Indigenous Students

Pjila’si (Welcome) Indigenous Students

A Mi-kmaw dancer with her arms raised.

Saint Mary’s is in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People (L’nuk). This territory is covered by the Treaties of Peace and Friendship, which Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik Peoples first signed with the British Crown in 1725. The Treaties did not deal with surrender of lands and resources but in fact, recognized Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik title and established the rules for what was to be an ongoing relationship between nations. In particular, Saint Mary’s is stood in Halifax, NS, which is traditionally known as Kjipuktuk (the Great Harbour) in L’nui’suti, the native language of the L’nu.


Pjila’si (ip-juh-lah-see or juh-lah-see) is the Mi’kmaw word for welcome. What it literally means is to come in and take your place, as in we all have a place in the world, or in the circle, where we are meant to be. 

For more Mi’kmaw language learning, check out L’nui’suti by Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey on the App Store.

Indigenous Student Supports

Meet Elder Debbie Eisan from Batchewana First Nation

Anishinaabe-kwe of Batchewana First Nation, Elder Debbie Eisan, pictured right, is a resourceful community Elder in the urban Indigenous community in Halifax as she is an Elder-in-Residence at the local Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre. Elder Debbie works closely in collaborative efforts with SMU in Student Services and the Indigenous community on campus to support students embarking on their post-secondary journey to create a sense of home away from home.


Meet our Indigenous Student Advisor

Our Indigenous Student Advisor supports and engages Indigenous students at Saint Mary's University. They develop programming and services for Indigenous students, make connections to facilitate the transition to university, and develop Indigenous-specific programming to engage students in campus life throughout their academic careers.

Brady Paul 

Wolastoqiyik “people of the beautiful river”

Skicinuwi Ekehkimut Mihkukemit 

Indigenous Student Advisor | Student Affairs and Services

Burke Building, 1st Floor, Room 114

Saint Mary’s University

Book Appointment Here


The Community Drum

The Saint Mary's University Community Drum is a resource available for all Saint Mary's students, faculty, and community members to engage, embrace, and celebrate L'nu and Indigenous cultures. The Community Drum can be used for SMUSA and Saint Mary's events, ceremonies, and other campus celebrations, as well as by Saint Mary's faculty to implement in their pedagogy and university classes.

The Community Drum can be utilized at no charge by contacting the SMUSA VP Advocacy at or the Indigenous Student Advisor.

Check out the story of the drum here.


Indigenous Student Society (SMUISS)

Our goal as a society is to enhance the experience for Indigenous students at Saint Mary's University. Creating a sense of community for Indigenous folks on campus where students can have a safe space to share experiences, stories, knowledge, concerns, and ideas with one another. Meet fellow Indigenous SMUdents and make some new friends! Every Indigenous-identifying student is welcome at SMUISS.

Get involved with us by checking out our LinkTree!

Check out our Instagram page @smuindigenoussociety or contact us at

Located in the Indigenous Student Lounge, Burke 113


Smudge Policy

Currently, smudging is permitted in several buildings and rooms that are equipped with proper air ventilation. At least 2 business days’ notice must be given to Facilities Management to accommodate the procedure of disabling smoke alarms. For a list of permitted areas, please refer to the Smudge Policy or contact Conference Services

Burke 114 is now available to smudge without notice if the air exchange is turned on.

Check out Saint Mary's current smudge policy.


Indigenous Student Lounge

The Indigenous Student Lounge is a space for Indigenous students to connect with one another. Drop in to plan an event, study, craft, play board games, or hang out with friends. Both rooms are locked with a passcode. Contact the society or Student Services for the passcodes.

Located in Burke 113 & 114

Open during campus hours


Indigenous Bursary Search Tool

The Indigenous Bursaries Search Tool is a searchable list of 520 bursaries, scholarships and incentives aimed at Indigenous students across Canada. Search for a bursary now.



Additional Indigenous Student Resources 

Indigenous Visiting Fellow

Ryan Francis, the university's first Indigenous Visiting Fellow, completed a two-year fellowship with the Faculty of Arts and the Centre for the Study of Sport and Health (CSSH). Part of the fellowship includes working with Saint Mary's and organizers of the North American Indigenous Games, postponed in 2020 but now scheduled to take place July 15-23, 2023 in several locations in Kjipuktuk (Halifax) and Millbrook First Nation. 

Read Ryan's story here


Service-Learning Partnerships

Working directly with Jim Hepworth BComm'95, CEO, The Confederacy of Mainland Mi'Kmaq (CMM) Development Corporation, SMU students enrolled in the Sobey School of Business MBA Responsible Leadership course are working in the partnership with CMM on five Service Learning Projects of value to the organization. These consulting projects give our students great opportunities to apply their knowledge and skills while helping to advance CMM's mission.


Indigenous Community

Please visit our Indigenous Community Website to learn more about the Indigenous community engagement and environment at Saint Mary's University, including our welcome to new students, Wisqaptmumk Saint Mary's, and for more information about event news and events. 


Find out more 


Indigenous SMU Alumni Success Stories

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Mi’kmaw Student Leader, Kyle Cook of Qalipu First Nation, Strives to Foster Truth and Reconciliation Year Round

Cook grew up in a Mi’kmaw community near St. George’s, on the rural southwest coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. In his newly created position with SMUSA, one of his priorities is collaborating with other Indigenous students and staff to advocate for the creation of things like the Community Drum on campus. Kyle, along with other community members, proposed and introduced the SMU Community Drum in December 2021.

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Indigenous Visiting Fellow, Ryan Francis

Ryan Francis of Acadia First Nation, the university's first Indigenous Visiting Fellow, completed a two-year fellowship with the Faculty of Arts and the Centre for the Study of Sport and Health (CSSH). Part of the fellowship includes working with Saint Mary's and organizers of the North American Indigenous Games, postponed in 2020 but now scheduled to take place July 15-23, 2023, in several locations in Kjipuktuk (Halifax) and Millbrook First Nation.

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Buffy MacNeil BA’17

After completing her Bachelor of Arts from Saint Mary’s, Buffy went on to pursue a degree in secondary education at Mount Saint Vincent University. Currently, Buffy is employed as a First Nations Support Teacher at the East Antigonish Education Center in Monastery, NS. In 2021, Buffy has also started a Masters of Indigenous Education (Administration and Policy).

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Jesse Benjamin

Jesse Benjamin graduated from SMU with a Bachelor of Science. She is a mother of four, a personal trainer, a veterinarian, fancy shawl dancer, and Mi’kmaq artisan. She is the founder of Two Eyed Wellness, helping Indigenous people reclaim their health and holistic wellness through fitness and nutrition programs that combine modern knowledge with traditional Indigenous knowledge and values. Jesse also works at the Mi’kmaq Native Friendship Centre as the Active Living Community Coordinator. She loves animals, fitness, education, and empowering others to be their true authentic selves and pursue their passion.

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Michael Maracle-Polak

Michael is a SMU Husky Alumnus, with a degree in Commerce followed by a Masters of Innovation from Queens University.

Michael is also known as Ken’niwahkwahrita:a (Little Dipper) and is Mohawk, Bear Clan. His current roles include Portfolio Manager Atlantic, Media & Entertainment and National Chair, Royal Eagles Indigenous Community at RBC; Co-Chair, Indigenous Centre for Innovation & Entrepreneurship for the City of Toronto and President, Akwekon Enterprises.