National Week of Action to Support Mi’kmaq Treaty Rights and Livelihood was October 19-23. On October 22, individuals in the Fredericton area showed their support by attending a peaceful rally that took place in front of the New Brunswick Legislature building.
On September 17, the Sipekne’katik First Nation launched its own Mi’kmaq-regulated lobster fishery. This enraged non-Indigenous fishermen and led to violence. Following the launch, violent attacks have been continuous against the Mi’kmaq community, who are trying to exercise their right to fish for a moderate livelihood during off-season.
The rally was held to support, and bring awareness to, Indigenous rights. Speakers educated the crowd on the current events, as well as the history behind it.
“It was [colonizers] who benefited most of all from this peace and friendship treaty – our people were so forgiving and so peaceful that they kept those treaties valid,” said Wolastoqewi Grand Chief Ron Tremblay, speaking on the signing of the Peace and Friendship treaties that took place in 1725. “We never broke one speck of that treaty, but the colonizers broke every portion.”
The rally was hosted by Black Lives Matter Fredericton and Amanda Myran, a member of the Wolastokuk community and Piluwitahasuwin with the University of New Brunswick. The event started off with a traditional song and prayer by Elder Maggie Paul and ended with a Mi’kmaq Honour Song sung by four members of the community.
Wolastoqewi Grandmother Alma Brooks was first to speak and focused on the continued racism seen today.
“It seems to me that every time we attempt to exercise our Aboriginal rights, racism comes flying up to the surface - racism is embedded in every aspect of the Western system; it amounts to hatred, it amounts to jealousy, it amounts to brutality, it amounts to corruption, violence, fear, everything is embedded in the racism. It’s being taught, its being maintained and its being exercised,” Grandmother Brooks said.
Chief Tremblay spoke on the violent and racial attacks happening to Ingenious people today, while referencing a video of Sipekne’katik, Chief Mike Sack, being attacked by a fisherman.
“Who did the RCMP grab? Watch it,” said Chief Tremblay. “...I stand here today supporting Sipekne’katik, Chief Mike Sack, that he has the right to fish as many lobsters that him and his community require for a livelihood and beyond.”
The rally also heard from Mi'kmaq Scholar Chris George, who spoke briefly on identity and what it means to be Indigenous, as well as Jenica Atwin, who condemned the racially-motivated attacks.
The rally showed great support from community and non-community members and educated people on Indigenous history and exercising their rights.
“They really do need to educate themselves and stop the violence because you have to know that we have not ceded our land, we have not surrendered our rights. All the rights we had at the signing of the treaties; we still have,” said Grandmother Brooks.