Mi’kmaw Language Act proclamation takes centre stage at opening ceremony of NS Mi’kmaw Summer Games

Isaiah Bernard, head coordinator for the Nova Scotia Mi'kmaw Summer Games presents a medal to one of the Expo 67 canoeists from Potlotek, N.S./Photo by Stephen Brake

Mi’kmaw leaders and athletes from across Nova Scotia gathered in Potlotek Mi’kmaw Nation Sunday afternoon to celebrate the opening of the Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Summer Games and the proclamation of the Mi’kmaw Language Act.

The celebration of the document that recognizes Mi’kmaw as the original language of Nova Scotia dominated the opening ceremony for the annual multi-sport competition.

“It’s not English. It’s not French. It’s Mi’kmaw,” Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said about the new legislation, which takes effect on Oct. 1.

“Together, we’ll work hard to make sure we protect the language, preserve the language and revitalize the language,” he said to a cheering crowd.

From left, front: NS Lt. Gov. Arthur LeBlanc, Kji-Keptin Antle Denny with the Mi’kmaw Grand Council. Back from left: NS Premier Tim Houston, Min. of L’nu Affairs Karla MacFarlane, Grand Chief Norman Sylliboy Mi’kmaw Grand Council/Photo by Stephen Brake

Earlier in the afternoon, 12 of the 13 Mi’kmaw leaders gathered inside the Potlotek community hall to take part in a proclamation signing ceremony. In addition to Premier Houston, Minister of L’nu Affairs Karla MacFarlane and Lt. Gov. Arthur LeBlanc also took part in the proclamation ceremony.

“It’s an important document. It’s forever, ” Eskasoni Chief Leroy Denny said.

“We don’t have to worry about losing our language, looking for help or looking for support from any government. The government took the time this year to make sure it’s law of the land, the official language of Nova Scotia,” Chief Denny said.

Expo 67 canoeists from Potlotek honoured

Isaiah Bernard, head coordinator of the 2022 Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Summer Games, shows the medals which were given to the Expo 67 canoeists/Photo by Stephen Brake

The opening ceremony also included a surprise presentation to the twelve Potlotek community members who travelled to Montreal by canoe in 1967 as part of the Expo 67.

“It’s just a way to honour those who showed strength, resilience and bravery that they showed on that trip, in ’67,” Isaiah Bernard, head coordinator of the summer games, said.

Bernard presented the four surviving canoeists each with a special medal and a glass plaque and a copy of a draft children’s book written about their trip written by Tanya Johnson McVickers, a granddaughter to one of the canoeist.

Games postponed twice due to pandemic

Nearly a thousand athletes from across Nova Scotia are expected to compete in more than 20 sporting and cultural events during the week-long sporting event. The Mi’kmaw communities of Listuguj and Gesgapegiag in Quebec have also sent athletes to participate in the games.

Due to a sudden death in Potlotek on Sunday, an emotional Chief Wilbert Marshall kept his remarks to the crowd brief.

“I just wish everybody a safe (week) and don’t get too competitive,” Chief Marshall said before leaving the ceremony early.

“We’ll be the best host we can throughout the week,” he added.

The St. Anne’s Mission Island near Potlotek Mi’kmaw Nation, N.S./Photo by Stephen Brake

Potlotek was slated to host the summer games in 2020 but it was postponed twice due to the coronavirus pandemic. Bernard said the community chose to hold the summer games in July instead of August so more people could attend and take part.

“We have a lot of people who go to Maine to go pick berries (in August),” Bernard said.

“That was the main complaint I always heard. People who go to Maine always lose out on the summer games, ” he said.

Isaiah Bernard said other cultural events will also be taking place in Potlotek for the rest of the month. The annual powwow is taking place July 23-24 and the St. Anne’s Mission July 30-31.

The Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Summer Games run until July 24.

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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.