Friday, February 1, 2013

NL ABORIGINAL REALITIES: WHAT IS IN YOUR GENEALOGICAL CLOSET



The aftermath of Randy Simms terse response to being labeled as racist by Innu leader Simeon Tshakapesh, on Monday, has made me reflect on our attitudes toward those of aboriginal ancestry in this province.

We beat the drum in celebrating our Irish, French, English and Scottish roots but in the past we have shunned, hidden or not known about our huge aboriginal ancestory. There have been great soirees around Sir Humphrey Gilbert, John Cabot, French settlement and the Vikings. 

We are all Irish for St. Partick's Day and many of us embrace the Scott's on St. Andrew's Day.  In fact, St. Patrick's Day is a provincial holiday, as is Orangeman's Day, St. George's Day, Discovery Day , Victoria Day and Thanksgiving Day.

We have never embraced our aboriginal heritage in quite the same way. 

Why? 

Were we ashamed that so many of our forefathers took aboriginal women as their wives, or bed warmers? Was this  assimilation some sort of  "dirty" secret. Are we more racist than we care to admit? We were once ashamed to acknowledge our aboriginal lineage. 

The traditional "truism"  which is the story of the aboriginal population on the Island has been that the French brought the Mi’kmaq from Nova Scotia to fight the British. The English annihilated the Beothucks. Thus, there were no genuine Newfoundland aborginals.

The Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band and the Mi’kmaq of Conne River have come a long way from the days when no Mi’kmaq living on the island of Newfoundland were recognized as being eligible for registration under the federal Indian Act.

When the Qalipu agreement was made with the federal government, officials expected about 11,000 people to join the landless band. 65,000 people have applied for status!

In Labrador, there are three aboriginal groups: The Innu have a population of 1200; Nunatsiavut has 2160; and the NunatuKavummiut (Labrador M├ętis) have 6,000 members.

That equates to a total population of people claiming aboriginal status/roots in this province of 75,000 or nearly 15% of our total population.

That is quite a climb from the state of aboriginal affairs  pre-1972!

To listen to many commentators and average people, a great fraud is being perpetrated. Where they ask are all of these blond, blue eyed, pale skinned Indians coming from?

Does the fact that ones aboriginal ancestry was hidden from generations of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians make it less valid?

Idle no more!

Indeed.

What family secrets are hiding in your genealogical closet?

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well said Pete!

Anonymous said...

Discover your roots. Go for it! But let's face it. Some portion (the cynic in me says most) of those people recently claiming native status never would have cared unless there was some hope of financial gain.

Anonymous said...

I always knew there were alot of people of Mic Mac descent in Newfoundland, all you had to do was look around you...I get rotted with people complaining about the new Qalipu numbers (potential)...they assume that everyone applying is only doing if for the benefits. I sincerely believe that many of the complainers would themselves apply if they could. As well, I get the feeling that some of the Qalipu executive (originals) resent the large numbers of applicants who are coming out of the wood work, because it will mean reducing their benefits...I could be wrong.

as for who qualifies? one of the key criteria I have read on the Qalipu website is that a person must be a descendant of a NL Mic Mac...does not specify how many micmac ancestors you must have, which is why so many people are coming forward with only say a Great grandparent...should they be condemned for this? no. its the criteria, and you know that the government does not pay out $$ it does not have to so somewhere in the original treaties, I suspect, the language dictates that the benefits of the treaty are to be enjoyed by all future descendants...no blood percentage specified.

Jerome said...

One of your best posts Peter.

Peter L. Whittle said...

Anonymous 1:39

Lets put something else in perspective. People are just discovering their heritage. The financial gain is a fact, it is the reality of your heritage. How can anyone be critical of anyone of aboriginal heritage taking advantage of any opportunity that is available to them. It is their right. THe rues are designed by the courts and the constitution. What ever the motivation is, they are not exploiting anything, just receiving what the courts say is their rights.

Anonymous said...

It is all jealousy boy. They are jealous because they can not take advantage of the programs that aboriginals can.

PETER HURST said...

Is it worth giving up your claim of being a white man ?

Peter L. Whittle said...

Peter, explain that one to me

Carm said...

Hi Peter just had a chance to listen to the radio show. It was so great to hear you represent! I truly enjoyed your persistence to stay on topic and not allow the commentator to take control of the conversation and turn it into another opportunity to deny the reality that there is a huge aboriginal population in NL. Any person who wants to understand the history of the Mi'kmaq, Mikmac in NL should read a thesis written by Michael Wetzel, Mi'kmaq from Conne River. He has an extraordinary understanding of the history of the MicMac. Most people in this country have no idea that the Mi'kmaq of NL were also First Peoples along with the Beothuk. The Mi'kmaq were also held responsible for the genocide of the Beothuk. It was another one of British lies that was passed down through the generations. The Mi'kmaq and the French were very good traders the British did not want anyone on the island they wanted it for themselves. If we go back to Joey's time he made claims that there were no more Natives on the Island they lived elsewhere or were married of the Island of NL. Wetzel points out very clearly in his thesis the history of the Island where the Mi'kmaq where and the relations with the Spanish, French and yes the Beothuk. Finally the issue of Race most people have no idea that they are racist especially in an environment where assimilation was at its finest. If you genocide your First Peoples, the Beothuk and you deny the rights to Mi'kmaq First Peoples, that they don't exist on the Island and when all as fails blame them for killing of the Beothuk (and of course the British put the nail in the coffin .....so to speak by placing in the British governance of the day (late 1700's) the Mi'kmaq Myth basically stating that the Mi'kmaq were the people that murdered the Beothuk. Most status Mi'kmaq know this history when the truth be known the Mi'kmaq helped the Beothuk, they intermarried and had good relations with the Mi'kmaq. The history is rich in Nfld however there are also areas of Nfld history that need some facts and my studies of the NL Mi'kmaq & Beothuk have led me to believe that a huge part of our history has been left out, distorted & massive attempts made to destroy. how wonderful that some of us have found parts of our ancestry, that many would like to be left dormant, but there must be justice. The woman who brought us into the world and gave us life and many of them Native, Aboriginal deserve to be recognized. Be proud to have Aboriginal ancestry whether you get something for it or not, it is a part of who you are it is your Right. Thank you Peter so much for speaking up and it was so wonderful that you honored our GG grandmothers name, it was music to my ears Elizabeth Saunders long may she be remembered and never again be forgotten. Wela'lin (Mi'kaq for Thank you IDLE NO MORE Carmel Whittle

Anonymous said...

It's actually 100,000 applications, with 65-70,000 in limbo waiting for a decision.. I think the number that has applied is actually very smaller than the actual number that is in the province. Most people who are descended from a Mi'kmaq ancestor haven't applied. Also, a good amount of people still don't know they are aboriginal and are entitled to status. There are hundreds of aboriginal people from the 1800s who have no record of being aboriginal, and as a result their descendants do not know they are of Indian ancestry...

Carm said...

Hi Peter just had a chance to listen to the radio show. It was so great to hear you represent! I truly enjoyed your persistence to stay on topic and not allow the commentator to take control of the conversation and turn it into another opportunity to deny the reality that there is a huge aboriginal population in NL. Any person who wants to understand the history of the Mi'kmaq, Mikmac in NL should read a thesis written by Michael Wetzel, Mi'kmaq from Conne River. He has an extraordinary understanding of the history of the MicMac. Most people in this country have no idea that the Mi'kmaq of NL were also First Peoples along with the Beothuk. The Mi'kmaq were also held responsible for the genocide of the Beothuk. It was another one of British lies that was passed down through the generations. The Mi'kmaq and the French were very good traders the British did not want anyone on the island they wanted it for themselves. If we go back to Joey's time he made claims that there were no more Natives on the Island they lived elsewhere or were married of the Island of NL. Wetzel points out very clearly in his thesis the history of the Island where the Mi'kmaq where and the relations with the Spanish, French and yes the Beothuk. Finally the issue of Race most people have no idea that they are racist especially in an environment where assimilation was at its finest. If you genocide your First Peoples, the Beothuk and you deny the rights to Mi'kmaq First Peoples, that they don't exist on the Island and when all as fails blame them for killing of the Beothuk (and of course the British put the nail in the coffin .....so to speak by placing in the British governance of the day (late 1700's) the Mi'kmaq Myth basically stating that the Mi'kmaq were the people that murdered the Beothuk. Most status Mi'kmaq know this history when the truth be known the Mi'kmaq helped the Beothuk, they intermarried and had good relations with the Mi'kmaq. The history is rich in Nfld however there are also areas of Nfld history that need some facts and my studies of the NL Mi'kmaq & Beothuk have led me to believe that a huge part of our history has been left out, distorted & massive attempts made to destroy. how wonderful that some of us have found parts of our ancestry, that many would like to be left dormant, but there must be justice. The woman who brought us into the world and gave us life and many of them Native, Aboriginal deserve to be recognized. Be proud to have Aboriginal ancestry whether you get something for it or not, it is a part of who you are it is your Right. Thank you Peter so much for speaking up and it was so wonderful that you honored our GG grandmothers name, it was music to my ears Elizabeth Saunders long may she be remembered and never again be forgotten. Wela'lin (Mi'kaq for Thank you

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter, I am in support of anyone seeking Qalipu status but the criteria spelled out for it, may be a large part of the problem with regard to perception of people with out Micmac heritage. among other things, a person need only have a micmac ancestor...this leads to people with just a one great grand parent, or great-great-grand parent of micmac blood...given how 'Indian status' in the rest of Canada has been cut off for 'off reservation' Indian after one or two generations, its puzzling why this is happening here. I am all for it myself as my wife and kids may yet get their status, but I can see why it can be difficult for some people to accept it.

Peter L. Whittle said...

I though that federal regulations and laws determined the "status" of individuals. One would assume that the rules would be much the same for each scenario. There was a recent court ruling on the eligibility of off reservation natives.

Of course the Qalipu never had a reservation to leave. Certainly worth more research.

I think people who find it hard to accept need to stop blaming those who receive recognition. The courts have granted rights bases on constitutional challenges and interpretations.

Ron Benson said...

I'm just glad that what we knew in our hearts is true. That we did not come from somewhere else but belong here in this beautiful island. As my grandmother said "We've always been here."
Just knowing that the Beothuk are not gone but are looking out at this marvelous terrible place from behind our eyes.
It is cause for joy and pride and congratulations for all Nflders for it is likely that we are all of native descent. My mother would have been so proud.