Commentary by Debra Hopper

Sock, Francis and McIvor answer questions IMG_4488

(l to r) Counsel Bruce McIvor, Elder Ken Francis, Chief Arren Sock

I would like to comment on a very important story that received a brief mention in the news on Nov. 9th. A press conference was held in Elsipogtog where Chief Arren Sock and Elder Kenneth Francis announced that a claim has been filed with the court that asserts the authority of the Mi’kmaq People over the land and the water in the Mi’kmaq territory in Eastern NB called Sikniktuk.

I am not Aboriginal, but I was filled with admiration and respect as I listened to the eloquence of these two men as they spoke of their ancestors, their culture, their community and their ties to the land.

Culturally, they are called to keep the land and its precious resources sustainable for 7 generations.

McIvor on camera IMG_4483This is a vision that needs to be shared by all people if we are looking to have a future for our children, grandchildren and beyond.

One thing that was made very clear during the press conference was that this assertion of title will not impact private land. It will make no difference to your land or to mine. The assertion of title is for jurisdiction over how the land and water will be used on Crown land in Mi’kmaq territory. Many people remember when Crown land was officially referred to as Indian Land.

Francis speaks IMG_4454There was not a dry eye in the room when Kenneth Francis summed up the importance of what launching this claim meant on a deeper level for his people. I had hoped that his impassioned closing would make the news cut, but as it did not, I will try to share the power of his message.

Asserting their claim represents getting back up on their feet. A chance for their youth to say, “If it really is our land: it is our culture, it is our language, it is our place.” For his people who have been beaten down for so long, launching this claim is an expression by them that they are on their way to being a nation and to re-introduce their culture with pride.

( r. Ken Francis, Serena Francis, Debra Hopper, Denise Melanson)

( r. Ken Francis, Serena Francis, Debra Hopper, Denise Melanson)

I hope that the media will be giving this historic announcement further attention. It is the responsibility of all New Brunswickers, including the media, to recognize the Peace and Friendship treaties.

Wela’lin. Thank you. Merci

(photography Dallas MacQuarrie)