the country.

It doesn't matter who you are, you can share aboriginal culture, says UPEI Mi'kmaq student Dion Bernard. (CBC)

The campaign was started by a Métis artist in Winnipeg a few years ago, and UPEI students felt it important to bring it to the Island this year.

"They have been touched either by a family member a friend, that type of thing, that have been missing or murdered, an indigenous woman," said UPEI aboriginal academic advisor Sherri Russell,

"Or have been touched by some form of intimate violence in their own lives."

UPEI Aboriginal week wraps up on Friday with a big powpow at 10 am. 

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