By Ben MacIntosh
Students observe Mawi’omi performers (photo credits: Ben MacIntosh)
New UPEI students were able to participate in a unique first-time addition to the new student orientation (NSO) proceedings Tuesday.
First-year students were welcomed to watch and participate in an event called Mawi’omi on Campus, hosted by the Mawi’omi Indigenous Student Centre and NSO planning committee in the W.A. Murphy Student Centre.
The word Mawi’omi means gathering in the Mi’kmaq language. The event showcased the beauty, strength, spirit, and endurance of the Mi’kmaq peoples’ culture through food, drumming, and dancing.
Dion Bernard was the lead male dancer for the Mawi’omi; he attended UPEI in 2015. An estimated 200 people attended the event, and Bernard said it was different from other Mawi’omi events at UPEI.
“Whenever they all were engaged, it was so much better,” he said.
For Bernard, the number of students who participated in the Mawi’omi made the event more special.
“I feel like the tradition is being passed on, because when you’re doing a Mawi’omi it’s not based just on Mi’kmaw people, it’s for everybody to join in,” he said.
For many of the students in attendance, this event was one of their first experience at UPEI, and Bernard hopes they want to learn more about Indigenous culture.
“I hope they bring it into their professors and ask more about what is the Mawi’omi,” he added.
Sherri Russell, the coordinator of the Mawi’omi Indigenous Student Centre, helped organise the event. She wants students to learn about Indigenous culture from events like the Mawi’omi.
“I hope students see how engaging, vibrant, and alive the culture is,” Russell added.
She said the turn out for the event was not what organizers were expecting.
“We were really pleasantly surprised by the turnout,” Russell said.
For Russell, a Mawi’omi during NSO was the perfect way to start the year for the Mawi’omi Indigenous Student Centre.
“We do have Indigenous students attending UPEI, sometimes we have a hard time finding each other, so it’s a great way to promote the centre,” she said. “Not just for indigenous students, we’re open to non-Indigenous students, staff, and faculty as well.”
Organizers hope after the success of the first Mawi’omi during NSO it will be able to become an annual event.