Mi’kmaq Achievements

We wish to respectfully acknowledge our Ancestors – the many Mi’kmaw Chiefs and Elders – who have gone before us and who with wisdom and with love provided for our future by the signing of treaties with our European brothers and sisters. It has only been in recent years that we, in the present generation, have seen how well our Ancestors have provided for us by guaranteeing our Aboriginal and treaty rights to hunt, fish, and gather and trade

Anna Mae Aquash 1945 -1975

Anna Mae Aquash (1945 – 1975) was a Mi’kmaw woman who was born in 1945 to Mary Ellen Pictou. At an early age Anna Mae recognized the detrimental effects of government policies and adamantly pursued the cultural rebirth and education of her people as a means of empowerment. In the 1970’s Anna Mae’s convictions led her to the Wounded Knee reservation in South Dakota. Here she participated in the Wounded Knee Standoff, which was a conflict between the FBI and the Lakota Sioux people. She dedicated her life to fighting for the autonomy and freedom of all native people throughout Turtle Island and gave the ultimate sacrifice. Anna Mae was murdered in early 1975 and today her death remains unsolved and is still under investigation.

Noel Doucette 1938 – 1996

Chief Noel Doucette (1938 – 1996) is held in high esteem by the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia for the numerous commitments he made throughout his life towards self-determination for the Mi’kmaw Nation. Chief Doucette was one of the founding members of the Union of Nova Scotia Indians, a political and lobbying Mi’kmaw organization that was founded in 1969.

Chief Doucette achieved many noteworthy accomplishments throughout his lifetime which included the closing of the Indian Residential School, the development of Mi’kmaw Kina’masuti, a comprehensive Mi’kmaw education framework, and numerous economic development ventures. He was always a diplomat and will forever be an inspirational role model to the Mi’kmaw people.

Lee Cremo 1939 – 1999

Lee Cremo (1939 – 1999) from Eskasoni could play a number of instruments, but it was fiddling that made him known around the world. Lee was born into a fiddling family. According to the liner notes of h is last album, The Champion Returns Lee’s great-grandfather, Michael, was given a homemade fiddle by one of the original settlers from Scotland and learned the music of that era. The original fiddle was handed down from father to son until it reached Lee from his father Simon, also a fiddle r of great reputation. This accounts for the distinct style of Scottish reels and Irish jigs heard in Lee’s repertoire.

Among Lee’s many awards, he has been six – time Maritime Fiddle Champion, Canadian Champion at the Alberta Tar Sands Competition and “Best Bow Arm in the World” in Nashville, Tennessee. Lee was also a noted composer of fiddle music.

Lee Cremo played at numerous national and international events and shared the stage with many of country music’s biggest names including Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and Dolly Parton. He was the subject of the movie Arm of Gold and was highlighted in a Smithsonian Institute production called Creation’s Journey. Lee died at the age of 60.

Bernd Christmas

Bernd Christmas was the first Mi’kmaw person to graduate from Law School and is one of many Mi’kmaw lawyers who has recently been called to the Nova Scotia Bar and is now permitted to practice law in Nova Scotia. Bernd is from the Membertou Mi’kmaw community and one of many Mi’kmaw individuals who make up an ever-growing group of Mi’kmaq professional people.

Alexander Denny 1940 – 2004

Kji-Keptin Alexander Denny was involved with the Mi’kmaw cause and the struggle for Mi’kmaw sovereignty for most of his life.

Alex served as president of the Union of Nova Scotia Indians from 1974-1976 and from 1993-1995 whereby he provided outstanding leadership to the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia. He met several of the world’s most influential leaders at the G-7 Summit held in Halifax in 1995 and travelled to international forums for the recognition of Mi’kmaw rights.

A lifetime member of the Mi’kmaw Santè Mawio’mi (Grand Council), Alex held the esteemed position of Kji-Keptin (Grand Captain). Alex was seen as a spokesman for the Mi’kmaq and spent most of his time lecturing. He died on Christmas Day, 2004, while in hospital.

Rita Smith 1918 – 1996

Rita Smith (1918-1996) was a well-known Mi’kmaw woman from the Horton Mi’kmaw community who served as their first chief. Rita and her husband, Abe, were well known for their fine craftsmanship and were often referred to as of of the finest basket making teams in Nova Scotia. She was also a strong advocate for women’s and Native’s rights.

Rachel Mary Marshall 1909 – 1997

Rachel Mary Marshall (1909-1997) was a courageous and unfaltering fighter for the rights and improvements of her Mi’kmaw people and their treaty rights. Former chief of the Millbrook Mi’kmaw community, Rachel received the Donald Marshall Sr. Elders’ Award in 1995 in recognition and appreciation for her outstanding contribution to the Mi’kmaw community and the province of Nova Scotia.

Robert Johnson Jr.

Robert Johnson Jr., M.D., was the first Mi’kmaw to ever receive a National Aboriginal Achievement Award, which he received in 1996 for his academic achievement at Dalhousie Medical School. Robert is also the first Mi’kmaw to ever enter Dalhousie Medical School and is the first Mi’kmaw medical physician. Robert is a role model to all Mi’kmaw youth and encourages all youth to work towards the highest obtainable goal.

Rita Joe 1932 – 2007

Dr. Rita Joe was a Mi’kmaw woman, poet, craftsperson, mother and honoured Elder of the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia. Throughout Rita’s lifetime she experienced many significant events and it is these life experiences that she wrote about in her poems. Rita was a recipient of the Governor General Award and the National Aboriginal Role Model Award. She possessed numerous honorary doctorates and was held in high esteem by her people, the Mi’kmaq.

Elsie Charles Basque

Dr. Elsie Charles Basque is a Mi’kmaw woman, mother, Elder, and teacher. Elsie was born in 1916 and was the first Mi’kmaw in Nova Scotia to hold a teacher’s license and the first Mi’kmaw to teach in a non-native school.

Elsie spent much of her life in Boston, Massachusetts, where she lectured on Native issues including the Indian elderly, Mi’kmaw culture, and the status of American Indian people. She presently resides in Saulnierville, Nova Scotia, and continues to lecture to organizations and the school system.

In 1997, Mrs. Basque received an honorary doctorate from the Nova Scotia Teacher’s College in Truro, N.S.

Marie Battiste

Dr. Marie Battiste is a professor at the College of Education, University of Saskatchewan. A Mi’kmaw educator from the Chapel Island First Nation, Marie is well known for her research interests in Aboriginal languages, epistemology, curriculum, cognitive imperialism, and research ethics.

A published author, some of her recent publications include: Reclaiming Indigenous Voice and Vision; First Nations Education in Canada: The Circle Unfolds; and Protecting Indigenous Knowledge. Her research and experience working in First Nations schools in administration, curriculum development, and Aboriginal languages have provided a solid foundation for addressing the postcolonial challenges for the next century.

Donald Marshall Jr.

Donald Marshall Jr. is a Mi’kmaw man, who, at the age of 17 began serving a life sentence for a murder that he did not commit. In 1981 after serving 11 years in prison, he was released based upon the findings of a new investigation and exonerated. In 1985, a provincial inquiry was established to investigate the systemic factors which led to his wrongful imprisonment. Donald Marshall Jr. is significant to the Mi’kmaw people for it was his wrongful imprisonment that finally brought out the realities of racism that exist in the criminal justice system. Junior has established the Donald Marshall Sr. Youth Survival Camp, in memory of his late father, which is dedicated to assisting the Mi’kmaw youth.

Katherine Sorbey

Katherine Sorbey, Mi’kmaw Elder, is a member of Eskasoni First Nation. Katherine became involved with politics in the late 1960’s and has since been a strong advocate of Native rights in Canada and the USA. She was a founding member of the Boston Indian Council and the first Native person to sit on the Massachusetts Human Rights Commission. Katherine became the first president of the Non-Status and Metis Association of Nova Scotia which later became the Native Council of Nova Scotia.

Katherine received the NB Solicitor General’s Award in 1981. She is a born leader and her knowledge of traditional customs and values makes her a very valuable resource to the Mi’kmaw community.

Allan Syliboy

Alan Syliboy is a Mi’kmaw artist from Millbrook Mi’kmaw community. Elements of Mi’kmaw petroglyph records found throughout Nova Scotia provided some inspiration for the development of his general theme, which is his pride and understanding attached to his cultural heritage.

Alan began studying privately with well-known Maliseet artist Shirley Bear, which lead him to study at the Nova Scotia college of art & Design. In 1989 he established Red Crane Enterprises to produce and distribute Native art. He has sold his work throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.

Alan’s most recent accomplishment has been the 1999 commissioning of a 22 karat coin for the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Royal Canadian Mint. “The Butterfly” was the third in a series of four coin sets called “Native Cultures and Traditions”, designed to promote awareness of contemporary First Nations art.

Viola Robinson

Dr. Viola Robinson is a Mi’kmaw woman who has spent much of her life advocating the rights of Mi’kmaq who were discriminated against by the legislative policy known as the Indian Act. I n 1985, she and other individuals like her were successful in changing this policy through the introduction of bill C-31. Mrs. Robinson also served s a commissioner in the recent Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and has continued to put Aboriginal issues in the forefront of Canadian Society.

In 1990 Viola received an honorary Doctorate of Law degree from Dalhousie University. She also graduated in 1998 with a Bachelor of Law degree from Dalhousie University and is on the Board of Commissioners of the Mi’kmaq Justice Institute. She is an example to all Native people that the efforts of one individual can make a difference.

Sister Dorothy Moore

“Sister Dorothy”, as she is affectionately known to all, is a Mi’kmaw woman who was born in Sydney and raised in the Membertou Mi’kmaw community. She entered the Congregation of Sisters of St. Martha’s shortly after graduating high school, where she became the first Mi’kmaw nun. She received her teaching certificate at the Nova Scotia Teachers College, and from there began her 44 year career in education, serving first as a teacher and then a principal. Sister Dorothy continued on to obtain both her Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education degrees from St. Francis Xavier University, and finally her Masters of Education at Mount Saint Vincent University.

She was the Native Education Co-ordinator at Cape Breton University where she was instrumental in introducing courses in Mi’kmaq history and culture to the school system in Nova Scotia, then went on to become Director of Mi’kmaq Services for the Nova Scotia Department of Education. She received many awards over the years, her most recent recognition being a Doctorate of Letters, Honoris Causa, from Mount Saint Vincent University.

Sister Dorothy continues to educate by presenting lectures and holding workshops. She is currently an Education Consultant with the Membertou Band and a valued member of the Mi’kmawey Debert Elders Advisory Council.

Leonard Paul

Leonard Paul is a member of the Pictou Landing Mi’kmaw Band, and a widely acclaimed naturalist artist and master watercolourist. His detailed pencil drawings and work in oils are also becoming widely known. He attended the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design, and obtained his degree from Acadia University, but has also studied in Germany and France. He has had numerous national and international exhibitions and has received many awards. Some of the noteworthy accomplishments of this Mi’kmaw artist include selection as one of the artists for the National Film Board’s film, “Kwa’nu’te’”, and in 1992 an extensive photo documentary of his work, including many of his river scenes, was featured in “The Atlantic Salmon Journal”. He also received the prestigious Governor General’s Award for his painting of environmental landscapes in 1993. Leonard’s art can be found in prominent locations in the collections of many corporations, university galleries, native organizations, and government agencies.

Charles Wilfred Labrador 1932 – 2002

Charles Wilfred Labrador was a well – respected Mi’kmaw Elder who had a tremendous love for the forest and taught the traditional ways. He was a great leader and a main driving force in achieving Indian Act recognition for his band. He worked for years to get his band’s members off the general list and onto what became the 12th Mi’kmaw band in Nova Scotia. Charles became the first chief of the Acadia Band in 1973. In 1997 he was honoured with the Donald Marshall Sr. Elder’s Award. He passed away in the summer of 2002 at the age of 70.

Sarah Denny 1925 – 2002

Eskasoni’s Sarah Denny loved to sing, chant, and teach native dancing. She was a strong believer in the retention of Mi’kmaw language, history, culture, stories, songs, and dance, and formed the first Eskasoni drum and dance group with her 12 children. She held the position of cultural officer with the Mi’kmaq Association of Cultural Studies for almost three decades, and was considered an expert in the use of Mi’kmaw medicines. Over the years she received many awards, and starred in several films, videos, and radio interviews. It has been said that “she will continue to be honoured each time one of us sings, dances, shares stories and knowledge, that she gave us to pass on”.

Murdena Marshall

Murdena Marshall is a very respected Elder from the Eskasoni Mi’kmaw community and Prayer Leader to the Sante’ Mawio’mi (Grand Council). She has a vast knowledge of the Mi’kmaw language and culture and shares this knowledge with many as a former professor of Mi’kmaq Studies at Cape Breton University. Considered a traditional knowledge expert, she is one of the motivating forces behind the Mi’kmawey Debert Project, serving as a member of their Elders Advisory Council.

Bernie Francis

Bernie Francis is a member of the Membertou Mi’kmaw community in Sydney, Nova Scotia. He is an educator and Associate Chair on the Integrative Science research team at Cape Breton University. Most notably, he is a respected linguist and one of the engineers behind the creation of the Smith-Francis Orthography. Over the past several years he has unselfishly shared his knowledge and translating services with many. His wonderful voice and song lyrics can be heard on Atlantic Canada’s First Nation Help Desk website at www.firstnationshelp.com.


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.