Mi’kmaq chiefs and Nova Scotia politicians marked the 29th annual Treaty Day by signing an agreement ensuring Nova Scotia public schools offer education on Mi’kmaq history.
Premier Stephen McNeil signed the memorandum with Chief Leroy Denny and Chief Robert Gloade, calling it historic and urging collaboration between all communities.
“For too long, we have been a small chapter in history,” said Chief Denny. “Today we plant the seed of justice.”
The agreement was signed before a large gathering that included Lieutenant-Governor J.J. Grant, Mayor Mike Savage and Grand Chief Ben Sylliboy.
Premier McNeil stressed the importance of communal relations between all peoples of Nova Scotia, native and non-native.
“We are all treaty people,” he said. “Treaties need to be understood and respected by all of us.”
The treaty was a highlight of the Treaty Day conference, a celebration that began in 1986 to commemorate the treaties signed in the 1700s. It began in the ballroom of the World Trade and Convention Centre, with a large group of veterans and Mi’kmaq representatives being led by a drum procession.
After the procession, the powwow group Stoney Bear performed a flag song, followed by a prayer led by Chief Sylliboy.
Chief Sylliboy, a survivor of residential schools, noted that natives continue to struggle to re-assert their influence in provincial affairs.
“We’ve been fighting for 400 years,” he said. “We’re always struggling but we never give up.”
Mayor Savage stated that Halifax council will be examining ways to better engage Mi’kmaq people.
“My hope is that this is just the beginning,” McNeil said. “I look forward to being educated further.”