May 23, 2013

The four days following Victoria Day Weekend marks Aboriginal Awareness Week across our great Nation. It was first conceived in 1992 to raise the level of awareness of Aboriginal peoples within Canada and has grown into a week to honour Aboriginal cultures in Canada, including the Métis, the Inuit and First Nations. While we celebrate and showcase our identities on National Aboriginal Day in June, this week affords us a broader opportunity to reflect on the contributions Aboriginal people have made to the Canadian Mosaic.

Within the last number of months we have lost some notable champions within the Aboriginal movement. Most recently the passing of Elijah Harper has evoked memories of the Manitoban Oji-Cree standing against the Meech Lake Accord, feather in hand, in his bid to protest the fact that the Federal Government neglected to consult with the Aboriginal Communities. However, within the Aboriginal community he was better known for bringing peoples together from across Canada to find a spiritual basis for healing and understanding. Closer to home, we celebrate the contributions made by Tony John and Ben White. Both gentlemen, whom we lost this past year, have made their mark within the Aboriginal movement in this province. Ben White served on the Federation of Newfoundland Indians board of directors for many years and was well respected for his contribution and guidance as an Elder at the FNI board table. Tony John was one of the original founders of the Native Association of Newfoundland and Labrador which eventually evolved into the Federation of Newfoundland Indians. He was a great friend and a strong supporter of the landless band concept which would establish official recognition for the Mi’kmaq people whom he advocated for since his involvement.  We honour these men and all those others that have dedicated their lives to the betterment of the Aboriginal Community.

Aboriginal Awareness Week is also a time to acknowledge the dedication of Qalipu Band members and staff who work tirelessly throughout the year to promote our culture. Within our organization there are a number of cultural initiatives that have been undertaken. The establishment of the Qalipu Cultural Foundation will be set up to generate resources and will be responsible for preserving and promoting the culture, language, and traditions of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq people of Newfoundland and Labrador. A researcher will be hired in the coming weeks to inventory and catalogue the existing Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge within our communities. Members of our Band play an active role within the Aboriginal Initiatives Committee, a committee struck by MUN’s Grenfell Campus to encourage a higher level of engagement amongst the Aboriginal community. The Band has also recently established a Community Committee to enable Qalipu staff members to participate in community focused initiatives. Finally, the Cultural Events Committee is busy with organizing the 2013 Aboriginal Day Ceremonies for June 21st in Grand Falls.

Defining ourselves as a people, as a Nation, within the framework of Canada is an ongoing process that we have willingly and eagerly embraced. The Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation will continue to encourage its members to stand tall and proud as First Nation people and continue along the road of self-discovery.

 

Chief Brendan Sheppard