Message from the President: Faculty installs tipi on the UPEI campus

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photo of people installing tipi with woman in foreground with drum
Mi'kmaq Elder Thirly Levi beats her drum, blessing the ground, as a tipi is installed on campus

The following message was distributed on behalf of the Office of the President to students, staff, and faculty via their @upei.ca emails.

Dear Members of the University Community,

You may have noticed something new in the quadrangle between the Kelley Memorial Building and the W.A. Murphy Student Centre since last week. The temporary, cone-shaped Indigenous structure, known as a tipi, was chosen by our new Faculty of Indigenous Knowledge, Education, Research, and Applied Studies (IKERAS) to represent the Indigenous ways of knowing that will be incorporated into the Faculty’s courses and programs. The Faculty was created by the UPEI Board of Governors last November as one of the first steps on the University’s journey of reconciliation and in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action.

The canvas-covered tipi, a modern take on the traditional version made of wooden poles and hides, was manufactured and installed by the Sumac Creek Tipi and Trading Company of Serpent River First Nation in Ontario. Although tipis were typically built by the Indigenous Peoples of the Great Plains and not built in Mi’kma’ki, this structure was chosen by the new Faculty to symbolize Indigenous cultural and spiritual presence at the University. We are grateful to the Mi’kmaq Elders and Chiefs for allowing us to install and bless the tipi in Epekwitk according to Mi’kmaq ceremony.

The installation is timely as the first course being delivered by the new Faculty of IKERAS, “1040 IKE – Indigenous Teachings,” begins on May 9. The University Senate recently approved this course as part of a suite of courses that will be offered by the Faculty, eventually becoming a minor. The Senate further approved that all incoming undergraduate students, beginning in 2022, must complete “1040 IKE – Indigenous Teachings” as a mandatory requirement to graduate.

An introduction to the various Nations on Turtle Island, “1040 IKE – Indigenous Teachings,” is anchored in L'nu (Mi'kmaq) knowledge. Students will learn about ceremony, protocol, Elders, and traditional teachers, helping to foster a mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual understanding of Indigenous worldviews and ways of knowing. The course will also introduce Canada's history of genocide and cultural assimilation imposed upon Indigenous Peoples and why anyone living in Canada needs to know this history.

UPEI is committed to supporting existing Indigenous faculty members and to building a critical mass of Indigenous content experts in the new Faculty so that they can lead us in the deconstruction of historical narratives and breakdown of contemporary stereotypes through the delivery of IKERAS curriculum. With the assistance of the Government of PEI, UPEI will be hiring three Indigenous term faculty for the fall semester, with the idea that these positions will be converted to tenure-track faculty. I thank interim Dean Dr. Gary Evans, and the other IKERAS faculty members and UPEI staff for their dedication and tremendous work to date.

There is much more to do—a poignant reminder is that on May 5, we mark the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, also known as Red Dress Day. The use of red dresses was originated by Métis artist Jaime Black in 2010 as a representation of the women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people lost to violent crime. Today red dresses continue to be hung across Canada in May, including on the UPEI campus, to honour those lost and to serve as a call for action to prevent future violence.

Regards,

Greg

 

GREG KEEFE, DVM, MSc, MBA (he/him)
President and Vice-Chancellor (Interim)
University of Prince Edward Island

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