The events will officially launch Mi'Kmaq History month in Nova Scotia which is celebrated annually by the Nova Scotia Government and the Mi'Kmaq community to renew peace and friendship.
Mi'kmaq Grand Council Treaty Day Celebration
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Wednesday, October 1, 1997
Today, in the Mi'kmaq Treaty Day Commemoration, we mark the 245th anniversary of the Treaty of 1752.
This annual ceremony reaffirms the historic presence of the First Nations who have occupied this land from time immemorial. It also honours the key role of treaties in the relationship between the aboriginal inhabitants and newcomers.
I am honoured to be here, particularly in light of the traditional relationship between the Mi'kmaqs and Her Majesty the Queen.
In the Treaty of 1752, previous conflicts were, and I quote, to be "buried in oblivion with the hatchet." The Mi'kmaq people were henceforth to be shown "all favour, friendship and protection" from the Sovereign's government.
But the spirit of accommodation present in those words, and in other treaties in the Maritimes, was not always reflected in reality.
And other Canadians still need to make room for those who were here first and who must take their rightful place in the sun.
I am the descendant of an Acadian pioneer who settled in Nova Scotia around 1650, along the banks of the Annapolis River. And historians know that when the first French settlers arrived, in 1605, they were welcomed by Chief Membertou and his people.
We also have written testimony that Chief Membertou considered himself the "equal of the King and of all his lieutenants." He told the leader of this first European establishment "that he was his great friend, brother, companion and equal ... ."
Equality between the children of the Mi'kmaq and of the new settlers was also the rule in the first school established by the French settlers.
But Canadians have often forgotten the spiritual values and the physical help of those who first welcomed us. The First Nations taught us the waterways, the snowshoes, and the canoes that opened up a vast country.
But in the centuries that followed, too many times their spiritual values were dismissed as mere superstitions. Too many times, they were dispossessed of their lands. And when momentous decisions were taken in the creation of the Canadian Nation, they were not consulted.
And yet, in our times we have seen progress towards justice for the First Nations. There is also a new awareness by Canadians and their governments of the cultural heritage of the First Nations, a heritage which enriches us all.
In our quest for national unity, we sometimes forget that unity does not mean uniformity. Rather, it calls for a concerted effort to understand and respect cultural diversity.
Happily, centres for aboriginal studies are shining a new light on our shared history. I am glad to note that one of the more active centres is a part of the University College of Cape Breton.
Such centres must be encouraged and developed throughout Canada if Canadians are to be successful at the never-ending task of nation building.
Much progress has been made towards justice and understanding, based on respect between the Mi'kmaq people, the government, and the citizens of Nova Scotia. And yes -- more must be done.
As representative of Her Majesty the Queen, I wish the Mi'kmaq Nation and the Nova Scotia government continued success in their combined efforts and their mutual endeavours.