Mawi'omi Day to introduce Mi'kmaq culture to Island students

Students from three Prince Edward Island schools will gather for a special introduction to Mi’kmaq culture on Thursday.

‘It’s going to be really breathtaking’

Kindra Bernard extends an invitation to Mawi'omi Day to Grade 7 students at Stonepark Intermediate. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Students from three Prince Edward Island schools will gather for a special introduction to Mi'kmaq culture on Thursday.

Mawi'omi Day is the culmination of lessons and meetings for students from Stonepark Intermediate, Mount Stewart Consolidated and École François-Buote.

It's a pilot project bringing together the students in Scotchfort for a day of learning and meeting members of the Abegweit First Nation community, all in the spirit of reconciliation. Mawi'omi is Mi'kmaq for gathering.

Kindra Bernard with her regalia jingle dress. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

"The goal is just for them to come out, enjoy their time through fun and laughter, get to enjoy our culture," said event co-ordinator Kindra Bernard, "to bridge that gap between the Indigenous and the non-Indigenous population."

The event came together through the friendship of Abegweit First Nation Chief Brian Francis and singer-songwriter Tara MacLean. MacLean wanted to include some Indigenous material in a show she was developing, and asked Francis to help make sure she got it right.

The two became friends, and one day while walking together Francis shared a thought that eventually led to Mawi'omi Day.

"He said he had one wish, and that was for people to come to Scotchfort and to come and see and meet the people and that would help with the misunderstandings," said MacLean.

'The students will remember this day'

But before the gathering, there is the education. The three schools arranged special lessons for their students, covering residential schools, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Sixties Scoop.

The Sixties Scoop refers to a time in Canadian history when thousands of Indigenous children were apprehended by child welfare authorities and placed in the care of non-Indigenous families.

Mi'kmaq elders also visited the schools to tell the children about the experiences of their people.

While these lessons are important, said Jeff Trainor, a Grade 7 teacher at Stonepark, he believes the key lessons will come on the day itself.

Mi'kmaq elder Alma MacDougall performs an exercise with Grade 7 students at Stonepark Intermediate demonstrating the impact of the Sixties Scoop. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

"It's just the immersiveness," said Trainor.

"The students will remember this day on June 21st. I would hope they would get a lot out of that, even more than I could teach them in an entire year."

It's an opportunity Tara MacLean wishes she'd had when she was a kid.

"They're going to play some games that are Indigenous, and more food, and lots of drumming and dancing. It's going to be really breathtaking," she said.

'It's a beautiful opportunity and we all need to just step in with our hearts wide open,' says Tara MacLean. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

MacLean feels a calling to a play a part in reconciliation.

"This situation is Canada's greatest wound. This is where the most healing is required. This is where the most love is needed," she said.

"It may take another 100 years to heal this but it's a beautiful opportunity and we all need to just step in with our hearts wide open."

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With files from Katerina Georgieva