UNB’s Mi’kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre will be hosting its first annual Mawio’mi/Siqonawsultipon Powwow later this month.
“We’ve had other powwows with other universities like St. Thomas, NBCC and NBCCD and we’ve taken turns hosting the powwow on each campus. But this is the first time just UNB’s having a powwow,” said Trenton Augustine, the aboriginal recruitment and marketing officer with the Centre.
A powwow is a First Nations tradition that gathers people together to celebrate life and culture. However, powwows are not restricted to aboriginal peoples.
“One of the misconceptions in New Brunswick’s society is that when they see a notice for a powwow they assume that this is only for First Nations,” said David Perley, director of the Mi’kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre.
“We’re hoping to have a good turnout from First Nations communities, from the city of Fredericton residents as well as our own UNB students and faculty members,” he said.
The Mawio’mi/Siqonawsultipon Powwow will feature several aspects of First Nations culture, including drumming, chanting and storytelling.
Mawio’mi means the gathering of people to celebrate life and culture. Siqonawsultipon means the surviving of the winter months.
“My ancestors used to celebrate that in early spring because back in those days they didn’t have … the conveniences we have today, they didn’t have electricity for example. They had to experience the harsh winter and for them it was true survival,” said Perley.
This powwow will serve as a reminder that “we’re all connected.”
“When the powwow invites people from both the First Nations communities and non-First Nations communities it means that we like to share our culture with you,” Perley said. “It’s one thing to read about a culture, but when you actually experience some of the ceremonies and the traditions … you have a deeper understanding.”
“It gives students an opportunity to learn about the Mi’kmaq-Wolastoqey cultures. There’s a lot of First Nations communities surrounding Fredericton and it’s good to know our heritage,” said Augustine.
The Mi’kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre, formally the Mi’kmaq-Maliseet Institute, has several services for First Nations students.
“We offer aboriginal students when they’re attending UNB a lot of support, both personal and academic, and career guidance,” Augustine said.
The Centre also hosts social events like potlucks and bowling tournaments, and has a lounge for students to socialize and meet people from other aboriginal communities.
The Centre, which is less than a year old, has already changed its name.
“The word Maliseet is not a label that was adopted by my ancestors. After contact [with Europeans] … they imposed the term Maliseet,” said Perley.
The word “maliseet” means “slow speaker” in Mi’kmaq.
“I made a case to the dean of the faculty of education. I made my case that we need to adopt the terminology of my ancestors and that we can’t use the terminology that was imposed on us by external authorities,” Perley said.
Wolastoqiyik means “People of the Beautiful River.”