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Students visiting Abegweit First Nation on Thursday took part in cultural activities including drumming and dancing. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

In Mi’kmaq, mawi’omi means gathering.

On Thursday, National Indigenous People’s Day, Grade 7 and 8 students from three Prince Edward Island schools — Stonepark Intermediate, Mount Stewart Consolidated and École François-Buote — did just that at Abegweit First Nation.

A first for the province, the Mawi’omi Day pilot project is a joint venture between Abegweit First Nation Chief Brian Francis and singer-songwriter Tara MacLean, with support from the province.

It was a chance for students to meet members of the community and learn about the culture. ‘Proud, vibrant community’

"The importance I think for me is in the true spirit of reconciliation, to have youth, school children from outside our community come into our proud, vibrant community, on this National Indigenous People’s Day, to experience first-hand our culture, and all that we have to offer," Francis said. On Mawi’omi Day, students met with Elder Barbara Bernard for the Seven Grandfather Teachings. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC) "And, to erase the stereotype of what the reserve was portrayed — in terms of the history books and that. It’s not that at all, and we wanted to show that it’s not that way."

Students were invited to try bannock, and make their own talking sticks. They also participated in talking circle teachings, the seven grandfather teachings, and took part in traditional drumming and dancing.

It was an exciting day for many of the students.

"I think you can learn a lot of stuff from this, like what it was like to be First Nations and a lot of their history. I think it’s really cool," said Gabriel Boutilier, a student at Stonepark. Learning about the past

In the lead-up to the day, students learned about Indigenous history in class including the ’60s scoop, residential schools, and the damage it all caused. Students participate in talking circle teachings on Mawi’omi Day. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC) "I was quite shocked that they were actually taken from their homes into other schools, and the children were taken away from their families and stuff. I was quite surprised. I didn’t really want that to happen to me if I was one of them," said Sarah Jones, a student at Mount Stewart Consolidated.

"It’s important because if we don’t know about this, in the future it could happen again," said Emma MacDonald, also a student at Mount Stewart. ‘Proud day for me’

Francis said he’s proud his wish has become a reality. "As a First Nation leader, to see the children from outside the community come in, and learn with our children in the community. It’s amazing. It’s a proud day for me. And I’m very touched by it."

He hopes to see the event happen again next year with even more students.

"We hope that this goes right across Canada. There’s no reason why it can’t." More P.E.I. news

Katerina Georgieva is a multi-platform journalist with CBC P.E.I. She has also worked for CBC in Toronto and Winnipeg.

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