The University of Lapland delegation at University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI)


Professor Pigga Keskitalo and doctoral student Laila Nutti from the University of Lapland traveled to the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) in Canada for a week. They met with Dr. Kathy Snow, who hosted their visit, along with her colleagues and students. UPEI is situated on the traditional lands of the Mi'kmaq people, the Indigenous inhabitants of Prince Edward Island. Established in 1969, UPEI is a public university located in Charlottetown, the capital and largest city of PEI, which is the smallest province in Canada. PEI, renowned as the setting of the beloved novel 'Anne of Green Gables' by Lucy Maud Montgomery, is linked to the mainland by the Confederation Bridge. Laila had a special connection to this story from her youth, so she visited the original 'Green Gables' home during this trip.

Photo: UPEI

We learned very quickly, right from the first moments, that in PEI, it is often said: 'The only thing you can trust is that the weather will change after five minutes.' Visitors and residents frequently experience rapid shifts in weather conditions, including sudden rain showers, temperature fluctuations, and gusts of wind. It's advisable to be prepared for such changes and carry appropriate clothing when visiting PEI.

The visit included guest lectures, participation in mentoring discussions with bachelor's, master's, and doctoral students from the host university, as well as visits to local schools and other relevant locations.

Photo by David Varis

The contents of the visit

On the initial day of our visit, we were warmly welcomed to Prince Edward Island with a dedicated orientation program, providing us with an insightful introduction to the Master of Island Studies program. This orientation not only acquainted us with the island's cultural heritage but also served as a stepping stone for our enriching academic journey ahead.

On day two, we focused on the Faculty of Education, starting early with a classroom visit to discuss with Bachelor of Education (primary/elementary) students and their teacher, Dr. Carolyn Thorne. After class, we met the entire Faculty of Education for a meet-and-greet, followed by a discussion with Dean Miles Turnbull, where we discussed language development within teacher education. In the afternoon, we attended Dr. Ron Macdonald's introductory graduate course on research methods, part of the Global Perspectives focus. In the evening, we presented at a public talk as part of the Island Studies lecture series organised by Dr. Laurie Brinklow. Laila discussed her PhD project, centered on yoik, while Pigga shared insights from her research and provided updates on current developments at the University of Lapland.

The link to the recording of the occasion (NOTE: due to technical restrictions, this footage only covers the first half of the presentation):

Day Three was dedicated to Mi'kmaq Education and Culture, with a significant highlight being a trip to the Lennox Island Band reserve. We traveled two hours to the Mi'kmaq community of Lennox Island, where we explored the local museum and school. The Mi'kmaq, the island's Indigenous people, have a rich history on Prince Edward Island spanning thousands of years. During our time at the community school, John J. Sark Memorial School, we participated in a sharing circle, a profoundly Indigenous method of discussion that provided us with a heartfelt opportunity to learn about both historical and contemporary practices, fostering meaningful story exchanges. John J. Sark Memorial School consists of six classrooms: a K-4, kindergarten, and combined classrooms for grades 1-2, 3-4, and 5-6, along with a Mi'kmaq Language and Culture classroom. Each year, between forty and fifty students attend John J. Sark Memorial School, where 22 dedicated individuals are employed. The school's curriculum includes Mi'kmaq language and culture, physical education, and music.

On Day Four, we had the honor of engaging with the UPEI Indigenous Community & IKERAS, Faculty of Indigenous Knowledge, Education, Research and Applied Studies. During the morning session, David Varis, who is both a PhD student in Faculty of Education and one of the founding members of the new IKERAS faculty, together with his students, shared profound insights into the seven sacred teachings: love, respect, honesty, truth, humility, courage, and wisdom. These teachings, deeply rooted in Indigenous wisdom, serve as guiding principles, shaping not just academic understanding but also fostering a holistic approach to life and learning. Meeting with the Indigenous staff, we were able to share the situation of language, education and research and how to strengthen the situations.

On the final day, we were deeply honored to be a part of a significant cultural event: the dedication ceremony for placing the Peace Pole in downtown Charlottetown. During this remarkable occasion, we had the privilege of witnessing a mesmerizing drumming session, accompanied by captivating performances of dancing and singing, skillfully executed by both women and children. The harmonious blend of rhythms and melodies created an atmosphere of unity and celebration, leaving a lasting impression on all those in attendance. The event not only showcased the rich cultural heritage of the community but also reinforced the importance of promoting peace and understanding through shared artistic expressions.


Photo Drumming session. Photo by David Varis

Closing remarks

The ConnectED - Scholar Exchange at the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) was an enriching experience for the University of Lapland delegation, comprising Professor Pigga Keskitalo and doctoral student Laila Nutti. During our week-long visit, we engaged in a multitude of activities that deepened our understanding of both the academic and cultural aspects of UPEI and PEI. Meeting with Dr. Kathy Snow and her colleagues, we delved into insightful discussions and lectures, fostering a strong academic exchange. Moreover, our interactions with the students, ranging from bachelor's to doctoral levels, provided a diverse perspective on education and research practices. The cultural immersion was equally impactful. Exploring the traditional lands of the Mi'kmaq people and engaging in sharing circles, we were moved by the stories and histories shared, offering us profound insights into Indigenous traditions and contemporary practices. In summary, our time at UPEI was transformative, broadening our academic knowledge and deepening our cultural awareness. The exchange was not just an academic endeavor; it was a journey of understanding, empathy, and mutual respect, leaving a lasting impact on our perspectives and practices.

We deeply appreciate the invaluable opportunity to travel together as a professor and doctoral student on this trip. This joint experience has been exceptionally rewarding, allowing us to engage in thoughtful discussions and collaboratively establish our own academic network within our shared area of interest. Working together in harmony not only fostered a sense of camaraderie but also enabled us to explore our academic pursuits with greater depth and insight. Our heartfelt gratitude extends to the UPEI staff, Dr. Kathy Snow, and the project that generously funded our journey. Their support and hospitality played a pivotal role in making this experience both seamless and enriching. We are sincerely thankful for the warm welcome and the conducive environment they provided, which greatly contributed to our scholarly endeavors. This collaborative venture has been instrumental in shaping our academic growth and fostering meaningful connections. We look forward to applying the knowledge and insights gained during this trip to our future research and academic pursuits. Thank you once again for this incredible opportunity, which has left an indelible mark on our academic journey.


Pigga Keskitalo, Professor, University of Lapland

Laila Nutti, PhD Candidate, Sami University of Applied Sciences

Pigga Keskitalo holds a PhD in Education and is a Professor of education, specifically in Arctic perspectives in education, at the University of Lapland, Faculty of Education, Rovaniemi, Finland. She is also an Adjunct Professor (Title of Docent) at the University of Helsinki. Keskitalo has participated in various national and international research and development projects regarding topics of socially sustainable development, education, and equity in global and Arctic communities, as well as, more specifically, in Sami education and language teaching. She has previously worked for 20 years in Norway as a teacher educator.

Laila Aleksandersen Nutti is a doctoral student at University of Lapland in Rovaniemi and an Assistant professor of Education at Sámi University of Applied Sciences. Her research field is Sámi pedagogic and main interest is YOIK as an aesthetic experience and -expression, traditional knowledge, and the rights of Sámi Children. She is involved in arctic and indigenous cooperation in the field of education and has expertise from the field of Early Childhood Education in Sápmi.


September 17: Arrival

September 18 - Focus on Context of PEI and Islandness

Monday September 18: noon-7:30 pm




Walking tour of historic Charlottetown, including Confederation Centre Gallery (option), shopping on "Victoria Row", visit to waterfront and the site of the "Bog School"

6-7:30 p.m.

IST-6010 - Introduction to Island Studies class

September 19 - Focus on Teacher Education and Training

Tuesday September 19: Full day




Observation visit BEd Primary elementary class


Campus tour

2:30- 3:30

Visit with Graduate Students class (Masters of Education - Global Perspectives) for an in informal chat on research methods and approaches to international research


Small group chat with BED students in international and Indigenous specialization

7-9 p.m.

Island Lecture Series

September 20, 2023: Tour of Lennox Island First Nation's John J. Sark Memorial School

Wednesday September 20: All day (8:30 - 4:30)



10:30 - 11:15

Arrive Lennox Island FN and meet with Director, Education, Lennox Island FN

11:15 - 1:30

Meet with Principal and Staff

11:30 - Noon

Students, Teachers and Learning

1:00 - 2:30pm

Students, Teachers and Learning

2:30 - 4:30

Tour of Lennox Island Mi'kmaq Culture Centre

September 21, 2023: Engagement with UPEI's Indigenous Community, IKERAS Faculty, and Community

Thursday September 21: UPEI Indigenous Community & IKERAS (8:30 am - 2:00 pm) / Community Event / Historic Site Visit / Dinner / Evening IKERAS Music Film and Art course optional



8:30 - 9:45

IKE 1040: Indigenous Teachings class (30 students)

10:00 - 11:00

Meet and Greet with UPEI Indigenous Community & IKERAS

11:00 - 11:45

Mawiomi Indigenous Student Centre tour


Peace Pole Dedication Event. Indigenous Cultural Performers to Open Event


Tour of Skmaqn–Port-la-Joye–Fort Amherst National Historic Site

Optional in Evening (6:00 - 8:45 pm)

IKE 2042: Indigenous Music, Film, and Art class (30 students)

Friday September 22, 2023: Fairwell.

Duration of the visit: September 17-22, 2023