Peace and Friendship celebration between Mi’kmaq, Acadians at Grand Pré

Fireworks display ended Thursday's events for Grand Pré 2017 celebration/Photo by Stephen Brake

Assembly of First Nations Vice-Chief Morley Googoo said he got the idea to hold a celebration gathering for both Mi’kmaw and Acadian people during a walk through Grand Pré National Historic Site at Grand Pré, N.S. two years ago.

“I saw a Mi’kmaw flag here in the middle of nowhere,” Googoo, who represents Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador at the AFN, recalled.

“I looked at the field and thought it would be cool if a powwow happened there,” he said.

Grand Pré 2017 Co-chairs Morley Googoo, centre, and Marie-Claude Rioux, right./Photo by Stephen Brake

On Thursday evening, Googoo’s vision became a reality as hundreds of people gathered at the historic site in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley to take part in the opening ceremony to kick off Grand Pré 2017 – A Celebration of Peace and Friendship.

The celebration began with the grand entry of Mi’kmaw leaders, veterans, drummers and dancers. They were followed by Acadian dancers and performers carrying large paper mache heads.

“I was really touched,” Marie-Claude Rioux, who serves as co-chair of Grand Pré 2017 with Googoo, said following the ceremony.

The Acadian delegation carrying paper mache heads during the grand entry at Grand Pré 2017/Photo by Stephen Brake

“I was really emotional because I was thinking as an Acadian, I was walking through the teepees, you know, and I was thinking well that’s probably how our ancestors felt when they first met the Mi’kmaw people,” Rioux, Directrice-générale with the Fédération Acadienne de la Novelle-Écosse, explained.

“It touched me very deeply. It’s very emotional. It’s very significant,” she added.

Following the opening ceremony, the evening entertainment began with Metis country/folk singer and Juno nominee Don Amero from Winnipeg, Man., performing onstage followed by iconic Acadian singer Edith Butler.

The evening ended with a fireworks display just behind the stage.

Powwow planned for Saturday

Other musical acts scheduled to perform this weekend include East Coast Music Awards winners City Natives, Ronald Bourgeois and Vishten.

Vendor selling their crafts at Grand Pré 2017 celebration/Photo by Stephen Brake

Throughout the weekend, visitors can watch demonstrations of Mi’kmaw activities such as waltes, basketmaking and wigwam construction at the cultural village set up at the Grand Pré site. There were also be storytelling and songs taking place at the Acadian tent.

Powwow dancing and drumming is scheduled for Saturday afternoon.

Googoo said he was able to raise $1.5-million to pay for the event. Both the federal and Nova Scotia governments as well as private partners contributed funding for the weekend celebration.

The AFN regional vice-chief hopes the Grand Pré gathering demonstrates to people what reconciliation looks like between two groups of people.

“I want people to share stories, people to create bonds, people to know who we are as Mi’kmaq,” Googoo said.

For Rioux, she said the weekend celebration is a way for Acadians to show gratitude to Mi’kmaw people who helped her ancestors survive before and after the Acadian expulsion in 1755.

Mi’kmaw and Acadian flags/Photo by Stephen Brake

“We know that the Mi’kmaq helped us survive through famine, through the hard winters. We traded. They showed us fishing techniques, hunting techniques, food,” Rioux explained.

“And of course, there was a mingling of the two peoples. There are lots of Acadians that have ancestors that were Mi’kmaw,” she said.

“I think if we come out of this event more united with a feeling that if I want to call you for support, you’re going to help me and if you call me for support, I will be there for you,” Rioux explained.

“I would like to see way more, a partnership between the Acadian people and the Mi’kmaq,” she said.

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About Maureen Googoo 270 Articles
Maureen Googoo is an award-winning journalist from Indian Brook First Nation (Sipekne'katik) in Nova Scotia. She has worked in news more than 30 years for media outlets such as CBC Radio, the Chronicle-Herald and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. Maureen has an arts degree in political science from Saint Mary's University in Halifax, a journalism degree from Ryerson University in Toronto and a Masters degree in journalism from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York City.