Organizers hope as many as 100,000 people will descend on Halifax this June for the celebration of a historic landmark in Mi’kmaq culture. Even the Pope is invited.
Membertou 400 will mark the anniversary of the baptism of Mi’kmaq Chief Henri Membertou four centuries ago. It was an act that some say opened the door for Canada as a multicultural nation.
“This historic event signalled the peaceful intentions between the Mi’kmaq and European nations, and established a holy alliance between the aboriginal community and the Catholic Church,” Premier Darrell Dexter said at an announcement yesterday.
“Four hundred years ago he was a man who shaped the fate of his people and the fate of a nation.”
The five-day celebration running June 24 to 28 will include a Mi’kmaq village of about 15 wigwams set up on the Halifax Common, native dance and drum competitions and demonstrations by First Nation artisans. There will also be a free concert by Buffy Sainte Marie and an open-air mass.
“It’s high time we put (our) showcase out there in a way that is laid back, relaxed and beautiful,” said Deborah Robinson, chief of the Acadia First Nation.
Organizers hope tens of thousands of people will gather from Atlantic Canada and beyond.
They’ve invited Pope Benedict XVI to come mark the Catholic connection, but haven’t heard back yet whether he’s available.
Governments are kicking in almost a million dollars to the event. The federal government has pledged $600,000, the province $200,000 plus in-kind services, and Halifax Regional Municipality another $100,000.
They expect the total spinoff to the local economy to be worth $2 million
According to Mi’kmaq Grand Keptin Andrew Denny, the event will be a focal point for preserving First Nations history.
“It’s an opportunity to show off Mi’kmaq culture, but it’s more than that,” he said.