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Mekap’sk Mi’kmaq Seek Modern-Day Treaty in Area that Includes Gros Morne Park
PORT SAUNDERS, NL, March 6, 2018 On March 5, 2018, the Mekap’sk Mi’kmaq Band issued a formal assertion of Aboriginal Title over Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula.
“We need to be consulted; we need a modern-day Treaty to clarify our jurisdiction and create a framework for our people to take part in the management of our own land,” says Mekap’sk Chief Mildred Lavers.
The Mekap’sk Mi’kmaq Band – sometimes known as the Northern Peninsula Mi‘kmaq or “NorPen” – is a First Nation Band, recognized and protected under section 35 of the Constitution Act. It represents the approximately 1,200 Mi’kmaq people who collectively hold Aboriginal Title over the Northern Peninsula.
“We need to be consulted on issues such as resource permits and developments. We need a modern-day Treaty to clarify our jurisdiction and create a framework for the respect and recognition of our Rights.”
“Our people are being forgotten on the Northern Peninsula,” Chief Lavers asserts.
As part of its title assertion, Mekap’sk has provided the government substantial archival and expert evidence showing Mi’kmaq occupation of the area well prior to the earliest possible date for legal British sovereignty. The “French Treaty Shore,” of which the Northern Peninsula is a part, was created by international treaties between Britain and France in 1713, 1763, 1783 and 1814. This history gives the “French Treaty Shore” a unique constitutional status: Britain did not acquire unconditional and effective sovereignty over this area in international law until 1904, and did not exercise governmental control until into the 1880s. This history, very different from that of other parts of Newfoundland where British sovereignty arose in the 1700’s, means the Mekap’sk have a particularly strong claim over this land and these waters.
The Mi’kmaq considered Newfoundland (which they called “Ktaqmkuk”) part of the same district as Cape Breton (“Unama’ki”), and used it for both harvesting and longer-term purposes. Mi’kmaq from other areas called the Mi’kmaq in Newfoundland the “Say’ewedjkik” (“the Ancients”). The Mi’kmaq were accomplished seafarers, pre-contact in ocean-going canoes and post-contact in both canoes and European shallops.
The Northern Peninsula area was particularly well suited for the Mi’kmaq for access to harvest for food and furs. The area offered plentiful access to both marine and fresh water fishing and inland game harvest. It also offered regular access to trade opportunities with European fishermen fishing off its shores.
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