4 P.E.I. groups recognized for reconciliation work on the Island
‘There's a sense of awareness like they want to learn more, they want to be part of it’
Four P.E.I. organizations were recognized for the work they are doing to advance reconciliation on the Island.
The Epekwitk Assembly of Councils held its inaugural reconciliation recognition awards on Thursday at its new assembly building in downtown Charlottetown.
The awards are handed out to groups that "recognize, respect and include the Epekwitk (P.E.I.) Mi'kmaq people, stories, history, or land in such a way that it creates a positive and inclusive Island community with lasting impacts for future generations."
Julie Gagnon, vice-principal at École Saint-Augustin, accepted the award on behalf of her school.
The school has been working with Lennox Island First Nation on cultural and learning opportunities, including creating their own talking sticks and building miniature teepees. The school also plans to take students to Lennox Island.
'It touched them a lot'
Gagnon said Acadians and Mi'kmaq have a close connection and the story of what happened to P.E.I.'s Indigenous people impacted a lot of students.
"I think it touched them a lot to see kids being taken away from their family," Gagnon said, after accepting the school's award during a ceremony as part of Aboriginal Awareness Week.
"There's a sense of awareness like they want to learn more, they want to be part of it, and they want to do what they can do to walk in this truth and reconciliation, not just a one shot deal. It's a commitment and they are really interested.… They are very engaged."
Three other organizations were also recognized: Mount Stewart Consolidated School, Parks Canada on P.E.I. and the P.E.I. Brewing Company.
Parks Canada was recognized for implementing Mi'kmaw programming.
P.E.I. Brewing Company received its award for not only committing to rebrand its Sir John A. Honey Wheat Ale, but for also reaching out to L'nuey, P.E.I.'s Mi'kmaw rights initiative, to ask for recommendations and create a partnership on the rebranding. The company also plans to update the historical information on plaques in the taproom to document the full story of Sir John A. Macdonald.
'Create a more caring and respectful Island community'
Darlene Bernard, chief of Lennox Island First Nation, said anything from naming a street or place in the Mi'kmaw language to advocating against systemic racism is work that could be recognized for this award.
"We've been extremely encouraged to see the groups and individuals who are doing initiatives that engage the Mi'kmaq to create a more caring and respectful Island community," said Bernard.
"We're pleased to be able to have the award as a way to recognize these special recipients and acknowledge the work that has gone into initiatives that advance reconciliation."
"This new award serves to recognize and show appreciation for those who are playing an active role in the journey towards reconciliation," said Junior Gould, chief of the Abegweit First Nation.
Mary Kendrick, principal of Mount Stewart Consolidated, said students were so interested in learning more.
'Know more about the culture'
Mount Stewart integrated Indigenous culture, dance and songs into all school events. Some students in the school also sang O Canada in Mi'kmaw.
About 22 per cent of the school's population is Indigenous. Students from Scotchfort go to the school.
"From a very young age it's really important, I think, for our children to know more about their classmates and know more about the culture of the students that they share their lives with," said Kendrick.
"And for me it's really important that they learn it from a very young age."
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With files by Jessica Doria-Brown