The Kji-Keptin of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council says despite progress, more work still needs to be done to improve the nation-to-nation relationship between the Mi’kmaq, Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia.
In his annual Mi’kmaq Treaty Day address, Kji-Keptin Antle Denny urged the federal government to fix the current water crisis in Potlotek First Nation in Cape Breton.
“If the federal government can propose to create oil pipelines that run thousands of miles across provinces, surely they have the technology and capacity to extend a water pipeline a few short miles away so that elders and babies aren’t living in third world conditions,” Denny told a crowd of 500 people at the World Trade and Convention Centre on Monday.
Representatives of the federal and Nova Scotia governments were in attendance for the Kji-Keptin’s address.
Denny also mentioned that Indigenous and Northern Affairs has yet to reach an agreement with Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey on funding for education in Nova Scotia First Nation communities.
“The MK education agreement has been delayed for about 40 months because of federal negotiators or bureaucrats not wanting that,” Denny said.
“So when I hear government speak of a nation-to-nation process or self-determination, it is hard to imagine self-government continuing to need to go to another government and asking for money, asking to continue to operate,” he said.
“That is not self-determination. That is not nation-to-nation,” he added.
Denny also called up members of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council and Mi’kmaq leaders in other Atlantic provinces to begin talks to create a Mi’kmaw Nation Accord that would guide nation-to-nation talks with Canada and all leaders in the Atlantic provinces.
“On this accord, we would restore balance in our ancestral lands. It is time to get off the beaten path and move away from colonial structures that are dependent of the Indian Act,” he said.
Mi’kmaq Treaty Day declared in 1986 after court victory
In 1986, the late Mi’kmaq Grand Chief Donald Marshall, Sr. declared Oct. 1 as Mi’kmaq Treaty Day after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Mi’kmaw people had a treaty right to hunt for food.
The court ruling acquitted Sipekne’katik band member and Indian Brook First Nation resident James Simon who was charged in 1980 with illegally hunting by the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources.
In it’s ruling, the Supreme Court stated the 1752 Peace and Friendship Treaty signed between the Mi’kmaq and the British Crown was never terminated and continues to be a valid agreement between the Mi’kmaq and the Crown.
The 1752 Treaty calls for Mi’kmaq to meet with the crown every year on Oct. 1 to renew friendships and exchange gifts.
On Sunday, Mi’kmaq Treaty Day celebrations began with an afternoon Mawiomi at the Lord Nelson Hotel in downtown Halifax followed by the annual Mi’kmaq Cultural Showcase in the evening.
On Monday, approximately 500 people gathered in downtown Halifax Monday to take part in the official Mi’kmaq Treaty Day ceremonies.
The day began with a mass at St. Mary’s Basilica followed with an welcoming ceremony at Grand Parade Square. Halifax Mayor Mike Savage gave opening remarks followed by remarks by Don Julien on behalf of Mi’kmaw veterans who have served in the Canadian Forces and U.S. military.
The welcoming ceremony ended with the Mi’kmaq Grand Council flag being raised in Grand Parade Square before the crowed moved to the World Trade and Convention Centre for the feast and the announcement of the award recipients.
Joan Denny of Membertou First Nation and Mary Janet Abram of Millbrook First Nation were given the Grand Chief Donald Marshall, Sr. Memorial Elder Award.
Recipients of the Chief Noel Doucette Memorial Youth Achievement Award were Christian Francis of of Pictou Landing First Nation and Jonas Jay Cope of Millbrook First Nation.
The Grand Chief Donald Marshall Senior Memorial Scholarship was awarded to graduate student Velvet Paul of Indian Brook First Nation and undergrad student Kendyl Silliboy from We’koqma’q First Nation.
Recipients of the Sister Dorothy Moore Educational Scholarship were Kim McDonald from Wagmatcook First Nation, Kristen Cremo and Micheline Young from Eskasoni First Nation and Raylene Denny from Membertou First Nation.