Treaty Day is a celebration of the Peace and Friendship Treaties signed in the 18th century between the Crown and the Mi’kmaq people. Treaty Day should be celebrated by both parties, but it is rarely celebrated outside of the Indigenous community.
“During the time of the treaty making days, on Treaty Day there was always an annual celebration. The two parties would get together and reaffirm the treaties, and we quit doing that… Now it’s mostly just the indigenous people, and really and truly it should be all members of the treaty to celebrate,” said Cecelia Brooks, a member of St. Mary’s and a contract instructor at UNB in the Forestry and Environmental Management department.
When these treaties were created, they were sacred agreements between the involved groups. These treaties remain in effect today, and the annual ceremony is intended to honour the Mi’kmaq people who have lived on this land since ancient times.
“Treaty making was the process that [Indigenous people have] been involved in since the beginning of tolerance, because treaties are just agreements on how we would work together,” Brooks explained.
Mi’kmaq Elder Kenneth Francis, of Elsipogtog, worked as an educator, and now engages in voluntary work through Kopit Lodge. He will be speaking at the upcoming Mi’kmaq Treaty Day Event at UNB to be held on October 1.
“We seem to have hit, not a wall, but a limit of satisfaction where we as Aboriginal people seem to have to be grateful, or to have had enough satisfaction to let all things fly and not make any promotions or headway in terms of using those treaties,” said Francis.
While Treaty Day is a time for celebration, Elder Francis also encourages people to use this time to challenge the complacency that has emerged in the time since the treaties were signed. He explained that he is fascinated by the way of life of his ancestors, and what choices they made to ensure a peaceful existence.
“When you go back to Aboriginal inherent rights, we had much more freedom, much more accessibility, and much more… When we signed a treaty, we limited ourselves, but I think it was necessary at the time to be able to continue to live peacefully,” Francis explained.
Allies are encouraged to attend UNB’s virtual Treaty Day celebrations so that they are able to understand, speak about, and amplify Indigenous positions and opinions.