Have you noticed some of the great information being shared this month for Mi’kmaw History Month? Sports, language, music and values are some of the many topics of focus for this annual celebration of our shared Mi’kmaw history.
Here at home in Ktaqmkuk perhaps the most important place we can turn our attention this month is to our identity and belonging as a part of the Mi’kmaq Nation. Unama’ki aq Ktaqmkuk (Cape Breton and Newfoundland) is one of the seven districts that make up Mi’kma’ki, the traditional homeland of the Mi’kmaw people.
We are unique in that we have lived most of our history outside the bounds of the Indian Act. Our Mi’kmaq ancestors living on the island were denied rights and acknowledgement when Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949. The government of the day, in fact, said that they didn’t exist.
But exist they did and like the caribou for whom our Nation is named, our ancestors wandered far and wide building families and lives alongside and interwoven with European cultures. It was more than sixty years later, after decades of advocacy by our Mi’kmaq leaders, that Qalipu First Nation was created. This acknowledgement by the government didn’t change who we are but it provided for acknowledgement of our Mi’kmaw ancestors and their many descendants who could now stand up and claim Indian status in their place.
This is not the story of every First Nation, but it is our story.
Identity is founded in our relationships with each other, our language, values, spirituality, our connection to the land, and our relationship with the greater Mi’kmaq Nation which extends all the way from Maine to Newfoundland.
I call on you to take pride and share in our successes both from our past and present and take every opportunity to lift each other up.
I also ask you each to take time to consider how we can more fully embrace Mi’kmaw values. How can we make life better for the Mi’kmaw community as a whole? Is there a way we can be supportive, especially with community members in need like seniors or those going through crisis? How can we each be more involved in our First Nation, beyond benefits and into participation and belonging?
Let us continue to grow our understanding of this shared history and identity and go forward together, building our Nation.