Two Halifax universities provide Mi’kmaq ‘auntie-in-residence’ to Indigenous learners

HALIFAX – Two Halifax universities are sharing a Mi’kmaq “auntie-in-residence” who is helping Indigenous pupils to navigate campus lifestyle.

Mount Saint Vincent College and the College of King’s Higher education mentioned in a release Wednesday they are welcoming Emily Pictou-Roberts as their to start with Nsukwi’ — “auntie” in English — to provide cultural, psychological and spiritual assistance to college students.

The 28-12 months-previous claimed in an interview there are about 164 Indigenous pupils at Mount Saint Vincent College and about 30 at King’s College or university. She claimed she spends one particular day a 7 days on every campus.

Pictou-Roberts she has been quickly approved by the Indigenous pupils, adding that she hears her title referred to as out as she tends to make her way around the campuses.

“I just listen to ‘auntie, auntie, auntie,’ all the time as I am going for walks down the avenue,” she said.

The Nsukwi’ applications are the very first of their sort in the Atlantic area. Before this 12 months, the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Systems, in Saskatoon, hired an auntie-in-home with similar obligations.

Pictou-Roberts said universities can be scary environments for Indigenous students, who she claimed typically sense as while they are element of a modest minority in an overwhelmingly non-Indigenous ecosystem.

“In my first thirty day period … there have by now been predicaments exactly where I’ve been capable to influence learners there is assist for them and the sources are offered,” she claimed.

“Here, when we’re in a colonial establishment like a university, we are inclined to sense tiny and worried to request for aid.”

Pictou-Roberts mentioned she sees her placement as an extension of the standard position of a Mi’kmaq auntie — a nurturing person who makes an attempt to “take treatment” of other folks.

“I’ve assisted with housing, food items and minimal points that could possibly discourage folks of my lifestyle from being at university,” she mentioned.

Mi’kmaq ladies, she mentioned, are deemed keepers of expertise who assistance tutorial persons by means of the difficulties of lifestyle, adding that leadership in her tradition is traditionally matriarchal.

But recovering the cultural traditions and restoring missing language skills will be a for a longer period-phrase challenge, she reported.

Pictou-Roberts grew up in the 1st Nation local community of Millbrook, close to Truro, NS, and attended a non-Indigenous high school together with several other Mi’kmaq students from her space.

She said her grandfather attended the now-shut residential faculty in Shubenacadie, NS, where by talking Mi’kmaq was discouraged. As a result, he and his siblings dropped the skill to talk their language.

Operating at the Millbrook Cultural and Heritage Centre started out her on a journey toward relearning her language and culture, Pictou-Roberts said.

“Most of the pupils I do the job with sad to say never talk Mi’kmaq … and that’s one thing we are working on as a group,” she stated. “We are reviving the language we shed to the household educational facilities.”

She said that at the Indigenous heart wherever she operates, the objects in the home are labeled with the Mi’kmaq word describing them and the phonetic pronunciation.

“Next semester I intend to invite other customers of Indigenous communities to occur and educate their language … there are several diverse dialects.”

This report by The Canadian Push was first posted Nov. 23, 2022.

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