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.
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
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.
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.