On National Aboriginal Day, June
21, 2008, we dedicated the first Bras d'Or First
Nation Sign ever to be erected in Little Bras d'Or in
honor of our ancestors, confirming that our community is
intent on regaining our rightful place among other First
People of Canada.
Sylvia Deny from Eskasoni performed a sweet grass ceremony and blessed both the
sign and the members during the reading of the prayers. There was a good
turn out with about 70 members in attendance, which more than likely would have
been much higher had not Aboriginal Day this year coincided with prom night
which encompassed the whole area.
After Sylvia blessed the sign.
It was a special day for all who attended, to stand proud
of who we are and our determination to move forward.
After the Sign Dedication Ceremony, most attended the
reception held at Mill Creek Fire Hall for a short social where sandwiches and
knacks were had by all.
We like to thank those who made this day possible, in
particular the sign committee made up of Shelly Ferneyhough, Raymond Jessome and
Nancy Swan as well as those who provided sandwiches and made refreshments at the
We also like to thank the RCMP for providing traffic
control during the event.
And of course we can't forget all the members who came out
in support and made this day the success that it was.
You are the lifeline.
The Chief's Speech
we, the families of little Bras d'Or, and those in our community who have worked
tirelessly with us to support our efforts, celebrate an historical day for the
Bras d’Or First Nation – the dedication of a sign and the healing of a
people.Before we begin the
dedication, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Sylvia Deny from Eksasoni
for coming and offering a spiritual prayer and for blessing the dedication of
this sign.I would like to thank
the RCMP who provided traffic control to ensure safety. And most importantly, I
would also like to thank every member of our community who came out today to the
dedication to stand proud of your heritage.
Today we say to our community,
and to the governments of this Province and of Canada that we, like our cousins
in Newfoundland, are prepared to move forward and seek our rightful place among
the other First Nations peoples of Canada.Today we begin the process of reconciliation -- among the Bras d'Or First
Nation and the First Nations peoples of Canada - as we acknowledge our shared
heritage.We are all family.
With this sign, we honor our
ancestors from whom we have inherited a proud legacy.We know of the past struggles of our families here on Cape Breton: the
difficulties our mothers, our fathers, and our grandparents faced in
acknowledging their Mi'kmaq ancestry --in
light of political and social pressures in our communities.Today, we stand proud as Mi’kmaw and move forward in honor of our
ancestors and the sacrifices they made, so that we could gather here, and
celebrate our heritage in this way.For
our ancestors and for our children, we recognize our true identity.
In Nova Scotia, First Nations
peoples have struggled for centuries to re-claim rights and lands lost by no
fault of their own.Recently, what
has long been considered impossible has been achieved: the Prime Minister of
Canada took responsibility and apologized to the Aboriginal people of Canada for
the treatment and abuse endured by the children when forced into residential
schools.Prime Minister Stephen
Harper's apology extended not only to those of Aboriginal ancestry who had
suffered physically and psychologically at the residential schools, but to their
families as well and the generations that would follow, all of whom were
affected by this inhumane act of “assimilation,” a program that pitted one
race against another.I was moved
by the graciousness of the First Nation Leaders who listened and responded to
this apology in parliament.We
would also like to thank the Prime Minister Stephen Harper as well for his
courage to do what no other leader of this country would do, acknowledge their
actions as a government were wrong.
Although the Bras d’Or First
Nation Community did not suffer at the hands of the residential schools, our
ancestors did suffer a similar plight when it comes to the loss of their
cultural identity and language.Public
expressions of our heritage were suppressed: we were simply not allowed to be
Indians; if anyone did mention their Mi'kmaq ancestry, their words were not
spoken aloud, but only whispered, in fear and shame.That suppression solidified the day the government of Nova Scotia and the
non-native people of this community herded Mi’kmaw families from the Northside
and in a public spectacle, moved them out of the community, razed and burned
their dwellings in an attempt to erase all presence of them.This community owes an apology not only to us but to the all Mi’kmaw,
the Bernards, the Googoos and the Francis families to name a few, who were
forcibly removed from their homes to Eskasoni and other reserves.This was their home and we welcome them here.
This sign you see before you
today will speak on our behalf and on the behalf of our ancestors, signifying to
every person who drives by this site from this day forward, that there is a
Mi’kmaw presence in Bras d’Or.We
are silent no longer.When I
consider all of the locations where a reserve had been located in Cape Breton,
with the exception of Membertou, they are all situated on the Bras d’Or Lakes.The Bras d’Or First Nation now completes the circle.Look beyond this sign and you’ll see the beauty of the Lakes and the
gut that was a gateway to the ample fishing grounds that provided the livelihood
of our ancestors -- the Mi’kmaw - who have always inhabited this place, and
they continue to do so through us today.
On this day, the 21st
of June, a day that marks the start of summer, a time when the Mi'kmaw
traditionally returned to summer dwellings along the shore, we also return to
our heritage, as the families of the Bras d'Or First Nations and as Mi'kmaw
People of Little Bras d'Or.Thank
you all for marking this day with us, and for supporting our families and the
future of our children as we dedicate this sign as a monument to our great
As most of you are aware,
there will be a reception in the Mill Creek Hall following this ceremony.Please be careful while returning to your vehicles, this is a busy
Before I close, I would also
like to take this opportunity to thank our Sign Committee, Sheldon Ferneyhough,
Nancy Swan and Raymond Jessome for all their effort in making this day possible.