How has the summer passed by so quickly? We are into September, a new school year and fall is just around the corner. I hope that each of you have taken every opportunity to enjoy the fine weather and that you were lucky enough to spend time with family and friends doing the things that you love to do. Personally, the memories of being on the river fishing, the smell of barbecued dinner, and the vibrant colours and people at our powwows and other special gatherings this summer, will be something I call on time and again to get me through the colder seasons.
This summer, I was extremely honoured to participate in the Flat Bay Powwow in July during which I was presented with an Eagle Staff by the Bay St. George Cultural Revival Committee. Many thanks to the organizing committee, Chief Liz Lasaga and the community of Flat Bay for their support of this 10th anniversary event, and the hospitality shown to the performers, vendors and visitors alike. The Flat Bay Powwow is getting to be one of the largest and most popular events of its kind here in Atlantic Canada.
I wish also to extend sincere thanks and gratitude on behalf of Qalipu Council to the organizing committee of the Cultural Mawio’mi, under the leadership of chairperson and Vice Chief Western Erica Samms-Hurley, held in Benoit’s Cove this summer. Special thanks also to the Mayor, Council and community of Humber Arm South for providing such a beautiful venue. Hopefully, another similar event will be happening in 2017.
I’m also writing today to share with you a few words on a wonderful experience myself and my wife Sheila were fortunate enough to have this past weekend at the Mi’kmaw Cultural Centre in De Grau. The Centre itself is a wonderful community facility that was made possible through the vision and hard work of local Benoit First Nation Chief Jasen Benwah, also a Qalipu Councilor for the Port aux Port Ward. It is so refreshing to see the various indigenous groups that are active and alive in their communities.
During the week of August 26-30 the Centre was the site of a Mi’kmaw Language and Culture Camp. More than a 100 people participated in the sessions, with 88 of them staying for the whole camp and receiving certificates for their accomplishments. It is evident when speaking with members of the Qalipu First Nation that there is a strong desire to learn the Mi’kmaw language. Indeed, many have been seeking new opportunities to self-identify and discover elements of their Mi’kmaq heritage such as language.
I have an incredible sense of optimism about the community leaders who are working so hard to bring opportunities to the people, and a sense of pride in the interest of all those participants who signed up to learn Mi’kmaq basics and, in so doing, carry our culture and heritage forward for future generations.
Let me take this opportunity to acknowledge those leaders that made this camp possible. Through Delina Petitpa’s work as Chairperson of the Mi’kmaq Burial Grounds Research Restoration Association we have seen four language camps take place in the Bay St. George region. We hope that language sessions can be held in the Bay of Islands and Central Newfoundland in the future.
I would also like to acknowledge our teachers who traveled from Nova Scotia to be with us: Dr. Bernie Francis and Mr. Curtis Michael. These gentlemen teach in the true Mi’kmaw spirit: with song, laughter and love in addition to sharing the skills and know-how of language. Thanks also to Jasen Benwah, the Benoit First Nation Women’s Association, Marcella Williams, Kerri Cutler, and Terry Muise for their special contributions to the success of the language and culture camp.
I’d like to wish everyone a safe Labour Day weekend and hope that each of you will take the opportunity to enjoy these last sunny days of summer. I look forward to seeing you at Ward Town Hall Meetings that will be scheduled in your areas this coming fall, and at regular meetings of Council which are open for all members to attend.
Chief Brendan Mitchell