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Treaty Day a time to renew our friendship says Mi’kmaq Grand Keptin

SYDNEY, N.S. — As Treaty Day is celebrated Thursday, a member of the Mi’kmaq grand council wants to remind the public that we all have a responsibility to the treaties and the spirit in which they were signed.

“Why can’t we keep helping each other,” said Grand Keptin Andrew Denny.

The 57-year-old from Eskasoni First Nation said the Peace and Friendship Treaties were signed as a commitment to allyship between the Crown and the Mi’kmaq nation. And each Treaty Day is a day to recognize the strength of those treaties and a renewed commitment to friendship.

Treaty Day started in 1986 when Grand Chief Donald Marshall Sr. declared Oct. 1 a day to honour treaties. In 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed the Mi’kmaq had a right to hunt, fish and make a moderate livelihood through the strength of their Peace and Friendship Treaties, in what is now known as the Marshall decision.

Denny said the Mi’kmaq would typically travel to Halifax on Treaty Day to recommit to those promises and acknowledge the strength of the treaties. This year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the celebrations will largely take place online, but he hopes the allies recommit to all their promises.

“It’s a renewal of our friendship and how we will work together in the future,” said Denny.

Thursday, the Union of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq is releasing a series of videos to celebrate the day and announce scholarship winners. Denny will make a speech and plans to remind the public the Mi’kmaq are a nation onto themselves and not Canadian subjects but rather its ally.

The Peace and Friendship Treaties were a series of treaties signed between the Wabanaki Confederacy and the British Crown in the 1700s. The confederacy was formed by the Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqiyik, Abenaki, Penobscot and Passamaquoddy.

Thursday, as discussions to define moderate livelihood continue, Denny says the public must remember the shared history and how the Mi’kmaq have lived up to their end of the treaties. He says the Mi’kmaq have always defined a moderate livelihood as netukulimk — to live sustainably with the land and to never take more than one needs.

“We have to make sure we take what we need but we leave enough for others. That practice must continue to ensure the next seven generations are taken care of,” said Denny.

He’s hopeful in the years to come when the pandemic is under control, that the gatherings include more of the Crown’s representatives. Denny would like to see all the premiers of the provinces in Mi’kma’ki and the prime minister of Canada come to the Treaty Day celebrations to renew the commitment to Peace and Friendship Treaties. And with that commitment, a promise that the Mi’kmaq have more of a role in the governing of the land.

“We, as a nation, are upholding our side of the treaties,” said Denny.

Oscar Baker III, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cape Breton Post

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