Halifax Schools Might Start The Day By Recognizing Mi'kmaq Lands

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HALIFAX — The morning ritual for Halifax students may soon be expanded beyond the national anthem, to include a daily reminder that their school sits on traditional Mi'kmaq territory.

A member of the Halifax Regional School Board is proposing that an acknowledgment be read out as part of morning announcements.

Jessica Rose, the board's Mi'kmaq representative, said Monday that the proposal was brought up at a committee meeting last Wednesday and is going to be studied in hopes it be adopted and in place by September.

cornwallis school
Cornwallis Junior High was renamed to Halifax Central Junior High in 2011. The school was previously named after Edward Cornwallis, the city's founder who, in 1749, offered a bounty for the scalps of Mi'kmaq men, women and children. (Photo: Andrew Vaughan/CP)

Rose said the gesture may help aboriginal students gain a sense of pride in their heritage.

"I think it's fantastic,'' she said. "For some of our First Nations students they might not feel comfortable talking about their culture and they might not feel comfortable self-identifying ... so I think this could really help with that.''

She said it would likely be a simple statement that could be understood by children of all ages and would be read along with housekeeping announcements and the singing of the national anthem at each school.

Rose said the idea came from a colleague, who saw that the Toronto District School Board had introduced a similar motion last year. The message, read every morning at that board's roughly 585 schools, recognizes they sit on traditional First Nations territories.

Board meetings now start with a similar message

Halifax board spokesman Doug Hadley said staff have been asked to bring back a report with more information on the proposal, adding that board meetings now start with a similar statement that reads, "We acknowledge that this meeting is being held on Mi'kmaq territory.''

Hadley said he believed the board unanimously approved the inclusion of that statement when it voted on it last year.

Rose said the effort to raise the profile of aboriginal history comes out of a report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which spent six years examining the legacy of the government-funded, church-operated schools that operated from the 1870s to 1996.

But, she said the daily message isn't enough.

"A couple of lines in the morning isn't going to educate all of our students on this history of our First Nations people."

She said the history of indigenous people has to become a more meaningful part of the education system and extend beyond Grade 6.

"My only concern is that there needs to be the education piece that goes along with it,'' she said. "A couple of lines in the morning isn't going to educate all of our students on this history of our First Nations people.''

Rose said staff are looking into the logistics of the daily message and will consult with Halifax's Mi'kmaq Native Friendship Centre about how to word it.

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