Mi'k Maq News of Bay St George

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Mi'kmaq News

Port au Port Mi'maq elect Bert Alexander as chief

At an election held in defiance of the former Chief, who called off the planned election at the last moment, Port au Port Peninsula Mi'kmaq elected Bert Alexander as the new band chief.

Although not considered official by FNI (the Federation of Newfoundland Indians) and not recognized by Port au Port East Band chief, Lydia MacDonald, participants in the election celebrated. Almost one half (47%) voted. That's great turnout considering many of our people leave the area each year at this time to find summer work and also, the Port au Port band chief was on radio for two days before the election announcing that it was postponed.

Bert Alexander has propelled himself into the hearts and minds of area Mi'kmaq with his passion for the heritage we all share. His name quickly became a household word along with the knowledge that he would be one of the most over qualified and highly educated chiefs in all of Canada - great asset to all Newfoundland Mi'kmaq.

His campaigne of for the people and with the people was welcomed by most. Most Mi'kmaq on the peninsula as well as many in Kippens and Port au Port east have been ignored and forgotten since FNI has been in existance (30 years). Band members wanted change, they wanted a new focus, new dedication and new leadership- they got it all.

The election was held in strick compliance and observance of election rules and regulations and will hold up to any and all scrutiny. Mr. Alexander had hoped for a speedy turnover of power and assets so he could get on with the mandate given to him- a mandate that includes fighting for Mi'kmaq status with everything on the table for discussion and in consultation with the membership.

However, the powers that be in the FNI decided otherwise and the result was the formation of the Newfoundland Mi'kmaq Alliance.

Indian band chief says Garnier not speaking for council member

Scott Garnier, in his article in Thursday's edition of The Western Star, was not speaking on behalf of the members of the St. George's Indian Band, said band chief Violet Dawson. Gamier said in the article that Bay St. George area Mi'kmaq were being used as pawns to gain more land rights for the Conne River Indian Band.

Dawson said members of the St. George's Indian Band unanimously supported the Mi'kmaq 2002 Regime and the continuation of the Exploratory Discussions Process at an April 25 meeting. She said Gamier has not attended any meetings in the past several months and he wasn't in attendance at the April 25 meeting.

"Garnier asked in his article what happened to the land claims study done in the summer of 1999," she said. "If he had attended a meeting held Feb. 19, 2002, he would have a copy of the land claims study, which was shared with and discussed by the board of directors at that meeting."

On behalf of the St. George's Indian Band, she apologized to their brothers and sisters in Conne River for accusations made by Garnier.

Dawson said Garnier has the right to express his opinion, but he does not have the right to give the false impression that he is speaking on behalf of the Mi'kmaq of St. George's. She said the St. George's Indian Band does not agree with or support the viewpoint expressed by Garnier.

"We do not agree with Garnier's statements that the Mi'kmaq people of Conne River are using us as pawns in order to win a land claims settlement," she said. "The Mi'kmaq people of St. George's have nothing but the deepest respect and admiration for the Mi'kmaq people of Conne River."

As appeared in the May 4, 2002 edition of the Western Star

Port au Port Indian Band declines 2002 Mi'kmaq Regime

Port au Port Indian Band Council member Bert Alexander said band members rejected exploratory talks regarding programs and services with the federal government. He said members felt guidelines for talks presented by the Federation of Newfoundland Indians (FNI) did not meet their needs.

In a special vote called by the FNI, 186 of the 270 members who voted rejected exploratory talks. Alexander said of the bands within the FNI that had been consulted on the issue, the Port au Port Indian Band was the only one to say no to the talks. The proposed guidelines were contained in a document prepared by the FNI entitled 2002 Mi'kmaq Regime.

Meanwhile, Alexander said he faxed a letter to Marc Lalonde, the lawyer chosen by the federal government to handle these talks, advising him the band has rejected the proposed outline for discussions.

He advised Lalonde about the result of the vote in Port au Port and noted that about 80 per cent of current band membership had no input to FNI regarding their needs because they were granted membership privileges only within the past few months.

As appeared in the May 4, 2002 edition of the Western Star

"Without the land, Mi'kmaq people are nothing": Garnier

Scott Garnier fears Mi'kmaq in Bay St. George region are being used as pawns, to help with treaty negotiations for the Conne River Band.

Garnier, a director on fte board of the St. George's Indian Band Council, said he was hired recently by the Federation of Newfoundland Indians (FNI) to review genealogical documentation of band members of the St George's and Port au Port Indian Bands.

Garnier said many members have good enough documentation for status under the Indian Act, but the creation of Indian Act Bands is not included the the Regime 2002 discussions now taking place: He wonders what has become of the land claims study done in the summer of 1999 by the FNI. He said most people in the Bay St. George area want hunting and fishing rights, and last year — a year after that land claims study was done — the Conne River Band indicted they wanted to negotiate land claims with the federation. He said the Conne River Mi'kmaq are apparently seeking self government and they could not proceed because there is overlapping land claims in the Bay d'Espoir/Conne River territory.

A month ago. Garnier said. Grand Chief Dan Sylliboy of the Mi'kmaq Nation said publicly he supported land treaty rights for the Conne River Band.

"Now, all of a sudden we are being offered this package with no land claims, or hunting and fishing rights mentioned," Garnier said. "Could it. be that we are being sold out to benefit the few in Conne River?"

Bertram Alexander, Mi'kmaq spokesperson, shares Garnier's concerns. . He said the proposed exploratory talks do not include hunting and fishing rights and these rights are fundamental to aboriginal people everywhere. Based on the information presented to date, it is believed that any subsequent agreement reached within the currently established guidelines will fall far short of the needs of the Mi'kmaq people living outside of Conne River, the province's only reserve.

"If we do not speak out for what we believe our rights to be, then who will?" Alexander questioned. "We are motivated by the spirit of our ancestors. They always negotiated for the next seven generations. Soon our traditional hunting and fishing territories in Newfoundland will be a thing of the past and soon our land will become nothing more than polluted rivers and barren hills."

Garnier pointed out that members of the St. George's Indian Band have a strong connection with the land because families like the Muises, Benoits and Olivers have travelled overland as far as King George IV Lake and beyond to places like Peter Stride's and Victoria Lakes.

"If Conne River's band claims extend this far north of Bay d'Bspoir then (they) could gain access to these areas," he said. "The history of our people has been intimately linked to the land. Without the land the Mi'kmaq people are nothing."

Garnier said the ongoing exploratory talks arc offering nothing more than what Mi'kmaq people already get through Social Services and other government programs.

"Why wasn't the St. George's band membership asked what they wanted put on the table for the exploratory talks. This is being rammed down the membership's throats." he said.

Garnier added that most local Mi'kmaq want access to the land their ancestors used.

"I believe our rights are being sold off so that Conne River can get their treaty rights." he said. Garnier said the other three Bay St. George Indian hands, not including the Port au Port hand. are trying to give government the impression that everyone is in favour of these talks. He said nothing could he further from the truth. People are intimidated at public meetings and are afraid to speak up for the fear of looking stupid.

"If these are exploratory talks only, why is the Port au Port band having an official vote on these talks (today).?''

As appeared in the Thursday, May 2, 2002 edition of The Wester Star Newspaper.

Aylward supports process for aboriginal access to programs

Kevin Aylward, legislature member for St. George's-Stephenville East, fully supports the process announced by Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ernie McLean for a provincial commitment to support the Federation of Newfoundland Indians (FNI) access to the full range of federal programs and services afforded other people of aboriginal descent.

The FNI is seeking a five-year direct Aboriginal Funding Arrangement for band councils administration, post-secondary education, recreation, culture and housing. Federal Indian Affairs and Northern Development Minister Robert Nault proposed that Marc Lalonde undertake six months of exploratory discussions with the FNI and the province to see it there is a basis for negotiating FNI access to federal aboriginal programs and services.

While this is primarily a matter between the FNI and the federal government, the province is participating to respond during discussions which may have an impact on provincial jurisdiction. Lalonde will advise and provide recommendation to Nault by Sept. 30 on whether there is a basis for negotiating a practical process and possibly unique arrangement with the FNI that respects the expectations of FNI is acceptable to the province and is outside of litigation.

The province will participate in the regional and/or community meeting. Exploratory discuss topics include governance and accountability structures, program and services, and instruments of recognition such as the Indian Act, inherent right to self-government policy or bilateral/trilateral agreements. The province believes the federal government should enter into a direct funding agreement with the FNI, giving them access to the same programs and services as accessed by aboriginal groups across Canada and in the province. These include non-insured health benefits, post secondary education and economic development funding. The province is prepared to enter into a native peoples agreement with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada for FNI benefit, where the federal government may wish to provide supplementary financing for culture and education or other services of provincial jurisdiction.

"This is very important to the native community in the district of St. George's-Stephenville East," Aylward said.

As reported in the Western Star, Friday, April 19, 2002

Isabelle or Elizabeth has been referrred to by many last names including:

  1. Cheyo
  2. Chego
  3. Shegone
  4. and Sigognè.

The Jesuits make references to Sigogne in New France and Acadia. There is also a number of references to indiduals with the name Sigogne- check out the Mi'kmaq time line reference below. I can not find any references to the other spellings.

1804 - Jean Mandè Sigognè compiled a book of Mi'kmaq translations

Aboriginal fisherman to place illegal pots in bay to provoke arrest


ST. JOHN'S (CP) — A Mi'kmaq fisherman in Newfoundland is hoping to get arrested this weekend for illegal lobster fishing in a bid to challenge federal regulations that he says are illegal. Darrin McDonald, speaking at a news conference Tuesday, said his treaty right to make a moderate living from fishing — as described by the Supreme Court of Canada in the 1999 Marshall decision — is being denied through a licensing process devised by the federal government. Unlike non-native fishermen, whose licences are granted by the federal Fisheries Department, some aboriginal bands in Canada have been granted communal licences which allow them to determine which band members can work as fishermen.

Special arrangements for communal licences were made following another Supreme Court ruling in the early 1990s.

The federal department's delegation of authority is not only illegal, it's unfair, McDonald claimed. The 33-year-old resident of Conne River, Nfld., who has two years of training as a commercial fisherman, said he was told he wouldn't be working this season after he fell out of favour with the local Mi'kmaq band council.

McDonald said he's been unfairly punished by the council for reporting violations of fishing regulations to the federal Fisheries Department. "Basically, I feel I was sold out," McDonald said. Without the band's support, McDonald can't work on any of the band's four licensed fishing boats, which the Fisheries Department purchased from non-native fishermen about three years ago and transferred to the band council's control — free of charge.

McDonald's lawyer. Owen Myers of St. John's, said the Fisheries Department is breaking the law because there is no provision for delegating its authority in federal legislation.

Myers said he expects his client to be arrested in Little Bay East on Sunday, the first day of the lobster season in southern Newfoundland's Fortune Bay.

"It's a way to get the matter in front of the courts so we can get a decision," he said. Morley Knight, director of the Fishery Department's conservation and proteclion division, said there's no guarantee McDonald will be arrested even if he breaks the law. Many factors are considered when making' an arrest, including a determination whether such a move is in the public interest.

Myers stressed it would he a mistake to think McDonald is trying to stir up trouble to incite the kind of violent protests that erupted in 1999 when Mi'kmaq from the Burnt Church reserve in New Brunswick set hundreds of illegal lobster traps.

The Mi'kmaq from Burnt Church said the Marshall decision allowed them to ignore federal rules. "What Darrin wants to do is fish within the regulations," said Myers, insisting that the Fisheries Department could solve his client's problem by granting him a separate fishing licence. The department has refused to do so, citing federal policies aimed at shrinking the size of the Newfoundland fishery.

Gary Brocklehurst, the department's chief of resource allocation in Newfoundland, said no new licences have been issued for 10 years to compensate for the collapse of groundfish stocks in the early 1990s. If McDonald wants his own licence, he'll have to follow the same route of every new commercial fisherman: buy a licensed fishing enterprise going out of the business.

April 17, 2002

As appeared in the The Western Star

Historic discussions on rights of Mi'kmaq

The Federation of Newfoundland Indians (FNI) will soon be sitting down with both levels of government to begin exploratory discussions to negotiate rights for Mi'kmaq people living outside the province's only reserve at Conne River.

The announcement was made Apr. 12 in St. John's by federal Indian Affairs Minister Robert Nault.

The FNI was established in 1972 to promote the social, cultural, economic and educational well being of the Mi'kmaq people of Newfoundland. The FNI currently represent approximately 3,686 Mi'kmaqs located in 10 bands, primarily in the central and western regions of the province.

Leaders of the 10 Mi'kmaq bands represented by the FNI have been fighting for federal recognition for decades. If an agreement can be reached, all Mi'kmaq will be treated the same and have access to certain programs and services.

According to Mr. Nault, the intent of the talks will determine if a better status for the Mi'kmaq population can be agreed upon and in so doing, he is confident a better relationship between the aboriginal people and the government of Canada will come about.

"This has been a long time in coming," Mr. Nault said during the news conference.

"I know that there have been many opportunities to talk about our relationship dealing with the grievances of the past and the recognition of a relationship that should have been built a long time ago."

Welcomes talks

FNI president Brendan Sheppard sees the exploratory discussion process as "a very significant and sincere endeavour by Minister Nault to comprehend the expectations of the Mi'kmaq people of Newfoundland."

Mr. Sheppard is confident that, at the end of this process, the parties involved will come to a reasonable and acceptable solution. He was also quick to point out that the relationship that currently exists between the parties is one that has never before been established in the history of the FNI.

According to the FNI president, his organization has struggled immensely since its inception in the early 1970s to convince the federal government that the Mi'kmaq people of Newfoundland were denied equal rights accorded to other aboriginal people of Canada during the Terms of Union.

"As a result of this injustice, the situation of the Mi'kmaq people of Newfoundland is indeed unique and deserves to be dealt with in that manner."

Mr. Sheppard said since the plight for formal recognition began more than three decades ago, many of the elders have passed on, leaving behind a vision and a quest they believed would be fulfilled.

The FNI president would like to see the politicians and aboriginal people agreeing on such things as health, education and economic development.

"The opportunity for economic development, the opportunity to bring back, to some degree as well, to move into language and culture of Mi'kmaq people, to make our children more aware of it and to educate the public about the Mi'kmaq of Newfoundland."

While talks will take place, government pointed out that the discussions are strictly exploratory in nature and are solely to determine whether a clear framework for negotiation can be established.

Significant step

Ernest McLean, provincial Minister of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs, noted the announcement of the exploratory talks marked an important day for the province.

"This is the first time that the province, the federal government and the FNI have come together in a coordinated way to address the issue of the Federation's membership accessing the full range of aboriginal programs and services available to members of other aboriginal groups in the province."

Mr. McLean noted government recognizes that successfully accessing federal aboriginal programs and services may give the FNI and its membership the beneficial tools and opportunities for individual and community capacity building.

"This would be a gain for the FNI, a gain for their members and their communities. It would also be a gain for the province and a gain for the federal government."

The minister also noted that government is prepared to discuss mechanisms for partnerships in areas of provincial jurisdiction, where the federal government may agree to supplement provincial programs and services such as health, education and cultural programs.

National leader

Joining the delegates for the announcement was Dwight Dorey, national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples.

Looking back on his own situation, Mr. Dorey noted that he spent the first 40 years of his life not being officially or formally recognized as a Mi'kmaq first nations person.

Mr. Dorey went on to say that it was through initiatives such as those announced on Apr. 12 that led to a change in policy and legislation that brought many individuals to a level of due recognition with amendments to the Indian Act in 1985. He looks on the current initiative as a clear indication from both levels of government that parties can come together where there are differences and resolve, at least to some degree, outstanding issues.

"Having gone through my personal experience that I know national people and community people here in Newfoundland are seeing a greater degree of hope that their rightful place as aboriginal people in this country is going to be realized and while I know it is not necessarily a process that will lead to everything that we hope to see come out of it, nevertheless, it is a very important move on the part of both governments."

While the minister of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs said the province has historically supported the FNI and its membership's access to federal aboriginal programs and services. Chief Misel Joe of the Conne River Mi'kmaq Band Council doesn't feel this has been the case.

On hand for the announcement, Chief Joe is especially pleased the province is now part of the talks.

Province finally in

"When we got into this back in 1985 it was a struggle to get the province on side. The federal government was always on side with this, but never the province. We worked day and night trying to convince the province that this was a good thing and it delights me to see the province involved... We've done some of the legwork to make this happen and today the province is here supporting what's happening and supporting the aboriginal people of Newfoundland. For me that's the highlight of this."

Former federal cabinet minister Marc Lalonde has been given the lead role in the exploratory discussions.

"I suspect I've been selected because I have no formed opinion on the whole issue in a sense that I knew relatively very little of it so I am approaching it very much with a very open mind," Mr. Lalonde said following the news conference.

"The Federation of Newfoundland Indians have explained to me what their broad objectives were in the current circumstances and they appeared to me to be realistic objectives."

Mr. Lalonde will report back to the Indian Affairs Minister on the progress of the talks by September. It's something he hopes to have completed sooner rather than later.

"My aim is to report before September. I will be back here in two weeks for consultations not only with the Federation of Newfoundland Indians, but for meetings with the communities. I intend to meet with most of the representatives of the Mi'kmaq communities in this province in the next couple of months and pursue negotiations intensively. I do not intend to see this as a dragging out process."


Special to R-B News

April 24, 2002

(L-R) It was announced at a press conference last week that the Federation of Newfoundland Indians (FNI) will soon be sitting down with both levels of government to begin exploratory discussions to negotiate rights for Mi'kmaq people living outside the province's only reserve at Conne River. Taking part in the announcement were (from left): Dwight Dorey, national chief of the Congress ot Aboriginal Peoples, Brendan Sheppard, president of the Federation of Newfoundland Indians (FNI), Robert Nault, federal Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, Ernest McLean, provincial Minister of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs and Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte MP Gerry Byrne.


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Copyright © 2002 Jasen Benwah

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