Wellness, Culture and Sport

Feature article #1 / Heritage Week 2009 (09/02/09)

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Feb. 9, 2009

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is the first in a series of five feature articles prepared for Heritage Week, Feb. 9 - 13, 2009. The article was prepared by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Rick Brewer. For more information on Heritage Week activities throughout the province, visit the Heritage Week 2009 website.

First Nations people and New Brunswick

As 2009 marks the 225th anniversary of New Brunswick officially becoming a province, New Brunswick represents the native and non-native people in this country who have had the longest relationship. The first European settlement in what is present-day Canada was established on St. Croix Island in 1604. Therefore, natives and non-natives in New Brunswick have had continuous contact for over 400 years. We have, one could say, a history.

In our history, we have fought against common foes; we have weathered natural disasters; we have suffered through difficult economic times. We have shared a common past, and we will share a common future. Generations past have built the life we now have in New Brunswick, and it is up to us to continue their work and to ensure a better future for our children and our grandchildren. We must strive to build a society that values all equally.

The peace and friendship treaties of the Maritimes have shaped the unique relationship between the province and First Nations people for over 400 years. These treaties were based on encouraging peace and co-operation.

It is important to celebrate this unique relationship while also recognizing the significant contributions that First Nations people have made to the growth and establishment of New Brunswick. The 225th anniversary of our province is an occasion to celebrate the history, culture and contributions that all have made to this place we call home. The enduring experiences of First Nations communities are a cherished part of not only our provincial, but our national, story.

Some of today's First Nations people of New Brunswick who have been working toward the goals of equality and prosperity are Senator Sandra Lovelace Nicholas (Tobique First Nation), provincial court judge Graydon Nicholas (Tobique First Nation), Josh Sacobie (St. Mary's First Nation), Roger Augustine (Eel Ground First Nation) and Margaret Labillois (Eel River Bar First Nation), to name a few.

Nicholas is best known for her work in bringing a case regarding discriminatory sections of the Indian Act before the United Nations Human Rights Commission, and lobbying for the 1985 legislation which reinstated the rights of First Nations women and their children in Canada. Judge Nicholas is best known for his continued work and service within the provincial court system for the Province of New Brunswick. Sacobie is best known for his outstanding quarterback skills with the University of Ottawa Gee Gees, for his volunteer work in a northern Cree community in Quebec, and for the Spread the Net campaign. Augustine is most recently known for his newly elected position as regional vice-chief for New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, with the Assembly of First Nations. Labillois is best known for her work as an elder throughout New Brunswick, and for being the first woman elected as chief in 1970.

We in New Brunswick, both native and non-native, have a history. The relationship between the province and First Nations people has not always been an easy one. At times our relationship has been better than at others, but in spite of our differences, or perhaps because of them, it endures.

Experience has guided us to do better. In 2007, the province and all 15 First Nations signed the Mi'kmaq, Maliseet, Province of New Brunswick, Relationship Building Bilateral Agreement. Since then there have been many opportunities for discussion. Never has there been as much dialogue between the province and First Nations as there has been in recent years.

As New Brunswick embarks on its path to self-sufficiency, we realize that a great deal can and must be accomplished, so that our greatest asset - our people - know, understand and respect each other.

By celebrating our diversity, we will keep the rich cultural foundation of our province strong.

09/02/09

MEDIA CONTACT: Danielle McFarlane, communications, Wellness, Culture and Sport, 506-457-6445.

09/02/09