Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

StFX offers all graduates degree parchments written in Latin and in Mi’kmaw

June 3rd, 2021
A StFX 2021 graduate degree parchment written in Mi'kmaw.

When the StFX Class of 2021 received their graduation degree parchments during Spring Convocation last month, each of the graduates received two parchments—one in the traditional Latin and one in Mi’kmaw, the traditional language of the Mi’kmaq people, the original people of this territory.

Going forward, all graduating StFX students will receive two parchments – one in Mi’kmaw and one in Latin. 

“The Mi’kmaw language degree on your parchment is a demonstration of this university’s respect and honour for our shared treaty relationship. We are all treaty people,” StFX President Dr. Andy Hakin said during his Convocation remarks as he announced the significant change and privilege that graduates will enjoy. 

The idea originated with Terena Francis, StFX Coordinator, Indigenous Student Affairs, who brought the initial inquiry to the attention of Tara Buksaitis, Registrar & Director of Enrolment Planning, for consideration. 

“I felt it was important to listen to the students,” says Ms. Francis who said the idea stemmed from conversations she has had with students throughout the years. A few students would mention it would be nice if they could have their degree parchments given in Mi’kmaw rather than Latin. “Truthfully and respectfully, the Latin language does represent colonization, we don’t expect for your languages to be dismissed, however, we do expect for our Mi’kmaw language to be included,” was a common theme of the conversations she had with students.  

“I really believe it is a step towards reconciliation,” Ms. Francis says. 

“This Mi’kmaw parchment provides a sense of belonging. Honouring languages is also a key step forward in ensuring First Nations people can revitalize the language.”

Elder and linguist Barbara Sylliboy of Eskasoni First Nation translated the parchment into Mi’kmaw, and StFX is grateful for her work, taking the time to translate the parchment. 

Ms. Francis says reaction to the change has been very positive. 

Students sharing the news on social media have commented on how this gesture has warmed their hearts and made them feel honoured and proud. 

Jeneva Dennis, a 2021 graduate, says receiving the Mi'kmaw parchment at convocation made her feel proud as an Indigenous student and mother. 

“I was able to show my five-year-old daughter that I achieved this degree and read the degree to her in Mi'kmaw where she was very happy as well for me! I was shocked to have my degree written in my language, but it's amazing to see that a university like StFX was able to provide this degree to me this way. It is something very special to me that I hold very close within my identity. In a couple of years, I'll have another degree with a B.Ed. I’m proud to be a part of the first year the university distributed the diplomas in Mi'kmaq.” 

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