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.
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 Métis) 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!
What family secrets are hiding in your genealogical closet?