Sharing his cultural perspective

Abegweit First Nations Chief Brian Francis has seen more interest in incorporating First Nations people’s stories and history into Prince Edward Island culture.

“People are finally paying attention,” Francis said.  “And it can’t come too soon.”

This is a photo of Abegweit First Nations Chief Brian Francis

Francis was recently appointed through Engage PEI to sit as a member of the Fathers of Confederation Buildings Trust. Among other duties, the trust oversees the use and administration of the Confederation Centre of the Arts, the national memorial to the Fathers of Confederation.

Engage PEI helps Islanders apply to volunteer on more than 70 provincial government agencies, boards, and commissions.  

Francis applied to volunteer on the trust because he felt it was time to ‘step up to the plate’ as First Nations and bring his unique cultural perspective to decisions made about art and programming in the Island’s capital.

 “They told me I would be a good fit for the board, but it wasn’t something I had thought of before. I am not artsy,” he joked.

But that’s not entirely accurate. Besides serving as the Chief of Abegweit First Nations for the last decade, Francis has played his 12-string guitar in the music ministry at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Cornwall and the Church of St. Martin in Cumberland.

Francis says he is particularly encouraged with efforts being made to incorporate The Secret Path into the Prince Edward Island school curriculum. The story of 12-year-old Chanie Wenjack, who died in 1966 trying to escape from a residential school, is a project by the Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip.

“We have to get to the young ones,” the Chief explained. “We were taught basically not to say anything about it (the residential schools) or that the goal was to take the Indian out of the Indian and colonialism was the way to go.”

Chief Francis says he is also happy to hear the Confederation Centre of the Arts is participating in the national Dreamcatcher project.  With support from the Canada 150 Fund, the Fathers of Confederation Buildings Trust will engage youth from across the country to create a new musical that reflects the cultural diversity of Canada, and demonstrates the dreams of the youth for the future.

Frances has been married to his wife Georgina for 35 years they have three grown children and three grandchildren.

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