Chasity Lucio hopes Mi’kmaq students will feel more welcome at Dalhousie University after the school’s installation of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council flag on its Studley Campus quad.
Lucio is from the Mi’kmaq community of Sipekne’katik, located near Shubencadie, and when she moved to Halifax seven years ago, she felt like she was in a “concrete jungle.”
“Here, when you’re a student, you get the culture shock, you get isolation, you don’t have that connection to home. You really feel like you’re alone in the city,” she said.
“Having the Mi’kmaq grand council flag flying here … it really welcomes (students) because that’‘s something familiar for them and it’s something that makes them feel that they’re comfortable and they’re welcomed here.”
Lucio wants students to feel they can reach out to on-campus groups that support them, like the Aboriginal Students Centre, which partners with the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq to provide cultural and financial support.
At Thursday’s event, representatives of Dalhousie and the Mi’kmaq community raised the flag together, hand over hand, as a symbol of friendship.
The Grand Council flag features a red cross, sun and moon on a white background.
“The dream is that, when they see this flag, they see, ‘This is my campus, This is my university,’” said Dalhousie President, Richard Florizone.
Last weekend St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish raised the Mi’kmaq flag for the second year to commemorate Treaty Day. Nova Scotia’s Treaty Day recognizes the 18th century treaties between the British monarchy and the Mi’kmaq people.
Dalhousie’s faculty of agriculture in Truro permanently installed the flag in June, and the school’s Sexton Campus in downtown Halifax will install it on Friday.
The Grand Council flag will be a permanent feature on Dalhousie’s campuses, next to the Canada and Nova Scotia flags.
“Our Mi’kmaq Grand Council flag is pretty important in our communities and for it to fly on a flagpole next to the Canada flag and within an institution like Dalhousie … it’s a true testimony of peace and friendship,” said Lucio.
Following the flag raising, the Eastern Eagle drumming group led students and visitors in a dance around the quad, beginning the university’s annual Mawio’mi. Mawio’mi means gathering in Mi’kmaq and is a celebration of diversity and heritage.
“(It is) very important as we move forward through our shared history that we’re able to look at each other, talk to each other, laugh with each other,” said Mi’kmaq Grand Keptin Andrew Denny.
“And that’s what the Ma’wiomi’s all about. To tell our stories, to make those friendships.” .