In Friendship with the Mi’kmaq on Treaty Day

In Friendship with the Mi’kmaq on Treaty Day

Today is Treaty Day, the annual celebration of the treaties by which the Mi’kmaq and the Crown promised to live in peace and friendship, and the first day of Mi’kmaq History Month. Together, we reaffirm these treaties and recognize the rights of the Mi’kmaq they enshrine and protect, including over their unceded lands. We embrace the responsibilities the treaties place on everyone, if we are to be the treaty people we aspire to be.

We support the Sipekne’katik First Nation’s exercise in St. Mary’s Bay of the recognized Mi’kmaq’s Treaty right to a moderate-livelihood fishery, and call upon governments, communities and citizens to support and protect those who invoke it in the spirit of peace and friendship of the treaty relationship.

In 1986, Grand Chief Donald Marshall Senior proclaimed the creation of this day in direct response to attacks on the Mi’kmaq’s political and cultural existence. As educators and students, we must think about that. This celebration was created to teach, to raise awareness for this land’s Indigenous People, their history, sovereignty and ways of living in harmony with all creation—and to foster understanding of the treaties as the continuing foundation of the Nation to Nation relationship they instituted.

Friendship, with its alchemy of emotion and shared experience, holds kindness and mutual respect at its core.

The Mi’kmaq have a 14,000-year history on this land. The Mi’kmaq/Crown friendship is young by comparison. Considering the hostilities, harms and injustices inflicted and endured, today is also a good day to acknowledge the generosity and dignity of the continuing Mi’kmaq gift of friendship to all Nova Scotians.

In 1985, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed the Treaty of 1752. Other cases followed, including the Supreme Court’s landmark 1999 Marshall decision based on the Treaty of 1760-61, confirming Mi’kmaq moderate-livelihood fishing rights. Closer to King’s, in 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called upon all universities, and specifically universities with schools of journalism, to take action, including on treaty education, for reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. King’s progress has been limited. It must become robust.

This is the year for introspection and self-evaluation — and for reckoning with the legacy of historic and continuing injustices. The way forward is to examine attitudes and behaviour, as well as to commit to action and redress of all neglected relationships, including with the Mi’kmaq.

At King’s, we must embrace the more comprehensive call for indigenization throughout our educational mission. We must think of indigenization as an essential dimension of that mission, and act accordingly. We have to give particular attention to creating opportunities for Mi’kmaq and other Indigenous students, to supporting the educational goals of Mi’kmaq communities and to opening ourselves to growing friendship with the Mi’kmaq.

In making progress in all of these ways, we will know we are truly becoming treaty people.

Related educational resources are available through the website celebrating Mi’kmaq History Month, Nova Scotia Legislature’s document archive, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.

Additionally, for our King’s students, you have full access to all the resources available through the Indigenous Student Centre at Dalhousie.

King’s Equity Officer, Tanisi Pooran, is available to provide resources and support.  Email: tanisi.pooran@ukings.ca.  Jordan Roberts, King’s Sexualized Violence Prevention and Response Officer, is trained in active listening and anti-racist solidarity and is also available to offer assistance and support. Email: jordan.roberts@ukings.ca.



William Lahey
President and Vice-Chancellor

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