ANTIGONISH: In a move to ensure Indigenous students feel safe, welcomed and honoured, StFX University officially opened their Indigenous Student Centre.
“I am so glad this is happening,” said Michelle Sylliboy, an Indigenous professor within StFX’s Faculty of Education.
Mi’kmaq Elder and StFX Knowledge Keeper Kerry Prosper and StFX President Andy Hakin unveiled the name of the centre “Kiknu – Our Home” during a small ceremony on Feb. 26.
“This spot, Kiknu, is a safe spot for our students, for their families, for all the Indigenous people who come to (StFX),” Prosper said. “We have lived here for thousands of years, but today we struggle to find safe spots in our homeland and today I give thanks for this.”
After taking the time to listen to their Indigenous students to find out what they needed to succeed and turning to the surrounding Indigenous communities to discuss how they should name it, Prosper suggested this was something that he will always remember.
Jeneva Dennis, a fourth year Bachelor of Arts student who emceed the event, spoke on the importance the space is to her.
“It’s been such an amazing journey at StFX that had its ups and downs and I love how the centre gives me access to do things on my own time,” Dennis said. “Throughout the years I’ve been here, the centre has always been valuable to me. It has acted as a comfort zone.”
She indicated not only is it a safe place to study, it’s also a space to socialize with other Indigenous students and it able to help hold her culture close.
Hakin indicated it was a special moment in StFX’s history.
“They have come back with something truly special,” he said. “Kiknu – Our Home, what a wonderful choice that is, it speaks to what this space can be and should be.”
Hakin said he’s excited about the possibilities Kiknu brings as it will provide their Indigenous students and their community with something special.
The university’s president said he sees Kiknu as a place that will bring people together, where peer mentoring and learning happen organically, a place that will promote the success of students, and that will create an environment that promotes friendship and helps in the journey to bring about truth and reconciliation.
“It will enrich our campus,” Hakin said. “And it’ll help magnify the (on-campus) Mi’kmaq voice.”