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Language and Culture (13-17)

Career fair emphasizes two-eyed seeing in preparing Mi’kmaw youth for post-secondary

March 29, 2024

Youth encouraged to hold on to cultural teachings while navigating Western educational institutions

Youth working with wood while 3 men help at different stations.
Young people attending a career fair called Honouring Our Future Leaders in Dartmouth earlier this week had the opportunity to create their own ji’kmaqns, a traditional Mi’kmaw percussion instrument, at a workshop hosted by Michael R. Denny, seated at left. (Sis’moqon/CBC)

CBC Indigenous: Finding ways to blend both Western and Indigenous knowledge was a key feature of a three-day educational and career fair for high school students that wrapped up earlier this week in Dartmouth, N.S.

The event, called Honouring our Future Leaders, or Mui walanej Nutqo’ltite’ wk Mita Nekmow Nikana lulkitaqq, was hosted by Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey, an educational authority that supports Mi’kmaq in Nova Scotia to embark on lifelong learning opportunities.

It attracted more than 80 Mi’kmaw students who learned about options for post-secondary education and also cultural and language teachings to help them deal with hurdles they may face while studying at Western educational institutions.

Two-eyed seeing, or etuaptmumk, was a fundamental part of the gathering. 

The concept was developed by Elder Albert D. Marshall Sr. and refers to appreciating both Indigenous and Western knowledge. It means using both knowledge systems simultaneously while navigating the world.  

5 youth holding fan-like instruments.
Youth from the Honouring our Future Leaders gathering holding their ji’kmaqn’s that they built in a workshop at the event. (Sis’moqon/CBC)

Marshall spoke to the youth, encouraging them to engage in their cultural teachings as they embrace Western educational journeys.

“As skijins … native people of this beautiful part of the country, you see everything from your Aboriginal lens,” said Marshall. “Your Aboriginal lens has been grounded in the environment you’re in … the language, the culture and ceremony.”

He emphasized that it isn’t possible to go through modern life with this perspective alone, saying they must train themselves to seek other perspectives in order to have better opportunities.

“Integrate it into the Western understanding, Western education, because this system has done wonders in so many ways … gave a lot of skills to our Aboriginal people so they can sustain themselves in this technological world,” Marshall Sr. said.

a girl holding a circular piece of birchbark with quillwork designs on it.
One of the youth participants taking part in a quillwork workshop. (Sis’moqon/CBC)

Lilly Joe, a Grade 11 student from Membertou, N.S., said she was looking forward to hearing Marshall speak.

“There’s a course on Netukulimk and I did a project on him, so I wanted to see him in person,” she said.

Netukulimk is a Mi’kmaw ideology concerning the interconnectivity of all living things, ensuring the use of natural bounty without harm to the environment or other living beings.

Joe said she intends to go to law school after she graduates.

Madysun Bernard, another Grade 11 student from Membertou, said she came to the event “to learn about my people and get new experiences and learn about my culture.”

Bernard said she plans to study criminology at Saint Mary’s University and aims to become a criminal lawyer.

two youth playing a game with a bowl and dice.
Two of the youth participating at a waltes tournament, a Mi’kmaw game played with a wooden bowl, disc-shaped dice and counting sticks. (Submitted by Nerissa Doucette)

Michael R. Denny, the red road co-ordinator with Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey, hosted a ji’kmaqnworkshop where youth created their own traditional percussion instrument made from split ash wood. 

“You know, education, whether it’s learning a traditional craft, that’s still education. We got to start thinking about education in a holistic approach,” said Denny.

“It’s more than just Western institution universities [and] colleges, education is also from our knowledge keepers, our elders that are teaching us these different ways of who we are as L’nu people and that could be language, that could be ji’kmaqn, that could be kojua singing, that could be ceremony … ceremony is education.”

3 men working with wood while youth are watching.
Youth participating in the ji’kmaqn workshop. (Sis’moqon/CBC)

Grade 12 student Scott Denny-Stevens of Eskasoni appreciates these opportunities to be engaged in his culture.

“When I was growing up, I was always scared to do stuff, but then I recently learned to kojua right, and I was doing kojua here, too. I love being here, being with my people and learning new stuff,” said Stevens.

Stevens said he’s already been accepted to Cape Breton University to pursue a bachelor of science.

a booth with university advertisements presenting to a youth.
Representatives from Kings College were among the post-secondary institutions who were at booths discussing options for the students. (Sis’moqon/CBC)

Ann Sylliboy is post-secondary educational director with Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey. Sylliboy said building relationships with others at school can be a huge help for new students. 

“Having strong community connection within university would probably be your number one protective factor in being successful,” Sylliboy said.

“Loneliness can be really challenging for people to be able to navigate.”


Sis’moqon, Journalist

Sis’moqon is a Mi’kmaw woman from Ugpi’ganjig First Nation. She is a journalist at CBC and is part of the Indigenous Pathways program. She currently resides in Kjipuktuk, also known as Halifax. You can email her at with story ideas.