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St George's Bay Mi'kmaq




West Coast declared as 'Mi'kmaq Land'

the Georgian (July 1-7, 2003)

Something very special was planned for National Aboriginal Day, Saturday, June 21. Starting in Port au Port, a crowd of some 200 people of Mi'kmaq descent traveled to the ramp in Stephenville to celebrate the day's events.

The crowd gathered and listened intently to speeches made by their spokespeople. The most important event of the day, however, was the placing of a sign. The sign highlights the area of Newfoundland that has been recently claimed 'Mi'kmaq Land.' It stretches from the Great Northern Peninsula to the South Coast, and from the Port au Port peninsula into Central Newfoundland. Indian Head and Flat Bay were the major Mi'kmaq settlements in the Baie St-George (St. George's Bay) area. Members of the group say the area where the celebration took place on the ramp was once Mi'kmaq land, until their people were resettled when Stephenville expanded.

Bert Alexander, was unable to attend the local ceremony but later commented on the issue.

"Our people were moved off those properties when the base was built," explained Alexander. He said that when he and his wife wanted to build a house, they had to buy the land, which was Mi'kmaq land years ago. It struck him as unfair that he should have to pay for land that he feels should have been his to begin with.

According to Alexander, the land that the Mi'kmaq were moved out of has since been polluted and neglected.

Aside from environmental issues, the main reason that the sign was erected to claim the land for the Mi'kmaq people is rooted in Newfoundland's history.

When Newfoundland joined confederation with Canada in 1949, the provincial government and the federal government formed an agreement that they would not declare the Federal Indian Act. This act would have registered the Newfoundland Mi'kmaq as having official aboriginal status, making them at the same level as other aboriginal groups across Canada. Instead, the Mi'kmaq are considered the same as any other regular Newfoundlander.

Alexander feels that his people have been forgotten and mistreated since Newfoundland's union with Canada.

As an example, he says that in Conne River, the 750 aboriginal members have received 10-15 million dollars from the federal government, whereas 75 per cent of people in the Baie St-George area have Mi'kmaq blood, and receive no federal funding of any significance.

"What we've experienced is cultural genocide," he says, and goes on to say that their language and culture has been lost because of the neglect they have faced throughout the years. "We have an interesting story that needs to be told."

Alexander is one of the many in the Bay St. George area who feel that it's time for the Mi'kmaq people to speak up, and protest the alienation they are facing within Newfoundland and within Canada.

"We have the objective of obtaining equality with other aboriginal groups in Canada," he says. "This motorcade will be the first of many visible demonstrations that we intend to conduct in the future, so that the government gets a clear message: they need to start honouring the responsibilities that they abandoned."

An estimated 200 people of Mi'kmaq descent gathered on Saturday, June 21 for the National Aboriginal Day festivities. The motorcade travelled from Port au Port to the airport access road, where they gathered to participate in the placing of a sign that designates the area as 'Mi'kmaq Land.'

Source: The Georgian Newspaper July 1-7 , 2003

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