Learning from Knowledge Keepers of Mi’kma’ki

How it All Began

In January 2016, myself and colleague Stephen Augustine (Dean of Unama’ki College and Aboriginal Learning at Cape Breton University and Hereditary Chief on the Mi’kmaq Grand Council), created and facilitated a course, Learning from the Knowledge Keepers of Mi’kma’ki, which we chose to offer for credit but, excitingly, also made it available via live-streaming technologies to anyone with internet access.

We were inspired to create and offer this course due to our deep commitment to finding ways in which universities and institutions of higher education can decolonize, Indigenize, and promote learning about Indigenous histories, cultures, wisdom, and ways of knowing that are taught by, led by, and facilitated by Indigenous people.

This is an exciting time across Canada. When the Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada(TRC) released its executive summary report on June 3, 2015, there was a marked change in the narrative and dialogues happening across the country. Suddenly, there was a strong appetite from people from all backgrounds and walks of life to learn more, educate themselves, and understand what true Nation-to-Nation relations might be. With the election of the new Federal Government in October 2015 and the release of the Final Report from the TRC in December 2015, the need for this sort of dialogue and learning continues to increase.

We take seriously the recommendations from the TRC that call on institutions of higher education to act immediately to work with Indigenous peoples to respectfully and appropriately incorporate Indigenous knowledge, histories, ways of knowing, and language into the classroom, with an emphasis on intercultural learning and knowledge-sharing.


This course is one of the ways in which Unama’ki College and CBU are responding to the TRC Calls to Action, and continuing to find new ways to reach out, share learning, and support intercultural dialogue – and share it everyone! It is at once an educational experiment, a commitment to reconciliation, and an invitation to those near and far to join us in a collaborative journey of learning and dialogue. And we are happy you are part of it!

How Will it Work?

This course is scheduled every Monday night from 6:00-8:30pm AST, starting January 11th. This course can be taken for credit by contacting CBU’s Registrar’s Office. Otherwise, you can enjoy this course for free through several options:

  • For those within the Unama’ki/Cape Breton region, you can join us on campus in the Royal Bank Lecture Theatre (CE-258), but please register here to indicate your attendance.
  • For those who are unable to join us in person, we are happy to welcome you via live-streaming technology from Bell Alliant, available here. Please register here to indicate your attendance.
  • And if you want to participate in the learning, but can’t attend in person or join the live-stream at the time, all videos will be immediately archived by Bell Alliant, and available here to be viewed at any time, from anywhere that has Internet access.

We are also on Facebook and on Twitter with #taliaqCBU.

Course Description

On June 3, 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) released its executive summary based on a 6-year process of understanding the lasting legacies of the historical and intergenerational traumas inflicted on Indigenous peoples in Canada through the residential school system. On December 15, 2015, the TRC released the full Final Report, comprised of six volumes and thousands of pages of testimonies from survivors. A number of the TRC’s 94 recommendations put forward called for institutions of higher education to work with Indigenous peoples to incorporate Indigenous knowledge and ways of learning through the eyes of local traditional knowledge keepers and Elders into the curriculum, and to put a significant focus on enhancing intercultural learning and understanding. This course responds to this call, and endeavours to create the foundation for a permanent and required course offering for students at Cape Breton University, as well as the interested public, to learn about the rich cultures, ceremonies, history, knowledge, ways of knowing, and wisdom of Mi’kmaq peoples in Unama’ki and Mi’kma’ki.

This course provides an exciting introduction to Mi’kmaq history, culture, and ways of knowing, while attempting to answer some of the calls from the Truth & Reconciliation Commission to incorporate Indigenous knowledge, wisdom, and culture into higher education. Topics covered will include the Mi’kmaq Creation story, oral history and traditions, Indigenous governance, the ongoing legacies of residential schools and subsequent impacts on health and wellbeing, the impacts of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, the importance of the land to Mi’kmaq culture, and moving from challenges to strengths and resilience within Mi’kmaq communities. While the focus of this course is on Mi’kma’ki, the learning and knowledge shared throughout the classes have resonance and relevance across the country.

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