On Identity

The Native knows who he is; it’s the pressure from a non-Indian society that confuses this awareness.

– Lottie Marshall , “Native Depression”

 

“I am a Mi’kmaw” is finally a full realization of who I really am. In today’s society, me and my kind are still such outcasts, that I have to keep praying to the Creator for strength that I may no longer doubt or deny my heritage.

– Katherine Sorbey, from the Introduction to her poetry in Kelusultiek – Original Women’s Voices of Atlantic Canada

 

I am First Nations…
no longer burdened with weakness,
from grief and pain of humiliation.
I now stand with dignity and strength
within my Native spirit for I am free.

– Shirley Kiju Kawi, “I Am First Nations”

 

The Mi’kmaw word NIKMATUT expresses relationships of family and community – that which is related. Many of these relationships extend to distant places. For Mi’kmaq these relationships are not just biological, but cultural and spiritual. More than anything else, Nikmatut – relationships between family and friends – define Mi’kma’ki.

– From Mikwite’lmanej Mikmaqi’k – Let Us Remember the Old Mi’kmaq

 

 

I didn’t go to Shubenacadie. My parents sent me to school in Boston. I would see my friends during the summer and we would compare our experiences. While they were being abused, repressed, and oppressed because of their identity, I was getting A’s and B’s on the compositions I wrote in my English class about where I came from. My identity was looked upon as something unique and something to be proud of. My friends were told, “Don’t speak that language. You’re a no-good dirty Indian.” For them it was No! No! No! You can’t, won’t, and never will be. In my situation, I could do anything – You can. You are. You will be.

– Will Basque

 

“Who am I?” Somehow I forgot or was it driven out of me during my early years at the residential school? Maybe, but today, I found out “Who am I”!

– Debbie Paul-C. Residential School Survivor

 

They are no longer, as to us, under a favourable aspect. They shall dearly pay for the wrong they have done us. They have not, it is true, deprived us of the means of hunting for our maintenance and cloathing; they have not cut off the free passage of our canoes, on the lakes and rivers of this country; but they have done worse; they have supposed in us a tameness of sentiments, which does not, nor cannot, exist in us.

Mi’kmaw Declaration of War, Made to the Sun

-Pierre Antoine Simon Maillard – In An Account of the Customs & Manners of the Mikmakis and Maricheets, Savage Nations, Now Dependant on the Government at Cape Breton, 1785:25-26.

On Land

By the time the fighting stopped in 1782, the Indians were no longer of account as allies, enemies, or people. Nova Scotia was inundated with Loyalist refugees from New York. Its population tripled to forty-two thousand within one year. And in all the flood of correspondence concerning details of the great migration, there is not one word about the Indians who would be dispossessed by the new settlers.

– L. F. S. Upton in Micmacs and Colonists

On Language

Remember brothers and sisters: The greater part of our spirituality is embedded in our language. That is why it was attacked with such vigour.

– Bernie Francis, in Introduction to Out of the Depths

 

There is no word for good-bye in Mi’kmaq. There is a term that informally translated is, “Be seeing you again”. Ne’multes.

-Harry Weldon in Millbrook Talks With Mr. Harry

 

Ending the trivial artificial divisions created by European ideas and languages among Mi’kmaw people is a difficult task. Yet, the problems which European ideas have created between woman and man in the modern age demonstrate the validity of Mi’kmaw thought and language…It is only through empowering Mi’kmaw knowledge through its genderless language that the transformation of Mi’kmaq society can occur. It is only through understanding Mi’kmaw wisdom that family unity can continue to be an empowering experience.

-Dr. Marie Battiste in “Mi’kmaq Women: Their Special Dialogue”

 

On Aboriginal Rights

We are always asked, “Can you provide documents that prove you are descended from the original Mi’kmaw treaty signees?” I always ask in return, “Can you prove you are descended from John Cabot or someone here at that time?” I don’t have to prove my continuity to anyone.

– Kji Keptin Alex Denny

 

What are Aboriginal rights?
Aboriginal rights are the rights Indians have because they are the original inhabitants of the land. They have a prior interest because they were here first, long before the French and English arrived.

– from Mi’kmaq aqq ‘tplulagan – Mi’kmaq and the Law

 

…the Aboriginal peoples have not been passive recipients of all that successive governments have meted out. Aboriginal peoples have fought and continue to fight for a foothold in Canadian society; for political, social, legal, and economic equality; to be heard, to be recognized, and to be treated as equals in a society that has, by both blatant and subtle means, relegated them to the margins. In spite of all that has occurred, Aboriginal peoples continue to survive in Canada. And that achievement in and of itself is quite remarkable in face of the many attempts to destroy, subdue, control, and subjugate them.

-Parnesh Sharma, Aboriginal Fishing Rights – Laws, Courts, Politics

 

There is only one thing I will not concede; that it might be meaningless to strive in a good cause.

Kji Keptin Alex Denny

 

The language often used by Aboriginal persons to express the goal of a negotiated settlement is ‘sharing’ with non-Aboriginal people, but it is sharing based on a clear recognition of the legitimacy of underlying Aboriginal title. As Professor Leroy Little Bear of the University of Lethbridge states:

‘The Indian concept of land ownership is certainly not inconsistent with the idea of sharing with an alien people. Once the Indians recognized them as human beings, they gladly shared with them. They shared with Europeans in the same way they shared with the animals and other people. However, sharing here cannot be interpreted as meaning the Europeans got the same rights as any other native person, because the Europeans were not descendants of the original grantees, or they were not party to the original social contract. Also, sharing cannot be interpreted as meaning that one is giving up his rights for all eternity.’

– Michael Asch & Norman Zlotkin from “Affirming Aboriginal Title”

 

The Indians in Canada have certain rights granted to them by treaties, and, heretofore, these treaties have never been departed from except with the consent of the Indians themselves. You treat the Indians as not being capable of dealing with their own affairs, you treat them as wards of the government, and you who are their guardians propose to judge for yourselves and through your own courts as to whether or not treaties made with the Indians shall be departed from, and you do not propose that the proposal shall come from the parliament of the nation every time a treaty is to be violated. On the contrary your purpose is to create a procedure and practice by which every one of the treaties can, without the future sanction of parliament, be departed from without any effective means being afforded the Indians to oppose the carrying out of any particular project in any particular instance.

-Frank Oliver, M.P. House of Commons Debates, Vol. IV, 3rd Session, 11th Parl. 1-2 Geo. V., 1910-1911, at 7827

 

On Healing

All Canadians expect us to work together to find alternatives to confrontation and violence. In the 1990’s the frustration and anger of Aboriginal peoples can no longer be contained, deferred, or managed. It is time we stopped staring past each other over barricades whether they are made of logs or law books.

– Viola Robinson, Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples Commissioner, speaking at “The Winds of Change” Policing Conference

 

For me, the most important Mi’kmaw promise made by our ancestors was to live in peace and friendship with our non-Aboriginal brothers and sisters. Treaty Day is meant to recognize and to celebrate our mutual friendship and peace. It is a bold challenge to us today, as it was no doubt to our ancestors back in the 1700s. But our people had promised to keep our part of the treaty, as Article 6 says, by cherishing a good harmony with our non-Aboriginal neighbours.

-Dan Christmas, From the Speech Given at the 2006 Treaty Day in Halifax, Nova Scotia

 

On Spirituality

So this is what we truly believe. This is what reinforces our spiritualities: that no being is greater than the next, that we are part and parcel, we are equal, and that each one of us has a responsibility to the balance of the system.

– Albert Marshall, Mi’kmaq Elder, from an interview in Taking Charge of the Bras d’Or: Ecological Politics in the ‘Land of Fog’

 

Sleep my son, sleep.
And tomorrow when the sun
rises, I’ll ask you about
your journey.

Poet Lindsay Marshall from For David

 

Do you have a favourite quote you’d like to share?
E-mail The Mi’kmaq Resource Centre.

Don’t forget to include the source. Wela’lin!


SOURCES

Lottie Marshall, “Native Depression” Paqtatek ed. S. Inglis, J. Manette, S. Sulewski Halifax:Garamond Press 1991 p.70.

Katherine Sorbey, Introduction to her poetry in Kelusultiek – Original Women’s Voices of Atlantic Canada” Institute for the Study of Women Halifax:Mount Saint Vincent University 1994 p.83.

Shirley Kiju Kawi, “I Am First Nations” Within My Dreams Chester Basin, N.S.:Mukla’qati Books 1994 p.56.

Mikwite’lmanej Mikmaqi’k – Let Us Remember the Old Mi’kmaq Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq and the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology Halifax:Nimbus Publishing 2001 p.13.

Will Basque, quoted in Maliseet & Micmac – First Nations of the Maritimes Robert M. Leavitt Fredericton:Micmac-Maliseet Institute, University of New Brunswick 1991 p.291.

Debbie Paul Crowley, Residential School Survivor, in e-mail to MRC, Mar. 20. 2002.

Pierre Maillard, 1758:25-26.The Old Man Told Us Ruth Holmes Whitehead Halifax:Nimbus Publishing 1991 p.131.

L.F.S. Upton, Micmacs and Colonists: Indian – White Relations in the Maritimes, 1713-1867 Vancouver:UBC Press 1979 p.78

Richard Bartlett Indian Reserves in the Atlantic Provinces of Canada Saskatchewan:University of Saskatchewan Native Law Centre Studies in Aboriginal Rights No. 9 1986 p.27.

Bernie Francis, Introduction to Out of the Depths Isabelle Knockwood Lockeport,N.S:Roseway Publishing 1992.

Harry Weldon, Millbrook Talks with Mr. Harry (Collected Perceptions of Education from the Mi’kmaq Community at Millbrook, Nova Scotia), Unpublished M.A. Thesis, St. Mary’s University, 1995, p.49.

Dr. Marie Battiste, Mi’kmaq Women: Their Special Dialogue in Canadian Women’s Studies, Special Issue on Native Women, Vol.10, Numbers 2, 3: pp.61-63.

Kji Keptin Alex Denny, quoted in Maliseet & Micmac – First Nations of the Maritimes Robert M. Leavitt Fredericton:Micmac-Maliseet Institute, University of New Brunswick 1991 p.322.

Mi’kmaq aqq ‘tplulagan – Mi’kmaq and the Law Halifax,N.S.:Public Legal Education Society of Nova Scotia 1990 p.28.

Parnesh Sharma Aboriginal Fishing Rights – Laws, Courts, Politics Halifax,N.S:Fernwood Publishing 1998 p.73.

Kji Keptin Alex Denny, Treaty Day Speech, 1998

Michael Asch & Norman Zlotkin, “Affirming Aboriginal Title” Aboriginal and Treaty Rights in Canada ed. Michael Asch Vancouver:UBC Press 1997 p.216.

Viola Robinson, speaking at “The Winds of Change” Policing Conference, Sept. 3-5, 1991, Halifax, N.S.

Dan Christmas, in his Treaty day Speech, October 1, 2006, Halifax, N.S.

Albert Marshall, from an interview excerpt in Taking Charge of the Bras d’Or: Ecological Politics in the ‘Land of Fog’, Ph.D Thesis by Dr. William Hipwell, Carleton University, 2001, p. 253.

Lindsay Marshall, “For David” from Clay Pots and Bones – Pka’wo’qq aq Waqntal Sydney,N.S.:Solus Publishing, 1997, p. 28.