Message from the President: Celebrate Treaty Day, October 1!

Let’s Move Forward Together in Peace and Friendship
| Community
People wearing orange shirts for Orange Shirt Day
Students, staff, and faculty gathered at the amphitheatre adjacent to the UPEI Chaplaincy Centre to mark Orange Shirt Day and hear from Elders Judy Clark and Julie Pellissier-Lush.
The following message was sent to members of the campus community on October 1, 2020, to their emails on behalf of the Office of the President.

Dear students, staff, and faculty,

The land on which the University of Prince Edward Island is located is Epekwitk, the traditional and current territory of the Mi’kmaq People of this region. Epekwitk, which is the Mi’kmaq name for the area now known as Prince Edward Island, is one of seven traditional Mi’kmaq regions in Mi’kma’ki (the ancestral lands that comprise Atlantic Canada, and parts of eastern Quebec and Maine).

Yesterday, on September 30, the UPEI Mawi’omi Indigenous Student Centre recognized Orange Shirt Day, which commemorates the residential school experience, honours the healing journey of the survivors and their families, and commits to the ongoing process of reconciliation. The annual Orange Shirt Day was created as a result of former residential school student Phyllis (Jack) Webstad’s account of when her new orange shirt, bought by her grandmother, was taken from her on her first day of school. Now, every year, Orange Shirt Day opens the door to global conversation on all aspects of residential schools, promoting the belief that “every child matters.” The Mawi’omi Centre invited the UPEI community to take pictures of their orange shirts and share them on the Mawi’omi Facebook Page to celebrate Orange Shirt Day. Elder-in-Residence Judy Clark, LLD, also hosted her weekly chat session “Taliaq?! What’s Up?!", and PEI Poet Laureate and Elder Julie Pellissier-Lush read from some of her work.

Every year on October 1, we celebrate Treaty Day to mark the signing of a series of Peace and Friendship treaties between the Mi’kmaq and the British Crown, and to reaffirm the presence of the Mi’kmaq who have lived in Mi’kma’ki for thousands of years. Signed in the 1700s to end hostilities, the Peace and Friendship treaties allow for peaceful co-existence and remain relevant today as they also guaranteed the Mi’kmaq People the right to hunt, fish, gather, and earn a reasonable living without British interference. This year, Treaty Day is particularly poignant given the tensions in Nova Scotia where Sipekne’katik First Nation fishers are exercising their legal right to fish for lobster.

These treaties do live on, as does the commitment that Islanders move forward together in peace and friendship. I encourage you to read more about Treaty Day on the L’nuey website.

Treaty Day also kicks off Mi’kmaq History Month when we recognize and celebrate Mi’kmaq culture and heritage. UPEI has stated in our “UPEI Strategic Plan, 2018–2023” that

UPEI is committed to advancing reconciliation through higher education. As a community, we have started a journey of growth to realize the role we must play in promoting an understanding of Indigenous history and culture, and supporting respectful relationships. UPEI recognizes that discussions in this era of truth and reconciliation will unveil difficult facts within our country’s history. However, in keeping with our institutional vision, we know that education is vital to understanding the history of colonialism and the forward-looking process of reconciliation. Working together, we must use knowledge as a catalyst for meaningful change in communities here in Prince Edward Island and around our world.

UPEI has made some advancements, but we still—and will always—have work to do. Treaty Day and Mi’kmaq History Month are excellent opportunities to not only celebrate UPEI’s milestone moments—for example, the creation of the Mawi’omi Indigenous Student Centre, raising of the Mi’kmaq flag, the hiring of three Indigenous scholars, the UPEI Senate address by Abegweit First Nation Chief Roderick Gould Jr.—but to also look ahead at what we can continue to do to move towards a better tomorrow.  

Best wishes,

Alaa Abd-El-Aziz
President and Vice-Chancellor

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Nicole Phillips
Director of Communications
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