Nova Scotia Pardons Mi’kmaq Chief 60 Years Later

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Gabriel Sylliboy died feeling like he failed his Mi’kmaq people. The grand chief launched a fight for aboriginal rights after being charged with illegal hunting in the 1920s, but the courts of the era dismissed the notion that a 1752 treaty gave Sylliboy any rights. It would take another six decades before those rights were recognized by the courts.

“Our grand chief was really quite sad about the fact that he was charged and wasn’t able to be successful in obtaining Mi’kmaq rights for his people,” said Jaime Battiste, the province’s treaty education lead. “He went to his deathbed thinking he let the Mi’kmaq people down.”

On Thursday, nearly 90 years after his conviction, the Nova Scotia government pardoned and honoured Sylliboy, who was born in 1874 in Whycocomagh, N.S., and became the first elected Mi’kmaq grand chief.

Read the full story in the Herald News.

Mi’kmaq Council Member John Joe Sark: Land Sale in Violation

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Ancestral sites and indigenous rights are being compromised in many places and under many pretenses. Keptin Dr. John Joe Sark challenges another instance in Mi’kmaki at Prince Edward Island.

I read with interest the article published in the Charlottetown Guardian in reference to Mi’kmaq sacred burial grounds in Alexandra. Thank you for publishing the statements made by the minister’s office for the record.

It appears that the provincial archeologist and Secretariat of Aboriginal Affairs for the Province of P.E.I. did little research before inaccurate conclusions and statements were made.  The eight digit map co-ordinates for these sites are in government records and the archives.

The places she refers to have historical names. The permanent fishing encampment is called Wji”kijek on Oejecucch and is nestled between the Acadian settlements of Anse au Matelot and Le Morais. The Mi’kmaq portages are in Crown deeds of property and are very likely treaty rights.

Read the full report in The Guardian.

Daniel Christmas, First Mi’kmaw Appointed to the Canadian Senate

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Senator Daniel Christmas, First Mi’kmaw Appointed to the Canadian Senate

Dan Christmas never knew what or where his journey would take him. He just knew his father’s teachings would buoy him along the way — and that was going to be more than good enough.

The oldest of six children, Christmas often found himself in a leadership role in his Membertou-based family at a young age. He encouraged his younger siblings, gave a hand to his mother around the house when needed, and even joined his dad at his various work spots.

But when Christmas and his family were hit with the unexpected passing of their father, he was thrust into what would be his eventual full-time calling in life — leading — and he hasn’t looked back since.

Read more at danielnpaul.com.

Nova Scotia Premier Apologizes to Mi’kmaq Chiefs and Elders

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Premier Stephen McNeil was making every effort to move from insult to consult after a meeting Thursday with the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs. “The meeting started out this morning with an opportunity for me to express my regret and my apologies to the chiefs and to members of their communities,” McNeil said.

“The words that were attached to a brief that went before the court were not mine and not my feelings. I believe the foundation of this province and this country is in those treaties. We have a duty to consult, the Supreme Court has dealt with this issue a long time ago and it’s my responsibility as the premier of this province to make sure that we follow through on respecting the rights of the Mi’kmaq.”

Respect was not at the forefront in a Nova Scotia Supreme Court appeal case last week when Justice Department lawyer Alex Cameron described the complainants, the Sipekne’katik band, as a conquered people who had surrendered their sovereignty to the British Crown in the 1700s, negating the duty of the province to consult on industrial projects.

Read the full story at localxpress.ca.

Refer back to the incident that provoked this apology.

Kahsatstenhsera: Indigenous Resistance to Tar Sands Pipelines

A 2013 film from submedia.tv, featuring stories from several First Nations bringing indigenous resistance to the construction of fossil fuel pipelines. Timely and ongoing, a continuation of 500 years of colonialism…

The “Line 9″ and “Energy East” pipelines threaten to bring tar sands “crude” from Alberta for export through ports in the Atlantic. These pipelines will traverse through many Indigenous communities and natural areas, threatening not only the health of the land but the sovereignty of these territories and their peoples. We have teamed up with Indigenous organizer Amanda Lickers to produce a Kahsatstenhsera: Indigenous Resistance to Tar Sands Pipelines. This video will focuses on Indigenous resistance and seeks to build capacity in Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities by providing an educational and accessible resource to build awareness across communities. Featuring stories and perspectives from land defenders in Athabasca Chipewyan, Aamjiwnaang, Six Nations of the Grand River, Kanehsatà:ke, and Elsipogtog First Nations, this video will not only educates the public on the issues being faced by pipeline construction and expansion, but showcases Indigenous resistance and provide an anti-colonial lens for understanding environmental destruction.

Mi’kmaq Are ‘Conquered People’ Says Nova Scotia Government Lawyer

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A legal brief submitted on behalf of the province of Nova Scotia denies treaty rights and labels the Mi’kmaq as conquered peoples.

“To suggest that we are ‘conquered’ is a racist taunt,” wrote Millbrook Chief Bob Gloade in a media release. “At its worst, it has been used against Indigenous Canadians to perpetuate or justify a state of inferior legal, social or socio-economic conditions.”

The brief is part of a court case centred on consultation with the Sipekne’Katik Band over a natural gas storage project. The band asked for a judicial review of the provincial permits that approved the Alton Gas project. But a court case about whether the Crown meaningfully consulted with one band over a particular project, has brought up what many are calling offensive arguments about treaty rights that extend to all Mi’kmaq in Nova Scotia.

Read the full story on APTN National News.

Recorder Op-Ed: Melody Walker Brook

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“The Indians mascot debases 500 Nations by treating us as all the same”

The Greenfield Recorder has just featured a column in their My Turn section, with Melody Walker Brook’s (Elnu Abenaki) perspective on the Turners Falls mascot/logo debate. A slightly different version of her thoughts appeared in the Montague Reporter recently and can be found in this post. I have reprinted the column in its entirety below; the Recorder’s original can be found here.

Quote:

As I tried to formulate my response to a sports team that continues to hold on to a caricature of an indigenous person as their mascot, I stepped back in order to understand the whole picture.

I looked up statistics surrounding missing and murdered indigenous women.

I looked up suicide rates.

I looked up statistics of heart disease and diabetes.

I looked up incarceration rates.

My Facebook feed this morning was full of images of the Dakota Pipeline Water Protectors and protests in Mi’kmaq territory surrounding natural gas storage sites, both of which are absent on mainstream media sources.

There was even a photo of football players in their Redskins uniforms raising their fists in support of Black Lives Matter and wearing a jersey that proves how others, even other marginalized groups, see indigenous people.

What does this have to do with a mascot in Turners Falls?

Everything.

These seemingly unrelated issues are connected to a theme of invisibility and a lack of empathy for indigenous people, one of the most marginalized populations on Turtle Island. The issues that plague Indian country are symptoms of a much broader problem that perpetuate them.

A mascot that debases more than 500 Nations into a single (and incorrect) stereotype represents more than 400 years of colonialism and is the symbol for a world that has never cared about their suffering.

The people advocating for the mascot do not see the faces of the indigenous children shipped to boarding schools.

They do not see the societies confined to reservations, outside of the public eye, struggling with substance abuse and health issues.

They do not see the constant attack to indigenous values or the bodies of all of those killed creating a country that people are proud to call home.

They see a caricature of an Indian with a headdress, the stereotypical Plains warrior of legend, doomed to fall. The warriors of the past long gone.

They may even think it is honoring them, but, to at least some indigenous people, this is a further affront to countless individuals and groups, shredding every last ounce of their souls to reclaim their past and secure a better future, one filled with pride and the possibility that every other American thinks they have — the pursuit of happiness. Most importantly, people are struggling just to be seen as human beings.

The Turners Falls mascot is a generic “Indian” with the Plains style headdress — in the Northeast. What does that message convey? It has nothing to do with the history of the area.

As a citizen of a local tribe, this mascot does not represent me. It certainly does not honor me. I am hard-pressed to come up with an example in the Northeast of a headdress style similar to the Plains region. It does not fit.

The generic “Indian” mascot, in essence, wipes out the identity of more than 500 Nations, because placing that image in a locale that has nothing to do with the Plains smacks of the message that it does not matter whether they depict local groups or Plains groups: They are all the same.

The regional piece is lost, and all Indians once again are painted in the typical vein of ambiguity and the fake image of the noble savage or the mystical warrior.

When we as a society marginalize and shape human beings into caricatures, we are complicit in the violence against them, metaphorically and literally.

What happens when people are reduced from personhood, and they are no longer seen as human beings? What happens when real human beings are left out of the media or ignored by most people in dominant society? Society can continue to treat them as they always have, while symptoms of what was broken remain in their communities.

Mascots could be a visible reminder of people often forgotten, and yet you do not see their real faces. The mask of what you want Indians to be shields you from the realities of indigenous life.

Misrepresentation is a dishonor. It is more than that. It is a travesty and it is no wonder that in this world, indigenous women are stolen and attacked at higher rates than other populations.

It is no wonder that indigenous people have little to no media coverage of efforts just to be able to have clean drinking water or to safeguard their sacred sites from those looking to turn a profit. Apathy begins when people are young and is perpetuated by those who do not place value on all walks of life.

All “Indians” are just generic warriors or a dying race of people without identity. To mainstream society, they are not people.

We can do better. Change the mascot and teach students how to be responsible citizens in a world desperately in need of them.

*****

Melody Walker Brook is a citizen of the Elnu Abenaki Tribe and is an educator, activist and artisan. She has served on several state level committees, including two terms as the vice chair of the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs and as a member of the Waolwozi N.H. Minority Board of Health Steering Committee. She earned a master’s degree from the University of Vermont in history and currently teaches and works at Champlain College.