The leader that represents the Passamaquoddy people in Canada says they’re moving closer to receiving status by the Canadian government.
“Well it seems like it is coming to fruition,” Chief Hugh Akagi said in a recent interview.
“There is a lot of things happening and they’re happening fast,” he added.
The Passamaquoddy Nation in Canada has been seeking band status from Indigenous and Northern Affairs since 1998 when Akagi was first elected to represent the nation in negotiations with the federal government.
The Passamaquoddy Nation is located on both sides of the New Brunswick, Canada – Maine, USA border.
There are approximately 350 Passamaquoddy living in Canada. The Scoodic Band of Passamaquoddy is located near St. Andrews, N.B.
In Maine, more than 3,000 Passamaquoddy people live in two communities . Pleasant Point, also known as Sipayik, is located near Perry, Maine. Indian Township is located 34 kilometre northwest of Calais, Maine.
While the Passamaquoddy people have tribal status in the U.S., they do not have official band status under the Indian Act in Canada.
Mandate needs approval before negotiations can begin
Akagi said both the Passamaquoddy Recognition Group and the federal government first need to approve a mandate before they can move forward with negotiations for First Nation status.
“These mandates will set the tone of that negotiation,” Akagi, 71, explained. “Other than that, it could be a long way off but a long way right now is probably a few years and that’s not so bad,” he said.
Akagi said some of the issues that need to be discussed include band membership and treaty rights.
“What we do have are people on both sides of this border who have a right to citizenship and they have the same treaty rights as I have, the Mi’kmaq, the Maliseet,” Akagi said.
The Passamaquoddy people are also signatories to the Peace and Friendship treaties signed by the Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) and the British Crown in the 18th century.
A spokeswoman with Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada confirmed the department is working with the Passamaquoddy Recognition Group “on the definition of their collective.”
“Under the Indian Act, a band is defined as a collective of individuals,” the spokeswomen wrote in an email to Ku’ku’kwes News.
“In order to become a recognized band under the Indian Act, a list of members of that collective must be developed, along with culturally-based processes and rules by which individuals are accepted as members which also meet standards of fairness and transparency,” the spokeswoman wrote.
According to INAC, recognition of any new collective as a band must be granted by the Governor in Council.
“It is going to have to restore not just our rights and our territory but it is going to restore our people to the territory because a lot of them have felt like, and still feel like, they have been driven out and are still being kept out,” Akagi said.
“We need to restore treaty rights. We need to restore connection to the land. We need to restore language. We need all of these things,” he said.