UNB's new Knowledge Carrier-in-Residence wants to be a pillar of strength for Indigenous students

·2 min read
The University of New Brunswick has a new Kcicihtuwinut - or Knowledge Carrier-in-Residence. Jean Bartibogue is a Clan Mother of the Jagej - or Lobster Clan and will offer her insight at the Mi’kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre at UNB. (Mi'kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre - image credit)
The University of New Brunswick has a new Kcicihtuwinut - or Knowledge Carrier-in-Residence. Jean Bartibogue is a Clan Mother of the Jagej - or Lobster Clan and will offer her insight at the Mi’kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre at UNB. (Mi'kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre - image credit)

For Jean Bartibogue, ensuring Indigenous students are able to thrive means strengthening their ties to their cultures.

"There's a need for that comfort and security ... to be in the presence of our people," said Bartibogue, who has taken on the role of Kcicihtuwinut at the University of New Brunswick.

Kcicihtuwinut — or Knowledge Carrier-in-Residence — is a role that involves offering spiritual and cultural guidance for students.

The role was created in 2009 with multiple Elders holding the position, including Sagatay (Gwen Bear), Opolahsomuwehs (Imelda Perley), and Ramona Nicholas.

Bartibogue was selected by a group of Elders and will carry out her work at the Mi'kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre of UNB.

Bartibogue will also advise the university on policy to address the 94 calls to action put forward by the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Ed Hunter/CBC
Ed Hunter/CBC

Seventeen of those calls to action involve pushing for greater change in areas relating to child welfare, education and language and culture.

That's something Bartibogue said she's looking to act upon in her role.

"When they feel that they're [students] able to identify who they are, they're more comfortable and freely able to be better in their academic performance."

Bartibogue has also seen the opposite happen.

"If they don't have a grounding of their cultural and spiritual way, they seem to tend to struggle."

Mi'kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre
Mi'kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre

Natasha Simon is director of Mi'kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre and agrees with Bartibogue on the unique struggles Indigenous students have navigating university.

"It can be a very competitive, individualistic environment. There's this idea that we can do it all on our own and it's through our own efforts that we succeed," said Simon.

"For Indigenous people and for Wabanaki people, we have a collaborative way of learning."

Mi'kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre
Mi'kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre

Collaborative celebration is also important and a ceremony was held to honour Bartibogue taking on the role.

It was held at the Maqiyahtimok Centre on St.Mary's First Nation.

Bartibogue's grandchildren were part of the ceremony and she said seeing Indigenous youth succeed gives her hope.

"I've always had a sense of our people knowing that they they carried purpose and meaning ... once you can acquire that, you can go anywhere in this world and still feel comfortable with who you are."

Bartibogue said that's a powerful thing, given Indigenous people have had to operate in societies that have not respected the Indigenous worldview.

Bartibogue has this advice for Indigenous students: "There's a balance for their path here and so it's a balance of who they are and how they are. But at the same time, knowing that they're able to succeed in this life."

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