Kisaknutmaqan: Peace and Friendship Treaties Course Aimed at Understanding Indigenous Treaties in Halifax

A new course at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, titled Kisaknutmaqan: Peace and Friendship Treaties, aims to provide students with a deeper understanding of the treaties signed between the British and Indigenous peoples in the Maritimes region. Aaron Prosper, an academic from the Eskasoni First Nation and the instructor of the course, believes that there is a lot of misunderstanding surrounding treaties and their relevance in contemporary society.

Prosper explains that treaties were often signed at the end of conflict or war and that it is important to have public discussions and debates about them to ensure that people are properly informed. The course focuses on the Peace and Friendship Treaties signed between 1725 and 1779 with various Indigenous peoples, including the Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqiyik, and Passamaquoddy. It delves into the historical context that led to the signings and examines how the treaties have been used, referencing cases such as Gabriel Sylliboy in the 1920s and the Marshall decision of 1999.

Bringing Indigenous-based classes into the curriculum is a priority for Saint Mary’s University, as recommended by a task force of Indigenous students. Margaret Murphy, a spokesperson for the university, emphasizes the importance of changing the curriculum and ensuring that all students have the opportunity to learn about Indigenous history in the Atlantic region.

Prosper sees this course as a step in the right direction and hopes to incorporate Mi’kmaw values into the class. He wants students to carry forward the lessons of peace, dialogue, and compassion in their daily lives. He also recognizes the current prominence of treaty discourse, citing the recent conflict between commercial lobster fishermen and the Sipekne’katik First Nation.

This course serves as a platform to educate students about the significance of treaties in maintaining peace and shaping Canada’s identity. By analyzing the past, students gain a greater understanding of the present and can actively contribute to a more inclusive and informed society.