Mi’kmaq and Gaels to reconnect shared histories and experiences

 Aonach / Mawiomi: Sharing Our Paths book coverPlans are underway for a unique exchange between two of Nova Scotia’s peoples, the Mi’kmaq and Gaels during Mi’kmaq History Month in Nova Scotia.

Inspired by the recent release of a book titled Living Treaties: Narrating Mi’kmaw Treaty Relations (CBU Press) organizers of “Aonach / Mawiomi: Sharing Our Paths” are extending an open invitation to join in a day of sharing the knowledge and the experiences of the Mi’kmaq and Gaels through centuries of contact.

Mawiomi is the Mi’kmaw word for the bringing together of people, a word often used to mean a pow-wow. Aonach is the Gaelic word for a traditional gathering where social interaction that often included treaties and even contests occurred.

For more than 250 years, the region’s first people, the Mi’kmaq have had contact and have lived alongside Gaels from the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and their descendants.

While there are historic accounts of relations between these neighbours, they are generally not well known.

“Aonach / Mawiomi: Sharing Our Paths” proposes new conversations reconnecting the histories and experiences of these two unique Nova Scotia peoples.

Among those taking part in the symposium are: Stephen Augustine, Dean of Unama’ki College (CBU) and hereditary chief and keptin from Elsipuktuk representing Sikniktok district on the Mi’kmaw Grand Council; Lewis MacKinnon, Executive Director of Gaelic Affairs, and a poet, songwriter and musician; Heather Sparling, is Canada Research Chair in Musical Traditions and an Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology at Cape Breton University; Jaime Battiste is Treaty Education lead with Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey; Rodney MacDonald, CEO of Colaisde na Gàidhlig/ the Gaelic College and Chief Norman Bernard, Wagmatcook.

CBU Press Editor-in-Chief Mike Hunter says the launch of LivingTreaties in June has inspired a lot of discussion around relationships and treaties.  “This year alone, CBU Press has published three books with an indigenous themes,” he said, “with still another to come at the end of the year.”

“And over the years we have published a great many books on Gaelic and broader Celtic themes,” Hunter added. “It struck us that we might bring these two publishing interests together to take up the challenge of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2015) to share and acknowledge our relationships.”

As the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) summarizes, “the country has a rare second chance to seize a lost opportunity for reconciliation. [I]n order for that to happen, there has to be awareness of the past, acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes, and action to change behaviour.”

The implication of the TRC’s report is that nothing can move forward in this country until we acknowledge issues of poverty and living conditions and, on the whole, amend our behaviour.

“Through this small first step, perhaps we can facilitate a new conversation and work on a new path,” notes Jaime Battiste. “We are all treaty people.”

“Aonach / Mawiomi : Sharing Our Paths” will take place on October 25 at the Wagmatcook Culture and Heritage Centre in Wagmatcook, NS, 9:30-4:00 including lunch and entertainment.

To be included, or for more information, email aonach.mawiomi@gmail.com, telephone 902.563.1604.