The early 1900s to present day have brought many changes and problems to be faced by the Mi’kmaw people. These changes were very often out of Mi’kmaw control and imposed upon them by a culture that felt the Mi’kmaq to be a threat and saw a great need to assimilate the original peoples of this country.
Indian Act – Aklasie’wi-teplutaqn wjit L’nu’k
One of the first Indian policies of the federal government was the Indian Act, passed in the Canadian Parliament in 1876. This Act combined all the existing legislation pertaining to native people of Canada and affected every aspect of Mi’kmaw peoples’ lives. Most policies within this Act were detrimental to the Mi’kmaq, for the responsibility and decision making no longer lay with the Mi’kmaq themselves. In essence, the Indian Act was a major factor in the fragmentation of Mi’kmaw society.
Two of the biggest processes that were imposed upon the Mi’kmaw people were the Centralization Policy of 1942 and the Residential School System implemented in 1930. These two policies disrupted two of the most important aspects of Mi’kmaw life: their land base and their family structure. The ramifications of such policies are still felt by the Mi’kmaw people today.
Centralization – Kitu’-mawo’lulkwek
The Centralization Policy was created by the federal government inan attempt to do many things, one of which included cutting administration costs by creating two central reserves, one in Eskasoni and the other in Shubenacadie. Many Mi’kmaw families refused to move and many of those who did so returned to what was left of their original homes, realizing the promises of new homes and jobs made by the government would be unfulfilled. It was only then that the government saw its plan had failed and the attempt to isolate our people was abandoned. Today there are 18 Mi’kmaw communities in Nova Scotia.
Residential School – L’nui-kina’matno’kuomtip
The residential school in Shubenacadie was a means of religious conversion by the church and a means of assimilation by the government. From Feb. 5, 1930, until June 26, 1966, over 1000 Mi’kmaw children from Atlantic Canada attended the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School. Over time this institution weakened the social structure of the Mi’kmaw communities in numerous ways. children sho attended the residential school lost their language, for the regimented structure of the school forbade any aspects of Mi’kmaw culture and identity. Teaching and learning in the residential school was based on European concepts which were contrary to Mi’kmaw teaching styles of observation of Elders and the natural surroundings. This entire residential school process was another example of failed assimilaiton, which unfortunately disrupted the roles and responsibilities of Mi’kmaw Elders, parents, and youth. The cultural values and norms of the Mi’kmaq were no longer passed from Elder to child and Elder to parent, values and norms which are critical for the identity of a distinct people. Today many of those who experienced the residential schools are scarred both emotionally and physically and consider themselves survivors.
White Paper Policy – Kiplno’l Wtui’katikn wjit L’nu’k
The White Paper Policy of 1969 was a government policy that awakened the native peoples of Canada, including the Mi’kmaq, to the possibility that the government owas capable of wiping out their special status by means of legislation. This policy was another attempt by the government at assimilation of the native people of Canada, through the destruction of the fiduciary relationship and responsibility that exists between the Federal Crown and the native people. It attempted to eliminate all rights that native people possess without a thought to the legal concept of Aboriginal rights and the inherent rights that native people possess. This process brought about the development of Mi’kmaw organizations which realized the implications of such policies and gave leadership to the Mi’kmaq by providing a voice within the larger framework of native politics.
Today, the Mi’kmaw people of Nova Scotia continue to advance Mi’kmaw Aboriginal treaty rights in an effort to improve the socio-economic status of the Mi’kmaw Nation. It is the belief of the Mi’kmaw people that only through the recognition of Mi’kmaw treaties and through a nation-to-nation relationship with Canada will an ideal future for the Mi’kmaq be attainable.
This excerpt from the Mi’kmaw Resource Guide 2007 was made possible through the collaboration of the Union of Nova Scotia Indians, The Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq, and the Native Council of Nova Scotia. The Fourth Edition – 2007 was made possible through the Tripartite Education Committee and was funded by the Nova Scotia Department of Education and Aboriginal Affairs, Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey, and Canadian Heritage and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.
Project Coordinators were Tim Bernard, of the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq, Rosalie Francis of the Union of Nova Scotia Indians, and Spencer Wilmot of the Native Council of Nova Scotia. Contributors included Bernie Francis – Mi’kmaq translation, Kristie Gehue, Julie Martin, Clayton Paul – research, and Mary Martha Sylliboy, © Eastern Woodland Publishing. P.O. Box 1590, Truro, N.S. Canada, B2N 5V3, Telephone 902-895-2038.