Hiawatha Wampum Belt Flag raised above McGill

During the annual ceremony McGill launches the Indigenous Tuition Initiative

At 11:30 on June 20, the Hiawatha Wampum Belt Flag was raised atop McGill University’s McCall MacBain Arts Building in honor of National Indigenous Peoples Day (June 21). It marks the seventh annual raising of the Hiawatha Wampum Belt Flag, which will be flown until the morning of Saturday, June 22.

Inaugurated at McGill in 2018, the ceremony responds to one of the Calls to Action put forward by the Provost’s Task Force on Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Education in recognition of the importance of building respectful and reciprocal relations with Indigenous peoples.

The flag is a centuries-old symbol marking unity and peace between the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida and Mohawk nations

“Deeply resonant moment”

The event was marked by a ceremony at the Faculty Club that included and members of the McGill communities. Dignitaries included Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer, Grand Chief of Kahnawà:ke; Ian Lafrenière, Minister Responsible for Relations with the First Nations and the Inuit for the CAQ; Chief Ross Montour, (Education Portfolio); and Francis Verreault-Paul  (BSc ’17), standout varsity hockey player, a member of the McGill Sports Hall of Fame and current Chief of Staff for the Assembly of First Nations for Quebec-Labrador.

The ceremony began with the Opening Words of Elder Mike Loft, retired McGill professor and community member of Kahnawà:ke.

“Since 2018, the raising of the Hiawatha Wampum Belt Flag is always an emotional and deeply resonant moment,” said Christopher Manfredi, Provost and Executive Vice-President.

“This flag is a symbol of peace and unity, and today’s ceremony is an occasion to recognize our shared and sometimes difficult history, to focus our awareness of the Indigenous heritage of this land on which we are gathered, and to reflect on the path toward Reconciliation, and the shared future we aim to build together.”

The Provost reflected upon the path that led to this point. He spoke about being “deeply touched personally” by the testimonies of the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and the need to develop a coordinated and comprehensive action plan at McGill in response to the Commission’s final report.

In 2016, Provost Manfredi established the Provost’s Task Force on Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Education. The Task Force was mandated to partner with McGill and Indigenous communities to discover, discuss, and promote ideas and projects aimed at improving the presence and achievements of Indigenous students, staff and faculty.

“The final report of McGill’s Task Force on Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Education, with its own important Calls to Action will continue to drive our efforts here at McGill,” said Prof. Celeste Pedri-Spade, Associate Provost (Indigenous Initiatives). “In advancing in our efforts towards truth and reconciliation, and meeting our Calls, we will continue to ensure that we are listening and responding to the voices and ideas of Indigenous community members.”

Indigenous Tuition Initiative

As part of the event, the University announced the launch of the Indigenous Tuition Initiative. The initiative stems from the Provost’s Task Force on Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Education and specifically responds to Call to Action #13. It will directly support a first cohort of current and in-coming Indigenous students by covering the cost of tuition and mandatory fees, as well as deepen partnerships with and support of their communities.

The initiative is being launched in a phased approach, with the first cohort coming mainly from communities near McGill or with notable ties to the University. This includes current and prospective students from local Kanien’kehaka (Mohawk) communities, including Kahnawà:ke, Kanesatake, and Akwesasne (including Saint Regis). The Haudenosaunee community of Six Nations of the Grand in Ontario is also included in the first phase.

Another group that will be eligible as part of the first cohort are prospective and current diploma Indigenous students in the School of Social Work, the School of Continuing Studies or the Office of First Nations and Indigenous Education who are learning through an educational partnership with seventeen different Indigenous communities/organizations.

Learn more about the Indigenous Tuition Initiative

Watch the Hiawatha Wampum Belt Flag raising ceremony below

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