Written by the Honourable Graydon Nicholas
The land on which we gather is the traditional territory of the Wolastoqiyik, Wəlastəkewiyik / Maliseet whose ancestors along with the Mi’Kmaq / Mi’kmaw and Passamaquoddy / Peskotomuhkati Tribes / Nations signed Peace and Friendship Treaties with the British Crown in the 1700s.
The history of the three Indigenous Tribes / Nations is not widely known in the Province of New Brunswick. These three Tribes / Nations have existed in their traditional territories since time immemorial. Archeological evidence has been found in various parts of the Province. The oldest site confirms that there is at least 12,000 years of presence. The land was held on a communal basis for the present and future generations. The peoples were connected with one another in the Wabanaki Confederacy in their spiritual, political, economic and cultural lives. Their languages were unique and the meaning of the word Wabanaki means people of the dawn. The sun arose on the east coast where the daylight signaled the beginning of a new day.
The Tribes / Nations lived and survived off the land and waters that were within their territories. Food, medicines and sacred spiritual objects were gathered as needed by the individual and community. Travel within and outside their territories was necessary for foraging, ceremonies, gatherings, meetings and interaction with one another. Forms of government, families, spiritual leaders, and knowledge-sharing were unique.
The members of the Tribes / Nations respected each other as individuals within their communities. There were systems for worship, family formation, birth, death, burial, education, decision-making, conflict resolution and relations with others coexisting with the plants, aquatic life and animals.
Visitors from distant lands and waters were provided with food, water and medicines. The visitors were shown where to camp and how to navigate the lands and waters. It was not known how long the visitors would stay. Samuel de Champlain, from France, arrived in the early 1600’s in the Atlantic area. He came on June 24, 1604 to the shore of the Bay of Fundy. He and his men were sheltered on an Island on the St. Croix River. The members of the Passamaquoddy / Peskotomuhkati Tribe / Nation provided them with food, water and medicine to survive the elements.
Later, when the visitors engaged with the Tribe / Nations in economic relationships, a more formal process of exchange was developed. The languages of the newcomers were not readily understood. However, interpreters who were trained to translate between the Tribes / Nations were used to help. There were certain concepts which were not easily explained. The principal European Nations that were initially encountered were France and England. Soon, the economic relationships changed into permanent settlements. The increase of population caused hardship for the Tribes / Nations because traditional territories were compromised and reduced for their traditional uses. The European concepts of land ownership and transfer were in direct conflict with those of the Tribes / Nations. The Europeans brought priests and ministers of their religious denominations. The quest of these priests and ministers was to evangelize the Tribes / Nations. This new development was intended to convert the members of the Tribes / Nations from their spiritual beliefs and practices of their spirituality to become followers of Jesus Christ. There was very little success in this evangelization.
However, in 1610, Grand Chief of the Mi’Kmaq / Mikmaw Nation, Henri Membertou, and his family were baptized into the Catholic faith. The Grand Chief formed an Alliance and special relationship with the Vatican, known as the Concordant, which was a treaty recognizing the sovereignty of the Mi’Kmaq/Mikmaw Nation. The Grand Council existed in the present provinces of Newfoundland/Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Quebec. The Maliseets lived in New Brunswick, Maine and Quebec. The Passamaquoddy lived in New Brunswick and Maine.
The missionaries began to record the names of those who were born, baptized, married and died. Some of these records were in French. These genealogical records assisted the Nations / Tribes to establish and claim their inherent rights to hunting, fishing and trapping based on Treaties and Aboriginal rights before the courts of this Province.
Peace and Friendship Treaties were signed with by the Nations /Tribes and the representatives of the British Crown in 1725, 1726, 1749, 1752, 1760, 1761, 1778 and 1779. The Nations / Tribes did not surrender their traditional territories in these Treaties. There were two Proclamations which were issued by the British, namely, Belcher’s Proclamation of 1761 and the Royal Proclamation of 1763. The intent of these proclamations was to inform the settlers to respect the land rights of the Nations / Tribes and to obtain permission from the Crown to engage in trade and land settlement from the Crown if the Nations/Tribes agreed to allow this to take place.
After the American Revolution and Declaration of Independence of 1776, the influx of Loyalist settlers was so considerable that it was thought desirable to establish a separate Province. New Brunswick became a Province in 1784 by the issuance of a Letters Patent. The Royal Commission and instructions were issued to Governor Carleton, and published on November 22, 1784. Under the 63rd section, Carleton was instructed:
And whereas it is highly necessary for our service that you should cultivate and maintain a strict friendship and good correspondence with the Indians, inhabiting within our said Province of New Brunswick, that they may be induced by degree not only to be good neighbours to our subjects to us, but likewise themselves to become good subjects to us. You are therefore to use all proper means to obtain those ends, to have interviews from time to time with the several heads of the Indian Nations or clans and to endeavour to enter into Treaty with them promising them friendship and protection on our part.
A New England Company was established to “civilize” through education, vocational training and conversion to Protestant religion. Schools were set up in Meductic, Fredericton and Sussex Vale between 1790 and 1826. The results were not successful and the schools were closed. [Judith Fingard, “The New England Company and the New Brunswick Indians. 1786-1826: A Comment on the Colonial Perversion of British Benevolence”, Acadiensis, Vol. 1, Spring 1972].
Land problems arose as more immigrants settled in the Province. The traditional territories were reduced in size without the permission and consent of the Nations / Tribes which affected their traditional way of life and sustenance. The Province asked Moses Perley to do a survey on the conditions of the Tribes and their lands in 1841. His report, entitled, Reports on Indian Settlements, was presented to the Legislative Assembly in 1842. The Legislature enacted a statute, An Act to Regulate the Management and Disposal of the Indian Reserves in this Province, on April 13, 1844. This was contrary to the recommendations of Moses Perley and in violation of the Royal Proclamation of 1763. This was amended in 1854. Both of these laws did not involve the voices of the Nations / Tribes.
New Brunswick was one of the original four Provinces that formed a Confederation of Canada in July 1867 under the Constitution Act of 1867 (formerly, The British North America Act of 1867). New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario all had “Indians” within their geographical boundaries. When the division of Powers and responsibilities were enacted according to Sections 91 and 92, Canada accepted legal responsibility and jurisdiction under Section 91(24) for Indians, and lands reserved for the Indians. There were no definitions for either of these two terms. The Indian Act of 1868 was entitled An Act providing for the organization of the Department of the Secretary of State of Canada, and for the management of Indian and Ordnance Lands which was assented to on May 22, 1868 in Parliament. There was a definition of who was Indian. Lands and monies were to be held in trust for the tribes. Lands could not be alienated by the tribes unless first surrendered to the Crown. Monies held by the Province of New Brunswick on behalf of the Indians were to be transferred to the Receiver General of Canada for their benefit. Lands held by the Province had to be transferred to the Crown and managed by the Secretary of State. Major amendments were enacted on June 22, 1869. The definition of Indian was changed and enfranchisement was first made legal. This process of enfranchisement continued until it was extinguished in 1985 by Bill C-31. The traditional governments of the Nation/Tribes were replaced by imposed elections of band councils with limited regulatory powers. Women did not have the status to be elected and did not get the right to vote in band elections until 1952.
The Indian Act in 1952 recognized that women could be nominated as Chief and Band Councillor for the first time. It also recognized that they could vote in the elections. Pauline Nicholas was nominated and elected as the first woman Band Councillor on the Tobique First Nation in 1954.
The Nations / Tribes in New Brunswick were under the sole authority of the Parliament of Canada. Parliament continued to make legislative changes without the consent of Indians of Canada. Indians did not have the right to vote until 1960. Indians were prohibited from practicing their spiritual ceremonies and traditions in 1880 when Parliament enacted a law that made it an offence to participate in the Potlach and other religious ceremonies.
The children of Indian parents were forced to attend residential schools established by the Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian and United Churches at the request of Parliament. Residential Schools began in 1886 and legislated as of 1894. There were 150,000 Indian, Metis and Inuit students who attended residential schools. Approximately 3,200 student died in the 100 years of the operation of residential schools. Students from the Maritimes attended the residential school in Shubenacadie, NS.
Aboriginal men and women joined the military for World War I and II, the Korean War and other military conflicts that involved Great Britain and Canada. These veterans were entitled to receive the same benefits as other veterans. However, the benefits were denied. The Soldier Settlement Act was merged in the Indian Act and the Department of Indian Affairs assumed this responsibility. This denial of benefits continued until 1952. The Senate of Canada did a study on The Aboriginal Soldier after the Wars and released it on March 1995. There has been very little recognition and respect that was due to these brave men and women. November 8th of each year, since 1993, has been designated and held as the National Aboriginal Veterans Day. The National Aboriginal Veterans Monument in Ottawa, Ontario was unveiled on National Aboriginal Day June 21, 2001.
Land Claims have been another important issue in New Brunswick and Canada. The Indian Act of 1927 made it an offence for Indians to sue Canada for the loss of their traditional lands. It was illegal for any person to advocate for the land claims of Indians. This continued until 1952. In 1973, The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in the Calder v. AGBC,  SCR 313 on January 31, 1973 that there was Aboriginal Title. This required Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to introduce two policies on Comprehensive Claim and Statutory Claims in response to this legal precedent to negotiate with the Indian communities. There were subsequent Statutory Land Claim Settlements in Oromocto, Woodstock, St. Mary’s, Kingsclear First Nation, Bouctouche First Nation, Elsipogtog, Metepenagiag First Nation and Eel River Bar First Nation.
Prior to 1956, Indians were considered British subjects. Indians were not recognized as citizens until 1956 or granted the right to vote until 1960. The Government of Canada began a process of consultation with Indians in 1968 to amend the Indian Act in a document entitled Choosing a Path. Consultations were held across Canada and a resurgence of aboriginal identity, treaty rights and aboriginal title was kindled. The Union of New Brunswick Indians [UNBI] was created in 1967 to represent the 15 Indian Reserves through the elected Chiefs. They were actively involved with other Indian leaders across Canada through the National Indian Brotherhood [NIB] in the consultation processes. Other aboriginal organizations were formed nationally, provincially and regionally. The response from the Government was the infamous White Paper Policy released on June 25, 1969. This policy was drafted by a secret process and refuted all of the issues that were advanced by Indian leaders at the national level. The Policy was rejected and in 1970 Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau accepted its demise. The National Indian Brotherhood held a General Assembly in 1979 in Fredericton. The Assembly of First Nations was created in 1982 to replace the National Indian Brotherhood and held a General Assembly in Moncton in 2011.
The Mi’kmaq of Metepenagiag have contributed to the historical and cultural life in New Brunswick. In the 1970s, an archeological discovery was made possible through the knowledge of Elder Joseph Michael Augustine. He was able to reveal the location of burial mounds within his community named after him as Augustine Mound, which was many centuries old. This was designated as National Historic Site of Canada in 1975. Another archeological site was located at Oxbow in 1977 and called Metepenagiag (head of the tide). This was designated as National Historic Site of Canada in 1982. There is a Metepenagiag Heritage Park also named Oetji Sgoaliatie Gati.
Graydon Nicholas became the first Indian to become a lawyer in Atlantic Canada in 1971. Several other Indigenous persons from New Brunswick have graduated susequently from law schools in Canada. Dr. Michael Perley became the first medical doctor graduated from the Dalhousie University in 1980.
UNBI began research into treaties, aboriginal rights and statutory land claims. Indians were convicted in the courts of New Brunswick when they exercised their traditional hunting, fishing and gathering rights under federal and provincial laws. There were court cases in the Provincial Courts, Queens Bench and the Court of Appeal to prove the validity of the Treaties. The New Brunswick Court of Appeal in 1980 ruled in a case entitled R. v. Gregory Paul, 54 C.C.C. (2nd) 506, that the Treaties of 1779 and 1752 acknowledged pre-existing rights to hunt, fish and trap game and that the Game Act of NB would not apply to Mr. Gregory Paul.
Non-status Indians formed The New Brunswick Association of Metis and Non-Status Indians. The memberships comprised of persons whose Indian identity was denied through the enfranchisement sections of the Indian Act. The treaty rights, aboriginal rights and land were not recognized. The federal government did not provide benefits to them.
Indian women from NB began their advocacy through the Native Women’s Association for changes to the discriminatory section under the Indian Act. Section 12 (1) (b) of the Indian Act in 1952 required Indian women who married non-Indian men to be disenfranchised and legally lost their rights to be members of their communities and denied residence. Furthermore, their children were not recognized as band members. There was no similar provision for Indian men who married non-Indian women. This discriminatory legislation was first enacted by Parliament in 1869.
There has been a rebirth of the Wabanaki Confederacy to deal with border crossing issues, renewal of the Nations in their traditional territories, cultural, spiritual, language and economic issues. Persons travelled to other parts of Canada and the United States to recover spiritual ceremonies of the Pipe, sweat lodges, smudging, traditional dances, chants and drumming. This revival rekindled the pride of the people, children, families and communities. The Grand Council of the Wolastoqiyik, Wəlastəkewiyik / Maliseet was revived. There was a renaissance in indigenous communities in the artistic, literary and musical vocations. Artists such as Shirley Bear Clair, Lance Belanger, Luke Simon, Randy Simon, Roger Simon were accomplished artists. Writers such as Ruben Simon, Roche Sappier, Pat Paul, Stephen Augustine were published. Musicians such as Gary Sappier Jr., and other artists were recognized by the East Coast Music Awards.
Chief Margaret LaBillois was the first woman to be elected as Chief in her Mi’Kmaq community in Eel River Bar in 1970. She attended Residential School and lost her language. She was a veteran of World War II after serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force. She was trained in aerial photography, taking aerial photos of bridges and roads by hanging out of planes. As the threat of the Japanese army crossing the Bering Strait into Alaska loomed, her unit took photograph after photograph and made maps. She said that we did all the printing and making maps of the area where the Alaska Highway would go. We did the pictures from Alaska right down to the border of the United States. We would print the photos and send them back. She later attended and graduated from Lakehead University and became a teacher to recover and restore the Mi’Kmaq language. She was a recipient of the Order of Canada (1988) and New Brunswick (2005).
Several Indigenous women have been elected to the position of Chief in their First Nation Communities.
Senator Sandra Lovelace Nicholas was appointed to the Senate on September 21, 2005 by Prime Minister Paul Martin, and was the lead person who joined other women in the same situation to fight for amendments to the Indian Act. They took their struggle for equality to the United Nations. They filed a complaint against Canada under the Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to the Human Rights Committee at the United Nations in 1979. Canada was asked to respond to her complaint. In 1981, the UN Committee found that Canada was in breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights because of this discriminatory section of the Indian Act. Their complaint was successful and the international human rights tribunal ruled that Section 12 (1) (b) of the Indian Act was discriminatory on the basis of sex. The sections of the Indian Act that resulted in enfranchisement in Section 12 were replaced by Bill C-31 in 1985.
The Constitution Act of 1982 enacted section 35 to recognize aboriginal and treaty rights of aboriginal people as well as Land Claims. Aboriginal title was not expressly mentioned. It would be up to the courts to resolve these issues through litigation. There was also a process of conferences for the Prime Minister, Premiers, Territorial Commissioners and aboriginal leaders to define and determine what was covered by treaty and aboriginal rights under section 37. Indian leaders in the Maritimes did not participate in these conferences because the Treaties were signed with the British Crown and not with the provinces.
The Union of New Brunswick Indians, The Indian Association of Alberta and the Union of Nova Scotia Indians challenged the Constitutional Act of 1982 by filing a Court Case in London. The decision in The Queen v. The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, ex parte: The Indian Association of Alberta, Union of New Brunswick Indians Union of Nova Scotia Indians  2 ALL ER 118 and  4 C.N.L.R. 86 was denied by the Court of Appeal of the House of Lords on January 28, 1982. The application for a declaration that treaty or other obligations entered into by the Crown with the Indian peoples of Canada are still owed by Her Majesty in right of Her Government in the United Kingdom, which was the purpose of the Declaration. The three Indian organization continued to boycott the Conferences because they did not accept that provinces should be involved in the definition and determination of treaty and aboriginal rights.
The Union of New Brunswick Indians made representations in 1983, 1984, 1987 and 1988 at the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations, established under the Sub-Commission on Human Rights in September 1981. This was a gathering of Indigenous representatives from around the world for discussion on Development and Evolution of standards in their countries of origin. It was called Indian Summer in Geneva, which is highlighted on YouTube. The results of these gatherings and discussions led to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted by the General Assembly on September 13, 2007.
The Endowed Chair of Native Studies was established at St. Thomas University with the Union of New Brunswick Indians and the Secretary of State of Canada in 1984, the first of its kind in Canada. The Endowed Chair is a faculty member of the important Department of Native Studies at STU which offers an interdisciplinary major and a broad selection of courses. This program was established in recognition of the growth of the number of Indigenous students who enrolled at this University, Community Colleges and other Universities in the Maritimes. St. Thomas University offers courses in languages and other first year topics at the First Nation communities of St. Mary’s and Elsipogtog to enable more Indigenous students to attend University. The Department of Education offers a course on Native Education.
The Oka crises in Quebec occurred in 1990 and Indigenous persons from New Brunswick supported the Mohawk Warriors in the protection of their traditional territory.
Graydon Nicholas, who held the position of the Chair of Native Studies , was appointed as a Provincial Court Judge on May 31, 1991, becoming the first native person appointed to this position in the Maritimes. He continued to hold that position until appointed as the 30th Lieutenant- Governor on September 30, 2009 by Prime Minister Harper.
There were major court decisions made in 1998 and 1999 touching on aboriginal rights to commercial fishing and logging by the Indigenous people. The Province of New Brunswick appointed a Task Force on Aboriginal Issues in May 1998 as result of court decisions on logging access. The report was released in March 1999. Court cases in the Supreme Court of Canada and the New Brunswick Court of Appeal upheld the rights to hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering under the Pre-Confederation Treaties of Peace and Friendship. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled on September 17, 1999 in the case of Regina v. Marshall Jr,  3 SCR 456 that the Treaty of Peace and Friendship of March 10, 1760 was valid and recognized that the Mi’kmaq had the right to fish for their sustenance and to trade for their necessities.
There were major confrontations in New Brunswick between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. The Mi’kmaq fishermen of Esgenoopetitj First Nation [Burnt Church] launched their boats to harvest the Lobster in October 1999. This continued in 2000. There was violence from the non-Indigenous commercial fishermen who did not want to share this resource with the Mi’kmaq. A resolution was eventually achieved to recognize the commercial access of the fishery to the Indigenous people in New Brunswick. The Aboriginal share of the Fishery and Timber resources have now been endorsed by the federal, provincial and First Nation governments for personal and commercial uses.
The Passamaquoddy / Peskotomuhkati Tribe / Nation began an arduous journey for recognition by the Governments of Canada and New Brunswick through their courageous leader, Chief Hugh Akagi. He was elected in 1998. They had been parties to the Treaties of 1725, 1749, 1760 and 1761. It took 18 years of work and effort until in May 2016, at Qonasqamkuk (St. Andrews), the ancient fireplace of the Peskotomuhkati Nation, when representatives of the Governments of Canada and New Brunswick met with the Peskotomuhkati Council. The three sides agreed that the principles of the existing Treaties between the Peskotomuhkati Nation and the Crown – respect, trust and friendship – would continue to guide and govern their relationship. They also agreed to reaffirm the Treaty of 1725. [Nation website, www. qonaskamkuk.com/peskotomuhkati-nation]. To commemorate the reaffirmation of the treaties in 2016, the Peskotomuhkati Council commissioned the making of a new wampum belt. The explanation of this historic process is found at their website. The following information provides that:
Indigenous Relations and Northern Afairs Canada of the Government of Canada is taking action to preserve Peskotomuhkati history and culture as of February 17, 2018 at Scotch Ridge, working collaboratively to renew the relationship based on recognition, rights, respect, co-operation and partnership is key to achieving reconciliation with Indigenous people in Canada. As part of the reconciliation process, the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, and the Sakomak of the Peskotomuhkati Nation at Skutik (Nation) have met together to announce the acquisition of lands at Camp Chiputneticook (referred as the Lodge) and of a collection of artifacts of cultural significance for the Nation. Camp Chiputneticook, a 2,500-acre property in New Brunswick along the Skutik (St. Croix) River, is of cultural significance to the Nation. The Government of Canada provided the funding for the acquisition. The Nation has acquired the land and buildings from the Orser family, who have used it as their summer home for more than a century.
The Department is also assisting the Canadian Museum of History and the Nation in acquiring a unique collection of Peskotomuhkati historical and cultural artifacts. The Museum has partnered with the Nation to share responsibility for the care, research and exhibition of the collection. This is the first time the Museum has made an agreement of this nature.
St. Thomas University established the Mi’kmaq/Maliseet Bachelor of Social Work Program in September 2005 as an accredited social work program that provides First Nation individuals with an opportunity to receive social work education within a flexible and culturally relevant framework: The programme is directed toward First Nation peoples in New Brunswick and the Maritime Provinces who wish to become social workers in their communities.
There have been many graduates who have returned to their communities to help their communities in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. There are 25-30 students who are enrolled in this program annually.
There have been many prominent indigenous graduates from STU who are teachers, Indigenous language experts, social workers, lawyers, professors, and politicians at the First Nation communities, in provincial politics, including leaders of Indigenous women, business, and cultural organizations.
Our university has granted ten Honourary Degrees to the following Indigenous persons from New Brunswick and Canada in recognition of their historic contributions to Canadian society:
Walter Currie , Charles Paul , Mildred Milliea , Marlene Castellano , Jeanette Armstrong , Rita Joe [ 2001] Honourable Sandra Lovelace Nicholas , Lee Maracle , Marie Wilson  and Honourable Judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, .
The Wabanaki Resource Student Centre was established in 2011 by a generous donation from the Harrison McCain Foundation and the TD Bank which provides support for Indigenous students’ cultural, spiritual and academic needs. It is located on the second floor of Sir James Dunn Hall. There is an Aboriginal Student lounge and study space. Staff includes the positions of Elder-in-Residence, Aboriginal Student Adviser and a Counsellor for the students.
The signage of the university includes the Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik languages alongside English and French.
STU commissioned the carving of a Totem pole by renowned Wolastoqiyik sculptor, Ned Bear, in 2015, which is installed near the Margaret Norrie McCain Hall.
The Ad Hoc Committee on the Indigenization of the Academy began to meet in the Autumn of 2016. It was renamed Senate Committee on Reconciliation in 2018. This was the university’s response to the Universities Canada Principles on Indigenous Education (June 29, 2015) and the 94 Calls to Action (June 2, 2015) by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (205).
The 7th annual Orientation Powwow was held on September 8, 2017.
A Conference towards Reconciliation [Tetpawtihkene / Ilsu’teka’tiqw] was held on September 27-29, 2017 to discuss a New Path, a Shared Vision and a New Direction on campus. An annual Indigenous Film Series was launched in the winter of 2018. There was a Longhouse Elders Gathering on February 9-11, 2018 in celebration of Great Sleep of our Sacred Mother Earth or Midwinter Celebrations.
The graduation of 2018 recognized the cultural identity of Indigenous graduates by giving each an Eagle Feather to carry as they received their diploma.
There was an historic Flags Raising Ceremony on October 15, 2018 for the Wəlastəkewiyik (Maliseet) and Mi’kmaq Grand Council flags raised on the STU campus.