Pro­gram sig­nals new era for N.S. abo­rig­i­nals: el­der

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA -

The co­or­di­na­tor of a pro­gram at Hal­i­fax's Dal­housie Univer­sity that con­nects abo­rig­i­nal el­ders with stu­dents says the ini­tia­tive sig­nals a new era of in­clu­siv­ity for in­dige­nous peo­ple in the re­gion.

Geri Musqua-LeBlanc, head of the univer­sity's El­ders in Res­i­dence pro­gram, said the el­ders sup­port stu­dents by pro­vid­ing coun­selling and tra­di­tional cul­tural rituals such as smudg­ing, a pu­rifi­ca­tion cer­e­mony that in­volves burn­ing herbs like sage and sweet grass.

“We're there to sup­port the stu­dents and en­cour­age them, as their grand­moth­ers and grand­fa­thers would,” said Musqua-LeBlanc, who is orig­i­nally from the Nakawe na­tion in Saskatchewan. “A lot of them are away from home and they miss home. They miss their cer­e­monies, so we're there to pro­vide that for them.

“My per­sonal be­lief is that I have a sa­cred re­spon­si­bil­ity to pass down tra­di­tional in­dige­nous knowl­edge to the younger gen­er­a­tion.”

Musqua-LeBlanc said abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple have long en­dured in­sti­tu­tional racism in the prov­ince. How­ever the pub­lic is be­gin­ning to un­der­stand and ac­cept the his­tor­i­cal atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted against abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple in Canada, such as the res­i­den­tial schools where many en­dured phys­i­cal and sex­ual abuse, she said.

Ear­lier this year, Dal­housie reached out to the nearby Mi'kmaq Na­tive Friend­ship Cen­tre about es­tab­lish­ing a pro­gram that con­nects abo­rig­i­nal el­ders with stu­dents at the school, said Musqua-LeBlanc. She said the el­ders were then given free rein in de­vel­op­ing the pro­gram and its man­date.

The pro­gram launched last month and there are five el­ders in­volved.

Musqua -LeBlanc

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