Chancellor returns for a weekend on reconciliation
The Mansbridge Summit is an annual opportunity for the Mount Allison community to discuss current topics of importance and interest with Chancellor Peter Mansbridge and invited guests. This year was the final summit, and marked the end of Mansbridge’s term as chancellor of Mt. A. The summit, which took place on Friday, Sept. 29, focused on the topic of Indigenous action.
The day began with a Mi’kmaq flag raising ceremony in front of the Chapel. This was followed by a smudging ceremony at the Purdy Crawford Motyer-Fancy Theatre, performed by Indigenous affairs coordinator Doreen Richard and elder-in-residence Gilbert Sewell.
Anthropology professor Paulette Steeves then spoke about Indigenous knowing, being and doing. “It has never been a secret that Indigenous people have their own worldviews, spiritualities, governance systems, languages and cultural practices, and that their worldviews and ways of being, doing and knowing are very different from Western or settler ways,” Steeves said. “However, through colonialism and attempted genocide, Indigenous ways of knowing, being and doing have for centuries been dehumanized, illegitimated, erased and excluded in educational and public institutions.”
Throughout the day, participants divided into breakout session groups, where the topics of colonization, decolonization and reconciliation were discussed. Richard led one of these breakout groups. “I am glad that Indigenous people get a chance to speak what’s on their mind in a safe environment and I’m glad that our students have come out,” said Richard. “The workshops – at least the one I’m doing – are quite powerful….”
Participants involved in the breakout sessions took the opportunity to listen to others and voice their own thoughts. Laylia Bennett, a Mt. A student participating in the sessions, said, “There’s been a lot of really great discussion happening throughout the day, and I’m really fortunate to be a part of it.”
The Summit also held a panel discussion on Indigenous issues, which featured Indigenous leaders Donald Julien, Imelda Perley, Natalie Sappier and Cynthia Sewell.
Later, Mansbridge interviewed comedian and broadcaster Candy Palmater. In this interview, Palmater spoke about many pertinent topics including decolonization, childhood memories and issues facing Indigenous broadcasters.
After a shared meal, Elder Sewell led a talking circle to conclude the Summit. Before the participants parted ways, there was an opportunity to hug each other and share heartfelt appreciation for everyone’s presence and contribution.
Rebecca Butler, the Mansbridge Summit Intern, spoke to the Summit’s emotional component: “Sometimes in broader atmospheres of academia there’s the idea that if we’re talking about our feelings, then we’re not being rational and logical, and I was proud of just how much of the day embraced feeling things,” she said. “Sometimes you just need to take a minute and pause and feel guilty, and sometimes you need to take a minute and be in that circle and feel grateful and confused and unsure.”
Butler also said, “I want to make it very clear that I believe the success of the day rested on the backs of the Indigenous members of our community who spoke and attended. The day wouldn’t have been possible without Doreen and Gilbert who were just so willing, at the drop of a hat, to help with anything.”
Although this was the final Mansbridge Summit, organizers and participants emphasized that Indigenous action will continue to remain an important topic on campus long after the event has finished.