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 Mawiâ€™omi on Campus, hosted by the Mawiâ€™omi Indigenous Student Centre and NSO planning committee in the W.A. Murphy Student Centre.
The word Mawiâ€™omi means gathering in the Miâ€™kmaq language. The event showcased the beauty, strength, spirit, and endurance of the Miâ€™kmaq peoplesâ€™ culture through food, drumming, and dancing.
Dion Bernard was the lead male dancer for the Mawiâ€™omi; he attended UPEI in 2015. An estimated 200 people attended the event, and Bernard said it was different from other Mawiâ€™omi events at UPEI.
â€œWhenever they all were engaged, it was so much better,â€ he said.
For Bernard, the number of students who participated in the Mawiâ€™omi made the event more special.
â€œI feel like the tradition is being passed on, because when youâ€™re doing a Mawiâ€™omi itâ€™s not based just on Miâ€™kmaw people, itâ€™s for everybody to join in,â€ 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.
â€œI hope they bring it into their professors and ask more about what is the Mawiâ€™omi,â€ he added.
Sherri Russell, the coordinator of the Mawiâ€™omi Indigenous Student Centre, helped organise the event. She wants students to learn about Indigenous culture from events like the Mawiâ€™omi.
â€œI hope students see how engaging, vibrant, and alive the culture is,â€ Russell added.
She said the turn out for the event was not what organizers were expecting.
â€œWe were really pleasantly surprised by the turnout,â€ Russell said.
For Russell, a Mawiâ€™omi during NSO was the perfect way to start the year for the Mawiâ€™omi Indigenous Student Centre.
â€œWe do have Indigenous students attending UPEI, sometimes we have a hard time finding each other, so itâ€™s a great way to promote the centre,â€ she said. â€œNot just for indigenous students, weâ€™re open to non-Indigenous students, staff, and faculty as well.â€
Organizers hope after the success of the first Mawiâ€™omi during NSO it will be able to become an annual event.