Hundreds of people gathered in Halifax Thursday to mark Treaty Day and kick off Mi’kmaq History Month in Nova Scotia.
“Today’s celebration is the symbol of our unique and special relationship with the federal and provincial governments. We are treaty partners; this is a partnership between two nations,” Chief Terrance Paul of the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs said to the crowd at an afternoon event at the World Trade and Convention Centre.
“Treaty Day is about celebrating, but it is also about reflecting and remembering the sacrifices and triumphs of our people.”
Treaty Day marks the Treaty of 1752, signed between the Mi’kmaq nation and the British colonial power.
Paul also paid tribute to Donald Marshall Jr., who died this summer. Twenty years ago, the Marshall Report shone light on the systemic racism in Nova Scotia that led Marshall to spend more than a decade in jail for a murder he didn’t commit. Ten years ago, he won a landmark supreme court affirmation of Mi’kmaq treaty rights.
“Junior firmly believed in our rights,” Paul said. “It offered a renewed sense of hope for many Mi’kmaq to end the cycle of poverty. However, the Mi’kmaq are still seeking the recognition and implementation of our treaty rights to the fishery.
“After about 250 years, we can wait no longer.”
Premier Darrell Dexter, who is also the minister for aboriginal affairs, focused his speech Thursday on the future economic powerbase aboriginal youth will provide for the province.
“Fifty per cent of today’s Mi’kmaq in Nova Scotia are under 25 years of age – and that number is growing,” Dexter said. “The new generation can be part of stronger communities and a stronger provincial economy. We need to work together to ensure young aboriginal people have the knowledge and skills to participate in the workforce.”
Dexter and Paul also paid tribute to Michael Baker, the Tory MLA who was minister of aboriginal affairs until his death in March.