Welcome to Our Talking Circle
Welcome to the first of a series of articles covering First Nation issues. The Brunswickan readership should have the benefit of a Maliseet and/or Mi’kmaq perspective on history, cultures, worldviews, traditions, ancestral teachings and issues such as land claims, self-determination, Aboriginal rights, treaty rights, language revival and resource exploitation (e.g. shale gas/mining activities on traditional Mi’kmaq and Maliseet territories).
Following the traditions of my ancestors, I have decided to share my perspectives on topics related to First Nation issues and concerns as if I was participating in a Talking Circle. Within this Brunswickan Talking Circle, the participants are the readership, and I am the facilitator of this traditional ceremony. The Talking Circle reflects the Sacred Circle philosophy that guided the actions of my ancestors. The Sacred Circle promotes the principles of sharing, respect, harmony, balance and interdependence. In a Circle, participants share thoughts, ideas, opinions, comments, emotions and perspectives in a respectful and polite manner. Our Elders inform us that when we share in a respectful manner, harmonious relations will emerge within the Circle. Hearts and minds will be opened so that participants will eventually develop mutual understanding and appreciation for one another.
In a Talking Circle, the Eagle Feather is used by the facilitator to remind us that we have to speak from the heart. We are also reminded that the Eagle Feather represents truth and honesty. We believe that when you hold the Eagle Feather, heart, mind and spirit will be connected. The facilitator will be the first to hold the Eagle Feather and share their thoughts, ideas, opinions, comments, emotions and perspectives. After sharing their comments, the facilitator will say “all my relations” and pass on the Eagle Feather to the person sitting next to them. The Eagle Feather travels in a clockwise fashion and when the Feather completes the Circle and returns to the facilitator, the Circle will be closed.
In my first Talking Circle article, I would like to introduce the Wabanaki people. They are the original inhabitants of Wabanaki territory (what is now New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, eastern Quebec, Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont). The word “Wabanaki” means “people of the dawn” in my ancestral language. We are people of the dawn because we are the first in this continent to greet the sun each day. The Wabanakis include the Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot and Abenaki. In New Brunswick, you will find Maliseet, Mi’kmaq and Passamaquoddy communities. You will also find Passamaquoddy communities in the state of Maine. The Penobscots are located in Maine while the Abenakis are situated in the state of Vermont.
A total of 15 Maliseet and Mi’kmaq communities have been established within the boundaries of New Brunswick. The communities and their population sizes as of September 2013 are as follows: 2,208 in Tobique First Nation, 1,765 in St. Mary’s First Nation, 975 in Kingsclear First Nation, 959 in Woodstock First Nation, 649 in Oromocto First Nation and 348 in Madawaska-Maliseet First Nation, for a total of 6,904.
It should be noted that the Passamaquoddy community near Saint Andrews is not listed above because the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development does not recognize the community as an official First Nation community as defined under the Indian Act. However, Maliseet and Mi’kmaq First Nations recognize the Passamaquoddies and therefore support their request to be given official recognition by the federal government.
Oral tradition informs us that the Wabanakis originated here in Wabanaki territory. More specifically, creation stories of Maliseet and Mi’kmaq people teach us that we originated in our traditional territories. We are intimately connected to our traditional territory and the land is part of our identity. Our Maliseet and Mi’kmaq languages teach us about our relationship to Mother Earth. When we say “Psiw Ntulnapemok” (all my relations), we include the four-leggeds, winged ones, water relatives, ones who live in the Earth, tree people (standing ones) and the two-leggeds. “All my relations” acknowledges that we are all connected in the web of life.
Thank you for allowing me to introduce our Maliseet and Mi’kmaq communities. At this time I pass on the Eagle Feather to you.
All my relations,
Lecturer, Mi’kmaq/Maliseet Institute, UNB
Member of Tobique First Nation