Weja'tu'k kina'masutiminu maqamikewiktuk We get our education from the land

Atlantic-IMN Summer Institute: Building a co-learning community

The Atlantic Indigenous Mentorship Network hosted its inaugural Summer Institute from August 7th-11th at St. Francis Xavier University. It was a unique opportunity to begin building a co-learning community within and beyond the Network with students, mentors, and partners. The 5-day learning opportunity was focused broadly on the relationships between the land, food and medicine, as well as health and wellness.

Students arrived on the morning of August 7th to the St. FX campus. After a welcome to the week, including the Honour Song sung by Andrea Currie and smudging, the afternoon involved learning with Andrea. She spoke about the ways colonization - then and now - disrupted Mi'kmaw and Indigenous peoples' healthy relationships with land, food, and medicine across Turtle Island.

The evening was spent in Paq'tnkek Mi'kmaw Nation at the Health Centre. A delicious dinner was provided by Brad Sullivan of Rustic Kitchen and Elder Judy Peters led a sharing circle outside. We were fortunate to have Elder Judy Peters join us for this gathering throughout the week.

On the second day of Weja'tu'k kina' masutiminu maqamikewiktuk, the group met with Colleen Cameron of Bee Cee Farms for a learning exercise related to health and wellness. Colleen then led the way to her farm in Heatherton, just outside the town of Antigonish, where she spoke to the students about her experience farming blueberries. We also spent some time picking blueberries.

The afternoon and evening was spent in Paq'tnkek Mi'kmaw Nation once more. After a lunch catered by Alicia Julian, the students heard from Clifford Paul, the Moose Management Coordinator at the Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources, about his experiences leading moose management programs, partnerships, and educating youth about ceremony and moose hunting. After another dinner provided by Brad Sullivan, the group spent time learning from Elder Albert Marshall. On this evening, Elder Judy Peters also invited all those who were interested to her home for a sweat lodge ceremony.

The mid-week morning began with a sharing circle for which Elder Albert Marshall joined us. It was an opportunity to slow down amidst a busy schedule and make time for reflection by the group as a whole, but most importantly, to hear from the students about their stories and reflections.

After lunch catered by local business, Pacha Mama, the group travelled to Orangedale to spend the rest of the day with the Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources' Nikani Awtiken Camp for Mi'kmaw youth.

The afternoon involved swimming, conversation, and spending time with the youth campers. Dinner was followed by learning and practicing how to play Waltes - a traditional Mi'kmaw game - from Rosie Sylliboy.

On Friday of the Summer Institute, our co-learning community travelled to Pomquet with Tuma Young who led the group on a medicine walk along the Pomquet Acadian Trail. Tuma identified and told stories about the uses, histories, and importance of plants and medicines growing in the forests and along the shore throughout the trail. After the walk the group enjoyed a traditional Acadian lunch at Chez Deslauriers - a seasonal restaurant located at the trailhead.

On our last evening together, the group heard from Nadine Bernard about her journey to develop Slow Cooked Dreams - her business that is an educational program focused on food education and preparation - and the additional opportunities related to Mi'kmaw food sovereignty that have grown out of it. Appropriately, the group made jam and dinner together in St. FX's Nutrition Lab.

On the final day together, students attended the Antigonish Farmers' Market before a second lunch courtesy of Pacha Mama. The closing event of the week was a final reflective sharing circle led by Andrea Currie. Our transformational time together gave way to an emotional circle as well as what we all hope will be long-lasting learning and relationships that the Atlantic-IMN can continue to support and make space for on and off campuses across Atlantic Canada.

Sincerest thanks to the students who attended this gathering, the organizers from the Atlantic-IMN, and the Elders and Knowledge Carriers who gave their time and knowledge throughout the week of learning. As well, thank you to St. FX for hosting this first gathering and the many caterers and businesses who nourished our bodies and hearts.

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