In March 1996, Max Yalden, former Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, in giving the Commissions’ annual report to Parliament described the position of Canada’s Natives: “our most serious human rights problem…they continue to be treated with paternalism, denial and delay.”
After enlightening information about the lifestyles of many Native American Nations, particularly those in North America, had been provided by early European contacts the revelation that fascinated many European intellectuals the most was that the citizens of many of these Nations lived in freedom and equality and enjoyed personal liberty undreamed of in Europe. The absence of dictators and social classes in the vast majority of these civilizations drew special attention. Thus, through the writings of prominent men of the day, Europeans became aware of the possibility of a free society without despotic aristocratic rulers. Sir Thomas More was among the eminent thinkers drawn into this exciting examination of societies where the people ruled.
Unfortunately for humanity, European societies developed in an entirely different manner. Throughout much of their histories civilized development has been equated with efforts to create, for the purpose of trying to satisfy greedy thirsts for power and the accumulation of worldly goods, ever more deadly tools of war rather than with the development of progressive human social values. Shockingly, even today, the ability to invent weapons that can more efficiently kill and disable and enforce intolerance for the differences of others, while making a profit for the inventors, producers and users, is still seen to a large degree as a mark of civilization. This notion is in dire need of re-examination. Barbarians such as Hitler, Stalin and others too numerous to mention lived and ruled in intolerant militaristic countries that claimed to be civilized. Under the leadership of these purveyors of horror were these countries really civilized? If honesty is to prevail, the answer must be a resounding no.
These warped perceptions of what constitutes civilization encouraged many European Nations to commit a genocide in the Americas that is unmatched in human history. Which leads to this question: Is this urge among Caucasians to commit genocide against Amerindians-because they are not descended from civilizations that are mirror images of what Caucasians believe “civilization” to be-finally dead in this country? A front-page Halifax Chronicle-Herald story on April 17, 2000, with the headline “Book blames reserves for natives’ plight” proves no. The story revealed that in his book, First Nations, Second Thoughts, author Tom Flanagan, a University of Calgary political science professor since 1968, advocates the extinction by assimilation of Canada’s First Nations peoples as a means to solve the country’s so-called “Indian problem.” The news report states:
Flanagan rejects the idea that native people constituted nations equivalent to those in Europe during the period of North American exploration and discovery [ignoring the fact it had already been discovered and explored]. Rather, natives were “uncivilized” because they lacked intensive agriculture, permanent settlement, writing, advanced technology and organized states.
Because in one form or another First Nations had all of these things, which to me are not measurements of being “civilized” anyway, his suggestions outraged me. Paragraph C of Article Two of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide forbids undertaking what Flanagan suggests: “(C) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”
The most disturbing thing about Flanagan’s proposal, particularly in a society such as Canada, which depicts itself to be racially tolerant, is the fact there wasn’t any backlash among Canadians towards him for daring to propose such an outrageous despicable solution for Canada’s self created “Indian problem,” only praise.
To read more about the before mentioned, please click on the following:
http://www.danielnpaul.com/Col/2000/WhereIsOutrageOverProposedGenocide.html http://www.danielnpaul.com/Col/2000/CanadianAlliance-FirstNationsAssimilationPolicy.html http://www.danielnpaul.com/Col/2000/ShiningALightOnMi’kmaqCivilization.html http://www.danielnpaul.com/Col/2001/NationalChiefCoonComeSpeaksTruthAboutRacism.html
The following are examples of some of the negative experiences I’ve had because of systemic racists beliefs among non-First Nation peoples:
This is a statement made to me by an elderly Scottish gentleman after the first edition of my book, We Were Not the Savages, was published in 1993. He had not read the book, just some reviews:
“You creature you, how dare you be critical of those who have done so much for your people. My ancestors educated yours and made their lives complete!”
Part of the speech of a white male speaker at a business people’s forum I attended:
“our ancestors came to the Americas five centuries ago, found, and started populating and developing two vast and vacant continents.”
Part of a speech made By Art Donahue, a former speaker of the Nova Scotia legislature, at a human rights conference I attended. Ignoring the fact that the Mi’kmaq had developed and implemented responsible government in the area tens of centuries before the European invasion:
“since responsible government was established here by Europeans.”
A statement made by an official with the Nova Scotia Wildlife Federation after we had signed a hunting agreement with the province:
“the Micmacs will coat the province, from Yarmouth to Sydney, with the blood of our wildlife.”
Two highway signs that I lobbied successfully to have changed:
This one was placed at an exit to the village of Annapolis Royal from a newly constructed express highway. It did not recognize the fact that North America had had First Nation settlements for millenniums before Europeans set up any.
Annapolis Royal, established 1605, Canada’s oldest settlement.
Annapolis Royal, established 1605, Stroll Through the Centuries.
This one didn’t recognize that the Mi’kmaq had been using the location as a stopping place for tens of centuries before Europeans did:
Bedford, a Stopping Place Since 1503
Bedford, a Traditional Stopping Place
The following is a short overview of Mi’kmaq history. For an indepth experience, please read We Were Not the Savages – Third Edition. http://www.danielnpaul.com/WeWereNotTheSavages-Mi’kmaqHistory.html
If humans hope to create societies where diverse Peoples have generous tolerance for each other’s differences they must undertake to learn about, and take guidance from, the multitude of horrors that intolerance has caused for uncountable millions throughout humanity’s history. This knowledge is so repulsive that it will instill in succeeding generations of decent human beings a distaste for bigotry that will make tolerant and just societies possible. Perhaps, I can be of some help towards achieving that goal by revealing the trials and tribulations that the Mi’kmaq have had to suffer over the centuries to survive in a hostile social environment.
To provide a means for the reader to fully appreciate the extent and intent of the barbarities that the Mi’kmaq suffered, I’ll cite the sections of the United Nations Genocide Convention that define genocide.
The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment for the Crime of Genocide was adopted by the United Nations on December 9, 1948. Article 2 of the Convention defines Genocide:
Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(A) Killing members of the group:
(B) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group:
(C) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part:
(D) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group:
(E) Forcefully transferring children of the group to another group:
The information contained in this short narrative will reveal that British colonial and Canadian governments have, over the centuries, violated all the provisions cited.
Michael Levine, in Lessons at the Halfway Point, provides the best rational for why intolerance exists that I’ve ever read.
“If you don’t personally get to know people from other racial, religious or cultural groups, its very easy to believe ugly things about them and make them frightening in your mind.” Reader’s Digest (Canada Edition) November 1996, p. 48-9.
This quote from a paper prepared by Professor Susan Sherwin, Dalhousie University, “….the greatest danger of oppression lies where bias is so pervasive as to be invisible…”, fully describes the biases that burdens the First Nations Peoples of the Americas.
The rational for the mindless horrors inflicted upon First Nations Peoples over the centuries by Europeans is no better described than by a racial indignity suffered by the Jews of Germany in 1885. The mentality that begot it is the same as the mentality used in the Americas to deprive Native Americans of everything. A quote from a speech made to the Reichstag in 1885 by Herman Ahlwardt about validity of the citizenship of Germany’s Jews.
“The Jew is no German. If you say that the Jew is born in Germany… has obeyed German laws, has had to become a soldier–has fulfilled all his duties, has paid his taxes…. all that is not decisive for nationality… only the race out of which he was born is decisive.”
The reason why First Nations Peoples were viewed in the same manner is articulated quite nicely in a February 2, 1994, congratulatory letter that Charles Saunders, a former columnist with The (Halifax) Daily News, wrote to me after the first edition of We Were Not the Savages was published in 1993.
“Several years ago, I watched a panel discussion that had several minority members, including a Black and a Micmac. The Micmac representative said that Blacks were slaves in the early days of European colonization, but his people were lower than slaves. At that time, I didn’t understand what he meant. What, I wondered, is lower than being a piece of property to be bought and sold like a horse or cow? Then, in the chapter of your book titled “The Edge of Extinction,” I read about how your people were systematically starved to death. At least a slave gets fed, simply because the owner has a vested interest in keeping him or her alive to maintain the slave’s value as property. So, thanks to you, I know what it is to be “lower than a slave”–to not even have value as human chattel or property.”
Francis Parkman, an American historian, stated that “Spanish civilization crushed the Indian; English civilization scorned and neglected him; French civilization embraced and cherished him.” One can take issue with Parkman’s observation about the English. The English, like the Spanish, also crushed the Indian, which is witnessed by their well-documented mistreatment of the Tribes indigenous to the eastern coast of North America.
Prior to European invasion there were urban and rural civilizations: Mi’kmaq – Mohawk – Cree – Aztec – Inca – Maya – etc.
Once the European invasion of the Americas was fully under way, indigenous American civilizations fell like dominoes before the merciless onslaught. The rape of these civilizations would be complete–not one would escape its horrifying consequences.
It was Columbus who set the stage, by the barbarities he and his crews committed against indigenous populations during several trips to the Caribbean in the 1490s, for the rape of American civilizations by Europeans. He wrote in his journal: “We can send from here, in the name of the Holy Trinity, all the slaves and Brazil wood which could be sold.”
The rape of the First Nations of Hispaniola and surrounding islands was so complete that within forty years their estimated population of ten million had been virtually wiped out.
In 1493, in awareness of the capacity for cruelty and barbarity of many of its congregation, the Roman Catholic Church intervened in the plans for the European conquest of the Americas by issuing a Bull (order) designed to prevent the enslavement and slaughter of Amerindians. In his Bull Pope Alexander VI stated that the Church condoned conquest if it was designed to bring the Nations of the Americas into Christian subjugation.
This was repeated in 1537, with some variation, when Pope Paul III, issued a Bull called “Sublimus Deus.” It declared that the Amerindians were “truly men capable of understanding the Catholic faith” and should not be destroyed as opponents of Christianity, or enslaved as supposedly inferior and “dumb brutes created for our service.” This official stance of the Roman Church was restated by another Pope in 1639.
However, many Europeans held opinions contrary to the views of the Pope’s of the Catholic Church, among them were the blue-blooded leadership of Europe and members of the clergy of all Christian rites. Thus, when the European Nations began to unleash an unholy hell upon the indigenous Peoples of the Americas, many religious leaders mouthed words of restraint, but none took a hard stand to stop it. The slaughter and oppression of Amerindians continued unabated, in many cases, well into the late 1900s.
The cruel European mentality that motivated the barbarities that were committed against the Indigenous populations of the Americas was well developed before Columbus stepped foot on the soil of the Americas. There is no arguing with the fact that Europe’s rulers used horrific brutalities, the rack, burning at the stake, etc., to impose their collective wills upon their own populations. Utilizing it they, without conscience, imposed harsh forms of government and religion upon their own citizens. Human and civil rights had little priority.
Bernard Hoffman, in a doctoral thesis he wrote in the 1930s, gives a description of the cultural behaviour of the Mi’kmaq, that demonstrates that they were a people who were compassionate and offered a civilized welcome to strangers:
“The behaviour pattern requisite of any Micmac was such as too virtually eliminate any overt and direct forms of aggression. The ideal man was one who was restrained and dignified in all his actions, who maintained a stolid exterior under all circumstances, who deprived himself of his possessions to take care of the poor, aged, or sick, or the less fortunate, who was generous and hospitable to strangers…and brave in war.”
Hoffman’s glowing assessment of Mi’kmaq social behaviour is well supported by the records left behind by explorers, politicians, and others from that era.
Throughout their history Europeans have tended to equate civilization with the tools of technology and war, rather than with human values. Thus, the ability to invent a tool that efficiently killed and disabled came to be seen as the mark of civilization.
The tenacity of Native Americans in refusing to accept these foreign models of “civilization,” and to fight to preserve their own cultures and lifestyles, was probably for European leaders the most frustrating of their colonizing experiences. This frustration was compounded whenever the observation was made by some of their own intellectuals that certain of the social values inherent in American civilizations were superior to their own.
Historian Cornelius Jaenen reports that a First Nation Chief responded to the European insistence on the superiority of their practices with this simple retort:
“You can have your way and we will have ours; every one values his own wares.”
Eminent White thinkers such as Sir Thomas Moore were drawn into the exciting examination of civilizations where the people ruled instead of the aristocrat.
In a chapter entitled “Liberty, Anarchism, and the Noble Savage,” Jack Weatherford wrote:
“During this era [the 1700s] the thinkers of Europe forged the ideas that became known as the European Enlightenment, and much of its light came from the torch of Indian liberty that still burned brightly in the brief period between their first contact with the Europeans and subsequent decimation by the Europeans.
One can cite many references by Europeans praising the enlightened values of democracy and freedom enshrined in early Native American civilizations. Ironically, although appreciated by many renowned European men of that time, the values of these democratic cultures were precisely the reasons the ruling class of Europe reacted so violently in their persecution of them. Yet the Native Americans, by their example, sowed the seeds for the long drawn out movement towards democracy by the people of Europe, seeds that the European aristocracy could not suppress through its attempted extermination of the source.
One of the historical fallacies of the colonization of the Americas that has long held sway is that European prisoners held by First Nations were anxious to return to their own communities. This was not always the case. For many, their so-called imprisonment by these people was their first real taste of freedom within a just and caring society! A good number, when given the opportunity, flatly refused to return to their former lives of oppression and economic slavery and chose instead to stay with their captors.
The French were very concerned about this, and the tendency of their people to cohabit with Amerindians. They feared reverse assimilation as a real possibility because many of their compatriots found the Native lifestyle superior to their own. Historian Jaenen comments:
“The French…had introduced a multiplicity of elements which would continue to modify and influence the direction Native societies would take in the future. In this process, French colonial society was itself profoundly affected not only by the American environment but also by its contacts with Native cultures. The possibility that many French might become assimilated, rather than the Native people being “reduced to civility” was discussed in the closing years of the French regime. One officer remarked:
‘There are not wanting here, those who defend this strange attachment of some of their countrymen to this savage life, on principles independent of the reasons of state, for encouraging its subjects to spread and gain footing among the savage nations, by resorting to their country, of which they, at the same time, gain a knowledge useful to future enterprises, by a willing conformity to their actions, and by intermarriage with them. They pretend that even this savage life itself is not without its peculiar sweets and pleasures, that it (is) the most adapted, and the most natural to man. Liberty, they say, is nowhere more perfectly enjoyed, than where no subordination is known, but what is recommended by natural reason, the veneration of old age, or the respect of personal merit.’
That such a possibility was not necessarily equated with dangerous degeneration and American barbarism, but defensible adaptation to a new environment and new circumstances, indicated that whatever officials policies and objections might be, whatever the thrust of church pronouncements and missionary endeavours, there were pragmatic considerations which operated at a more popular social level in New France.”
The justification for the land theft that was undertaken by the English and the French in Northeastern North America was primarily the same as that used by all the European powers involved in the invasion of the Americas. Because First Nation Peoples were not Christian, which made them in the European Christian view uncivilized, the Europeans deemed that they could not claim to own land. In this regard, European governments justified their appropriation of Amerindian territories by variations of the philosophy which was articulated by Lescarbot in his explanation of France’s right to Acadia in 1618:
“The earth pertaining, then, by divine right to the children of God, there is here no question of applying the law and policy of Nations, by which it would not be permissible to claim the territory of another. This being so, we must possess it and preserve its natural inhabitants, and plant therein with determination the name of Jesus Christ, and of France…”
It boggles the mind when one tries to grapple with the fact that European governments of the day set out to pillage and destroy entire First Nation civilizations, claiming the barbarism they indulged in was for the cause of God. Surely this was a sign of extraordinary arrogance and of disdain for God Himself.
European colonial officials, in order to keep their English Subjects suitably aroused against the Eastern First Nations Peoples, laid the blame for much of what they called “outrages” upon their shoulders. In the case of the Mi’kmaq, the English blamed them for all the so-called “outrages” that occurred in Acadia.
In fact, there is practically no evidence to support a contention that the Mi’kmaq ever indulged in organized atrocities against their enemies. Renegade Mi’kmaq may have indulged in some, but these incidents were not condoned or sanctioned by Mi’kmaq governments, and were the exception, not the rule.
One side using demonizing propaganda to arouse public opinion against an enemy has been, and still is, an evil practice utilized around the world. Incidents of brutality are reported, then blown out of proportion, and, in some cases, invented. Such was used extensively, and very effectively, by colonial authorities to demonize First Nations Peoples.
One piece of despicable propaganda that the English used to spread fear and hatred of the Mi’kmaq among their people, and one that has endured for centuries, was that they were responsible for the extinction of the Beothuk, or “Red Men,” of Newfoundland. False and malicious rumours were spread that the French paid the Mi’kmaq bounties for the scalps of the Beothuk. There is not one shred of evidence to support such an allegations, but there is a great deal to support a charge that Anglos were responsible.
The motivation behind it was that Mi’kmaq Warriors engaged the English in guerrilla warfare on the south of the Island effectively, and they successfully harassed English shipping and trade.
The good relationship between the two Nations dates back to 1604, when Champlain landed in what is today called Nova Scotia. The formal alliance that the Mi’kmaq developed with the French to fight the English started around 1652.
The two Peoples socialized, with many intermarriages occurring. As a result, many modern Acadiens have traces of Mi’kmaq blood coursing through their veins.
The English were bitterly jealous of this mutually beneficial relationship. They couldn’t appreciate that their inability to cement the same kind of relationships with Native Americans was tied to this remark they often made about the french “As the French were in a measure free from the English delicacy that nauseates at intimacy with savages.”
This treaty between Great Britain and France, purports to transfer Mi’kmaq territory to Great Britain, without the consent of the Mi’kmaq. When the Mi’kmaq found out about it from English officiers in 1715, they protested to the French Governor at Louisburg, who lied, and informed them it wasn’t true.
The cause and extent of the hatred the Mi’kmaq held towards the English at the beginning of the eighteenth century, because of the abuse they and their allies had suffered at British hands, is well expressed in the following two quotes. The cause is described by historian John Stewart McLennan:
“The punishments of the Indians for wrongdoing by the English were, as all punishments of that epoch, harsh, and in addition they were humiliating and irritated the Indians. The scalp bounties of the colonies included rewards for the killing of women and children….[This leads to] the strange conditions, in which we find a benign and devout clergyman praying that the young men who have joined the Mohawks in a scalping expedition against the French and Indians may go in fear of the Lord, and regard the bringing in of French scalps as a good omen.”
Its notable that the author did not mention that the clergyman also regarded the bringing in of First Nation Peoples scalps, including those of women and children, as a good omen.
The extent is described in a letter written on September 9, 1715, by Isle Royale (Cape Breton) Governor Philippe Pasteur de Costebelle to the French government:
“The savages of the French mission on the shores of Acadia are such irreconcilable enemies of the English people that we cannot, with our most peaceable speeches, impress them not to trouble their trade.”
In 1715, the Mi’kmaq laid out in no uncertain terms, in spite of English insistence to the contrary, that they did not come under the Treaty of Utrecht. They informed two English officers who had come to insist that they proclaim George I as their sovereign that they would proclaim no foreign king in their country and would not recognize him as having dominion over their land.
Also, at this meeting, the English laid out for the Mi’kmaq their long-term intentions for them. They had the audacity to place before them the following proposal: that they permit British settlement in their villages for the purpose of creating one people. The Mi’kmaq, of course, rejected this monstrous request out of hand, without any consideration.
Both sides would not move from their positions. With no agreement, open hostilities resumed. Thus the die was cast, with occasional periods of uneasy truce, for close to 50 more years of conflict.
The mistreatment of prisoners of war has always been considered an act of barbarians, and the British military authorities proved by their actions on July 8, 1724, that they fitted this definition to a tee.
At a Council meeting held at the house of Lt.-Governor John Doucett, in His Majesty’s garrison at Annapolis Royal on July 8, 1724, a motion was passed, in order to try to terrify the rest of the Mi’kmaq into submission to the British Crown, to execute at random one of the Mi’kmaq hostages:
“Whereas, the savages of this His Majesty’s Province of Nova Scotia…have committed in open enmity and rebellion;
Shortly thereafter, a young Mi’kmaq Chief, who stood neither accused nor convicted of any crime, was unceremoniously hung. This act of barbarity by what was touted to be a “civilized” government is indefensible. Perhaps the most condemning fact is that no one was ever held accountable for the crime. And since no one was ever held accountable, one can easily conclude that it was condoned by the highest levels of British government.
The paranoid fear that the English held about the alliance between the Mi’kmaq and the French is no better demonstrated than by the following. On August 1, 1722, Richard Philipp, the British Governor of Acadia, issued a proclamation, which made it illegal for Acadians to entertain the Mi’kmaq in any manner. The minutes of a Council meeting held on May 22, 1725, indicate just how strict the enforcement of this proclamation was.
“The Honourable Lt. Governor, John Doucett, acquainted the board that Prudane Robichau, senior inhabitant in the Cape, had entertained an Indian in his house, contrary to His Excellency’s proclamation, dated August 1, 1722.
Language used. English to French to Native American. A copy of the entire treaty can be found at http://www.danielnpaul.com/TreatyOf1725.html.
English justice provision: That, in case of any misunderstanding, quarrel or injury between the English and the Indians, no private revenge shall be taken, but application shall be made for redress, according to His Majesty’s Laws.
The case of three French deserters from Quebec demonstrates how the English ignored the spirit of the 1725 treaty. At a Council meeting held at Annapolis on December 9, 1725, Lieutenant-Governor Doucett relayed the following information:
“That three French strangers had come from Quebec seeking refuge, and later, safe passage out of the Province. That they were not in possession of a Quebec Governor’s Passport. That they had killed and robbed two Indians. The Board did not believe that they had come as refugees, but rather as spies...”
These men committed murder for the sake of robbery, which is evident from their testimony. Yet at a Council meeting held on May 12, 1726, at Annapolis, the English officials chose to excuse these heinous crimes as follows:
“The Honourable Lt. Governor, laid before the Board a letter, which was sent him from Mr William Wimniett, dated at Minas, the 25th of April, 1726, (as upon file) which being read, he desired the advice and opinion of the Board.
If the English had acted in the spirit of the treaty they were about to ratify with the Mi’kmaq, they would have tried these men for murder. The freeing of these cold-blooded murderers, who were not even British subjects, demonstrates vividly the contempt the British had for agreements with the Mi’kmaq, and other First Nation Peoples.
The ratification process can be found at: http://www.danielnpaul.com/TreatyOf1725Ratified-1726.html.
LIABILITY CLAUSE: That, if there happens any robbery or outrage committed by any of the Indians, the Tribe or Tribes they belong to shall cause satisfaction and restitution to be made to the Parties injured.
During 1727, incidents began to break out again between the Mi’kmaq and English. The main cause was the arrogant disregard by the English of Mi’kmaq rights.
Granting of a Township at Canso and other grants by the Colonial government elicited a military response from the Mi’kmaq and ended the peace of 1726. This result was predicted and feared at Canso Garrison: “the Officers in Garrison at Canso and several others there being thereby alarmed (because of feared reprisals by the Micmac) have remonstrated to your Honour and the Council what a prejudice such a Grant will be to His Majesty’s said Garrison, and His other Subjects of that place, and advises that the matter may be reconsidered by the Council...”
In the face of a resumption of full scale war on October 19, 1744, the government of Massachusetts, responding to a request from Nova Scotia’s governor Mascarene, declared war upon the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet Nations. It states:
“By His Excellency Wm. Shirley, Captain General and Commander in Chief in and over His Majesty’s Province of the Massachusetts Bay in New England. A Proclamation for encouragement of volunteers to prosecute War against the St. John’s and Cape Sable Indians….
NOTE: The Mi’kmaq residing around Cape Sable were so numerous that the English often referred to the Mi’kmaq residing there as Cape Sables.
By no measure can such horrendous documents be called products of a civilized people. The horror of their intent is reprehensible. Only a sick and barbaric mind could conceive of, and implement, such unspeakable crimes against humanity. Hitler would have admired the genius of the men who introduced this horrible method of bringing people considered inferior to Caucasians to extinction.
SCALPING PROCLAMATION, 1749
When Governor Edward Cornwallis and his entourage founded Halifax in 1749, it was during a lull in the war with the Mi’kmaq. In fact, the Mi’kmaq greeted them with hospitality. One settler wrote home: “When we first came here, the Indians, in a friendly manner, brought us lobsters and other fish in plenty, being satisfied for them by a bit of bread and some meat.”
The Mi’kmaq, although the Cornwallis blamed it on the French, began to leave the area when he started to display designs against their land. At a meeting held in Cape Breton in the early fall of 1749, a British emissary told the Chiefs about their settlement plans for the province, which gravely alarmed the Mi’kmaq. Professor Jeffrey Plank, university of Cincinnati, remarks on the subject:
“…if the Micmac chose to resist his expropriation of land, the governor intended to conduct a war unlike any that had been fought in Nova Scotia before. He outlined his thinking in an unambiguous letter to the Board of Trade. If there was to be a war he did not want the war to end with a peace agreement. “It would be better to “root” the Micmac out of the peninsula decisively and forever.” The war began soon after the governor made this statement.”
If instead, at this time, the English had offered to make a reasonable land deal with the Mi’kmaq everything could have been settled peacefully. But, they made no move to engage them in negotiations on any issue, let alone permission to settle on their land. Therefore the Mi’kmaq renewed their declaration of war against them on September 23, 1749.
In response, Cornwallis demonstrated how inhuman and ruthless he could be. On October 1, 1749, he called a meeting of the British military council aboard the HMS Beaufort; the following extract is taken from the minutes:
“That, in their opinion to declare war formally against the Micmac Indians would be a manner to own them a free and independent people, whereas they ought to be treated as so many Banditti Ruffians, or Rebels, to His Majesty’s Government.
The horror contained in these words probably escaped the English. In their blind arrogance, and white supremacist minds, they could not appreciate the unspeakable crime against humanity they had authorized. The next day, without conscience, the bounty was proclaimed by proclamation by Cornwallis:
“Whereas, notwithstanding the gracious offers of friendship and protection made in His Majesty’s Names by us to the Indians inhabiting this Province, The Micmacs have of late in a most treacherous manner taken 20 of His Majesty’s Subjects prisoners at Canso, and carried off a sloop belonging to Boston, and a boat from this Settlement and at Chinecto basely and under pretence of friendship and commerce. Attempted to seize two English Sloops and murder their crews and actually killed severals, and on Saturday the 30th of September, a body of these savages fell upon some men cutting wood and without arms near the saw mill and barbarously killed four and carried one away.
aid upon producing such Savage taken or his scalp (as in the custom of America) if killed to the Officer Commanding.”
Thus, at a cost to his Majesty’s colonial government’s treasury of ten guineas per head, and at a cost to his servants of their immortal souls, the planned extinction of the Mi’kmaq was under way. It was an action no civilized nation would countenance, nor could any nation that undertook it be called civilized!
In the first paragraph of his evil proclamation Cornwallis cites various criminal incidents, allegedly committed by the Mi’kmaq, as justification for its issuance. As far as I can ascertain, it was only in the Americas where European colonial administrators would sometimes condemn to death an entire race of people for the actions of a few of their members. Imagine, holding innocent children responsible, and condemning them to die in an effort to try to terrorize adults into submitting to one’s will!
Cornwallis, in a 1749 memorandum to the Lords of Trade, requesting retroactive approval for actions he had already initiated, provides further proof of his insincerity and treachery towards the Mi’kmaq:
“When I first arrived, I made known to these Micmac, His gracious Majesty’s intentions of cultivating Amity and Friendship with them, exhorting them to assemble their Tribes, that I would treat with them, and deliver the presents the King my Master had sent them, they seemed well inclined, some keeping amongst us trafficking and well pleased; no sooner was the evacuation of Louisbourg made and De Lutre the French Missionary sent among them, they vanished and have not been with us since.
The Lords of Trade responded to Cornwallis’s letter in a memo dated February 16, 1750. They were not overly enthusiastic about the course of action he had chosen, for they cautioned him:
“As to the measures which you have already taken for reducing the Indians, we entirely approve them, and wish you may have success, but as it has been found by experience in other parts of America that the gentler methods and offers of peace have more frequently prevailed with Indians than the sword, if at the same times that the sword is held over their heads, offers of peace and friendship were tendered to them, the one might be the means of inducing them to accept the other, but as you have had experience of the disposition and sentiments of these Savages you will be better able to judge whether measures of peace will be effectual or not; if you should find that they will not, we do not in the least doubt your vigour and activity in endeavouring to reduce them by force.”
The Lords also expressed the extent of the paranoid fear that the English had of First Nations when they cautioned Cornwallis that his bounty on the Mi’kmaq might “by filling the minds of bordering Indians with ideas of our cruelty” unite all the Amerindian Nations of the Americas against them in a continental war.
On June 21, 1750, in what must have resulted from dissatisfaction with the number of Mi’kmaq scalps being brought in, Cornwallis’s Council raised the monetary incentive by proclamation to fifty pounds sterling per head. It’s interesting to note that Captain John Gorham, the bounty hunter sent to Nova Scotia to enforce his 1744 scalp proclamation, was part of the Council which approved the 1749 scalp bounty.
In 1752, Cornwallis ordered a halt to bounty hunting in the province. At a Council meeting held at the Governor’s house on Friday, July 17, 1752, it was resolved that a proclamation be issued to forbid hostilities against the Indians.
“Whereas, by the advise and consent of His Majesty’s Council of this Province, two Proclamations were, by me, sometime since applied, authority and commanding (for reasons set forth in the said Proclamations) all Officers, Civic and Military, and all of His Majesty’s Subjects within this Province, to annoy, distress, take and destroy the Savages called the Mickmack Indians, and promising a reward for each one of them taken or killed….
If by reading this document anyone concludes that Cornwallis had suddenly become a humanitarian they should think again. The government of the powerful Massachusetts Bay Province wanted peace with the Mi’kmaq, and therefore he had no choice but to halt hostilities. In fact, the Massachusetts Bay Governor was probably instrumental in pressuring Cornwallis to resign.
Although Cornwallis’s barbarity is well documented, much of it by his own hand, up to the year 2008, no White jurisdiction had ever condemned him for it. In fact, only honours have been given by authorities in Nova Scotia and Canada to the memory of the author of the 1749 scalp proclamation. A statue of him is displayed in a park named after him that is located across from the railway station in Halifax, and schools, streets, ships, a town, and so on have been named after him. In view of this, I ask, and will continue to ask, how can my country, which claims to be civilized, award such honours to a man who authorized ethnic cleansing?
In my estimation, the only award such an individual deserves is the gallows. From a civilized point of view, only a person subscribing to the same White supremacist beliefs that Cornwallis and Hitler subscribed to would believe that killing people they deemed “inferiors” is incidental.
What troubles me most about this terrible time for the Mi’kmaq is that not one of the males who recorded it ever expressed any regret or remorse or shock about the horrors that were done. Nor did any, until recently, chroniclers of history condemn it. How could they read such works of evil and not react with revulsion?
In modern times some male writers are taking a closer look at some of the indefensible acts performed by the English back then, and are making some unflattering comments. For instance, Professor Jeffery Plank, states:
“…everyone involved understood the conflict to be a race war…During the 1750s the politics of Nova Scotia centered on issues of national identity. At various times during the decade, the British engaged in combat with several different peoples who inhabited, or passed through, Nova Scotia: The Micmac, the French… and the Acadians… The British governors of Nova Scotia generally believed that they were surrounded by enemies, that the Acadians, the Micmac and the French would soon find a way to cooperate and overthrow British rule. One of the principle aims of British policy, therefore, was to keep these people separated, to isolate the Micmac, the Acadians, and the French. To achieve this goal of segregation, the colonial authorities adopted two draconian policies.
The Treaty of 1752 was signed by governor Peregrine Thomas Hopson, on behalf of the British, and Chief Jean Baptiste Cope, on behalf of his Mi’kmaq District, on November 22, 1752.
It seems evil acts begets evil acts. The English Scalping Proclamations came back to haunt them in the spring of 1753, and would bring their treaty making efforts with the Mi’kmaq to an end for several years. The preliminary details are cited from the introduction to Anthony Casteel’s journal of 1753.
The surveyor Morris in a letter, dated April 16 1753, to Cornwallis reported what details he had of the crime:
Yesterday (the 15th of April) arrived from the Eastward two men, in an Indian Canoe, who have brought six scalps of Indians. The account they gave of the affair, upon their examination, was that James Grace, John Conner (a one eyed man, formerly one of your bargemen), with two others, sailed from this port about the middle of February last in a small Schooner, and on the 21st were attacked in a little harbour to the Westward of Torbay by nine Indians, to whom they submitted, and that the same day on which they landed the Indians killed their two companions in cold blood; that Grace and Conner continued with them till the 8th of the month, when some of the Indians separating, they remained with four Indian men, a squaw, and a child: that the four Indians left them one day in their Wigwam with their arms and ammunition, upon which hoping to recover their liberty, they killed the woman and child, and at the return of the men killed them also, and then taking the Canoe made the best of their way to this place.
“Thus for Mr. Morris’s (account). But the fact was still blacker than he suspected. After having robbed the Indian store houses, the crew of this unfortunate Schooner was obliged to encounter the fury of the deep. They suffered the shipwreck; were found by the Indians drenched with water, and destitute of everything; were taken home, cherished, and kindly entertained. Yet they watched their opportunity, and to procure the price of scalps murdered their benefactors, and came to Halifax to claim the Wages of their atrocious deed.”
As a result of this incident the peace process came to a halt.
On August 26, 1754, the Councils of the Mi’kmaq and the small Maliseet Nations, which had not joined with the majority of the Maliseet Bands in signing the Treaty of 1749, held a Council at Fort Beauséjour and formulated an offer for a peaceable settlement of their war with the British which was communicated to the Governor at Halifax on their behalf by Abbé Jean-Louis Le Loutre. They made the following proposals:
ACADIAN EXPULSION, 1755
The French authorities, prior to the expulsion, were well aware of the travesties the English could inflict upon another race or culture. A report the French Governor and the Intendent at Quebec had submitted in 1745, ten years before the Expulsion, stated:
“We cannot imagine that they could entertain the idea of removing those people [the Acadians] in order to substitute Englishmen in their stead, unless desertion of the Indians would embolden them to adopt such a course, inhuman as it may be.”
Though these French authorities could not imagine such an inhuman act, the English could. The event made famous by the American poet Longfellow in his poem “Evangeline” was soon under way. In early 1755 the Acadian Deputies were summoned to Halifax by Governor Lawrence and ordered to swear an oath of allegiance to the British Crown. This they refused to do, contending, as they had with Cornwallis in 1749, that if they did so the French would set the Indians against them and they would be massacred.
The English lost no time in responding. On July 28, 1755 Lawrence got the full approval of Nova Scotia’s Colonial Council to start dispersing the Acadians among the American Colonies. He sent Colonel Robert Monckton to Chignecto and Chepody, Lieutenant Colonel John Winslow to Minas, Pisiquid, and Cobequid, and Major John Handfield to Annapolis Royal to carry out the orders.
Colonel Robert Monckton rounded up the Acadians in Chignecto, while Colonel John Winslow ordered those at Minas to assemble at Grand Pré. They were loaded into the holds of ships and scattered to the four corners of the world. Families were separated, never to see one another again, and untold numbers died in transport.
The Mi’kmaq faithfully stuck by their Acadian allies to the bitter end. Some of the Acadians tried to escape and were aided and protected by them to the best of their ability. They also joined forces with them to drive back the British, as was reported by the French Governor:
“The British burned the Village, including the Church at Chipoudy and was responded to thus.
“And, we do hereby promise, by and with the advice and consent of His Majesty’s Council, a reward of thirty Pounds for every male Indian Prisoner, above the age of sixteen years, brought in alive; or for a scalp of such male Indian twenty-five pounds, and twenty-five pounds for every Indian woman or child brought in alive: Such rewards to be paid by the Officer commanding at any of His Majesty’s Forts in this Province, immediately on receiving the Prisoners or Scalps above mentioned, according to the intent and meaning of this Proclamation.”
The proclamation is still on the books.
Isaiah W. Wilson’s Geography and History of Pictou County provides a chilling account of one of the horrors visited upon the Mi’kmaq, apparently related to the Proclamation of 1756. However, by the way Wilson writes about it, it comes across as if they were following the provisions of the 1749 Proclamation, the entire village was attacked.
“Consequently, the government raised volunteers to hunt down the aborigines, offering a premium of twenty-five pounds per male above sixteen years of age, and twenty-five pounds for every female prisoner, the same price for a Man’s scalp, and ten pounds for a child prisoner(s). These volunteer companies were placed under command of Colonel Scott and Major Samuel Rogers.
BURYING OF THE HATCHET CEREMONY, 1761
On June 25, 1761, the “Burying of the Hatchet Ceremony” was held at the Governor’s farm in Halifax. On this day, treaties of peace and friendship were signed between Jonathan Belcher, President of His Majesty’s Council and Commander-in-Chief of the province, and the Chiefs of the Mi’kmaq Nation, called Merimichi, Jediack, Pogmouch, and Cape Breton, on behalf of themselves and their people. The ceremony proceeded thus:
“I meet you now as his Majesty’s graciously honoured Servant in Government, and in His Royal Name to receive at this Pillar, your public Vows of Obedience to build a Covenant of peace with you as upon the immovable rock of Sincerity and Truth, to free you from the Chains of Bondage, and to place you in the wide and fruitful Field of English Liberty.
The Governor went on to describe the English as “merciful” This was also a mockery because the English had shown no mercy towards the Mi’kmaq. The Governor tells the Chiefs that the Crown will protect them “against the rage and cruelties of the Oppressor.” Given that the English were the only oppressors the Mi’kmaq had ever known, they must have waited with great anticipation to find out how the English might protect them from the English.
On October 7, 1763, the King, in what would prove to be a futile effort to save for the Amerindian Nations their remaining lands, assets, and cultures, issued a royal proclamation….. An excerpt from this proclamation reads:
“AND WHEREAS, it is just and reasonable, and essential to our interest, and the security of our Colonies, that the several Nations or Tribes of Indians with whom We are connected, and who live under our protection, should not be molested or disturbed in the Possession of such Parts of Our Dominions, and Territories, as not having been ceded to or purchased by Us, are reserved to them or any of them, as their Hunting Grounds; We do therefore, with the Advice of Our Privy Council, declare it to be Our Royal Will and Pleasure, that no Governor or Commander in Chief in any of Our Colonies of Quebec, East Florida, or West Florida, do presume, upon any Pretence whatever, to grant Warrants of Survey, or pass any Patents for Lands beyond the Bounds of their respective Governments, as described in their Commissions; as also that no Governor or Commander in Chief in any of Our other Colonies or Plantations in America, do presume for the present, and until Our further Pleasure be Known, to grant Warrants of Survey, or pass Patents for any Lands beyond the Heads or Sources of the Rivers which fall into the Atlantic Ocean from the West and North West, or upon any Lands whatever, which, not having been ceded to or purchased by Us as aforesaid, are reserved to the said Indians, or any of them….”
The colonial governments and colonists carried on with illegal expropriation of Indian land as if the Proclamation didn’t exist.
In July 1763, two years after the “Burying of the Hatchet Ceremony,” General Jeffery Amherst, the Commander-in-Chief of all British forces in North America asked this question in a memo he wrote to Colonel Bouquet, a Huguenot in the service of England:
“Could it not be contrived to send the Smallpox among the disaffected Tribes of Indians?”
Bouquet replied: “I will try to inoculate the [the word is illegible but probably says “Indians” with some blankets that may fall into their hands, and take care not to get the disease myself.”
Amherst answered: “You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians by means of blankets.”
Amherst’s contempt for the Indians is amply reflected in his journals and correspondence, though it may perhaps be doubted whether he was more bigoted than the average official of his Time!1
One could argue, but in my opinion not very successfully, that Amherst wrote his letter to Bouquet proposing the use of genocide in the knowledge that Pontiac, “Chief Detroit,” was making an effort to organize the Amerindian Nations, from the east coast to the mid-west, including the Mi’kmaq, into a unified force to eject the English from their territories. Thus, Amherst had no choice but to take drastic measures to stop him. This type of argument might have some legitimacy if the English were the defender rather than the aggressor, but, as they were the aggressor, it offers none.
From the tone of the racist language he used in his diaries I believe that elitist racist beliefs were the prime factor behind the General’s desire to commit genocide. One can easily support this theory from the degrading names he and Bouquet had for the Natives. Amherst described the Amerindians as an “execrable race.” Colonel Bouquet’s pet description was “the vilest of brutes.” Lawrence Shaw Mayo states in his biography of Amherst:
“As he sped on his way to the relief of Fort Pitt, the Colonel exchanged interesting suggestions with the General as to the most efficient manner of getting rid of the Redskins. His first orders to Bouquet were that he wished “to hear of no prisoners should any of the villains be met with arms.” Besides using smallpox the two gentlemen contemplated another method: “As it is a pity to expose good men against them, I wish we could make use of the Spanish method, to hunt them with English dogs.” Amherst lamented that “the remoteness of merry England made the canine aid impracticable.”
The hardship and discrimination suffered by the Mi’kmaq in the midst of plenty from this point onward, although smaller by scale, does not pale in comparison to that suffered by the Jewish people at the hands of Hitler in the 1930s-40s. Although the Mi’kmaq did not face death in gas chambers or suffer other indignities in concentration camps, as did these unfortunate souls, they did suffer the horror and pain of something just as bad: slow starvation, and were treated as “non-persons” in their own country.
Full scale war broke out in 1775 between the colonists and British forces. On July 4, 1776, the “Second Continental Congress” of the American colonies, held in Philadelphia, accepted the American “Declaration of Independence.” France, Spain, and Holland, all old enemies of Great Britain, declared war and joined in the battle on the side of the Americans.
The following is yet another example of the paranoia the English held about the former Mi’kmaq/French relationship. In future years, they would try to copy the approach the French had used to create good relationships with First Nations, but, with them the element of sincerity was always missing. Jaenen states:
“The American alliance presented many difficulties for the French, particularly in their relationship with the Native people. The position adopted by the English colonists of the United States was not substantially altered by the revolution, but the British in Canada found it necessary to adopt many aspects of the traditional French policy towards the Native people.
Wentworth thought it necessary to warn all to watch out for “Democratic French Practices among these Savages.” The British government also allocated funds for financial relief of the Micmacs, when Wentworth described some unusual activity among them at Windsor, “during the expectation of a Descent.”
In spite of these factors, the Mi’kmaq and other First Nations did flirt with the idea of assisting the Americans in their war of independence. Their delegates met with the Governor of the State of Massachusetts Bay and worked out the terms of the “Watertown Treaty,” signed at Watertown, Massachusetts, on July 19, 1776:
“WHEREAS, the United States of America, in general Congress Assembled, have in the name and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly published and declared that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent States; that they are absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connector between them, and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be dissolved; and that as free and independent States, they have full power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts, and things which independent States right do.”
The treaty was never ratified by the Mi’kmaq
In 1779 the British signed a treaty with several Mi’kmaq communities situated in what is today New Brunswick, this would be the last, except for a minor treaty signed in the late 1790s, concluded with the Mi’kmaq. Placating the Mi’kmaq and keeping them neutral was the motivating force behind the 1779 treaty. The English could ill afford to have a full-scale “Indian” war break out within the borders of their colonies and therefore did everything they could to avoid one.
Resulting from this policy, on September 4, 1783, the English delivered the ultimate blow to Mi’kmaq dignity; they made set aside lands under licences of occupation to the Mi’kmaq of some of their own land. To add insult to injury, the 18,135 acres involved were of poor quality and useless to the First Nation in its efforts to survive. One can think, and say, whatever they like about this kind of conduct, defend it with all kinds of nonsensical bull if they want, but to me, only barbarians would subject their former enemies to such crass humiliation. For an invader to come onto an independent Nation’s territory and appropriate unto itself all its possessions without compensation, while claiming to be a civilized Nation, motivated by compassion, is unbelievable. But to stoop to making minuscule grants of License of Occupation of the most useless parcels back to the victims, and claim to be generous, is an act without moral defence.
In 1784, in addition to being separated from their lands and brothers and sisters by artificial borders set up by the white man in areas of their territory that are known today as Quebec, Maine, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island, the colony of Nova Scotia was partitioned into two separate provinces. The land lying west of the isthmus which connects peninsular Nova Scotia to the mainland became known as New Brunswick, while the remainder continued to be known as Nova Scotia. This division of the Mi’kmaq into separate provincial groupings has created a bureaucratic legal nightmare of red tape for lawyers to untangle when trying to settle land and other legal claims for First Nations in future years. It also laid the foundation for a philosophy for white governments to use when dealing with the First Nations, namely “divide and conquer.”
During the last part of the eighteenth century, traversing the rocky road of survival laid out by English racism was made more difficult for the Mi’kmaq because the invaders still feared them. Although colonial government officials treated them with disdain, they still believed the Mi’kmaq presented a threat to their security and continued to harbour an almost paranoid anxiety towards them. Today this seems incredible, because by this time the Mi’kmaq Nation was almost without means of sustenance, let alone means to conduct warfare. The invaders eventually came to appreciate this, but not for another twenty years or so, which involved other events affecting the future of the province, including the French Revolution.
The wars of the French Revolution brought new anxieties for the British in North America [the British were fearful that the newly liberated French would form another alliance with their former Aboriginal allies and retake the colonies] and new hope to some of the Native people of obtaining some redress of wrongs committed against them. In 1793, for example, there were revived fears among settlers and officials in Nova Scotia of a French invasion and a Micmac rising in favour of their former allies.
TREATY MADE WITH MICMACS ON MIRIMICHY, 1794
Minor treaty with King John Julien, and the last.
On November 19, 1794, probably related to British fears of the First Nations and the French, the Americans and British concluded the Jay Treaty. Inexplicably, given the racism that abounded at the time the treaty recognized the right of First Nations’ Peoples, based upon historical considerations, to unrestricted passage over the artificial borders created by the Europeans. Article III refers to the movement of Amerindians and their goods across the borders. the opening paragraph:
“It is agreed that it shall at all times be free to His Majesty’s Subjects, and to the Citizens of the United States, and also to the Indians dwelling on either side of the said boundary line, freely to pass and repass by land or inland navigation, into the respective territories and countries of the two parties, on the Continent of America (the country within the limits of the. Hudson’s Bay Company only excepted), and to navigate all the lakes, rivers and waters thereof, and freely to carry on trade and commerce with each other.”
In 1801 the colonial government set aside 8,560 acres of lands on mainland Nova Scotia as “Indian Reserves.” These were located in places the government described as “in such situations as they have been in the habit of frequenting.”
In 1821 the British Parliament permanently ended the autonomy of Cape Breton and made it part of the colony of Nova Scotia. The lands reserved for the Mi’kmaq of Cape Breton prior to its incorporation consisted of 12,205 acres.
No more than approximately 500 acres of these lands were arable. The rest were clay pits, mountains and bogs.
By the turn of the nineteenth century the Mi’kmaq had been reduced to beggars in their own homeland and were for all intents and purposes without viable means of support. With the arrival of hordes of new settlers, their traditional sources of food had practically disappeared. Their former allies the Acadians were in bad shape themselves and could offer little assistance. At the dawn of the nineteenth century the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia were moving slowly but surely to the brink of extinction.
One settler described in a petition of January 1794 just how desperate the Mi’kmaq position was:
“A great many Micmac have died for want of victuals”. Notwithstanding the little they get from the Superintendent “if they have not some more general relief they and their wives and children must in a few years all perish with cold and hunger in their own country.”
A paper published by Dr. Virginia Miller in 1982 vividly describes the unspeakable misery that the Mi’kmaq were suffering from disease and starvation during this period. It is reprinted in full in We Were Not the Savages.
In his letter dated August 22, 1838, to the colonial Governor, Lord Glenelg seems, in the usual British way, to be asking for an accounting:
“I have to request, that you will, at your early convenience, furnish me with a report on the state of any of the Aboriginal Inhabitants who may still exist in the Province under your Government, showing their numbers and present condition, increase or decrease, which has, during the last few years, occurred among them, their moral state, and any efforts which have been made for their Civilization.
These findings did not spur the government on to ease the plight of the Mi’kmaq. Perhaps it was the government’s intention to wait for another several years in the hope that the “Indian problem” in Nova Scotia would by then be solved for all time with the extinction of the People by starvation.
In desperation, Grand Chief Pemmeenauweet wrote to Queen Victoria on January 25, 1841, begging mercy for his people:
I am the Chief of my people, the Micmac Tribe of Indians in your Province of Nova Scotia, and I was recognized, and declared to be the Chief, by our good friend Sir John Cope Sherbrooke, in the White man’s fashion, twenty-five years ago. I have yet the papers which he gave me.
MARCH 19, 1842
This was the first effort that the British made, since they took over the province in 1713, to help the Mi’kmaq survive. It provided very meagre assistance to construct housing, provide education and economic development. It also provided for the appointment of an Indian Commissioner.
Joseph Howe was appointed as the first Commissioner for Indian Affairs by the Governor under this Act. Except for the intercession of this great statesman, the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia would probably have passed into extinction. In his first report, of January 25th, 1843, Howe was very condemning, in a compelling diplomatic manner, of the government for permitting the poverty stricken situation among the Mi’kmaq to exist, quotes from his first report:
“Should the cost of management seem extravagant, I shall not object to being surcharged with any part, or even the whole of the amount, rather than that the expense should be any bar to the carrying on of a work, which, however feebly executed, has been, in the design, but just to the Aborigines and highly honourable to the Country…
After 1843, governments made several grants by lease of lands to individual Mi’kmaq for their personal use, this questionable generosity was provided in a humiliating and degrading way. In one typical example, Samuel Fairbanks reluctantly presented a petition dated November 9, 1866, on behalf of Joseph Paul, my Great Grandfather, to the Governor for consideration:
The petitioner resides at Quoddy-to the Eastward of Halifax. He is represented to be a sober and industrious Indian and has built a house on the Island applied for. He asks for a long lease of the Island as well as an addition of one hundred acres.” The Governor responded: “Let the petitioner have the lease!” The term is one thousand years!
The fact that my Grandfather had to endure the humiliation of being declared a sober and industrious Indian before he could acquire a plot of land still riles me to this day. Only those who have experienced this kind of patronizing treatment, because of their racial origins, can fully appreciate how degrading the experience is!
Canada was born in 1867; created by a law enacted by the British Parliament entitled, “The British North America Act.” The Act federated the British colonies of northern North America into a country consisting of four provinces, its government structure was set at federal and provincial levels. Under the provisions of the Act both levels of government had their respective responsibilities and powers clearly defined. Responsibility for the welfare of Treaty Indians and the security of their lands was placed firmly in the hands of the federal government. Section 91(24) of the Constitution reads:
91. It shall be lawful for the Queen, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate and House of Commons, to make Laws for the Peace, Order, and good Government of Canada, in relation to all Matters not coming within the Classes of Subjects by this Act assigned exclusively to the Legislatures of the Provinces; and for greater Certainty, but not so as to restrict the Generality of the foregoing Terms of this Section, it is hereby declared that (notwithstanding anything in this Act) the exclusive Legislative Authority of the Parliament of Canada extends to all Matters coming within the Classes of Subjects next hereinafter enumerated; that is to say,…
What Then Must We Do?
him carry me
and yet assure myself
and others that I am sorry for him
and wish to lighten his load by
all possible means-except by
getting off his back. (Leo Tolstoy, 1886)
When Tolstoy wrote this poem he probably had people other than Canada’s First Nation Peoples in mind. Yet the ode fits their story to a tee. It describes how governments and society can oppress a people while pretending to be compassionate.
An early example of Canada’s careless indifference towards meeting the dictates of its trust responsibility for Treaty Indians was that the new regime did not move quickly to put in place the administrative tools it needed to responsibly manage their affairs. In Nova Scotia, it took the government a year to appoint an Indian agent. Then when it did, it appointed a man who had already proven to be less than supportive of the Mi’kmaq cause, not by any standard an action demonstrating care for duty.
One can assume from the letter’s contents that the government planned to manage its constitutional responsibility to protect First Nations’ lands by alienating them from First Nation use as quickly as possible. This is confirmed by the fact that it gave Fairbanks the incentive of receiving a commission of ten percent on all the revenues he could raise by leasing or selling Mi’kmaq lands.
If I were an uninformed person, needing more hard evidence to cement views that the new country had careless indifference towards managing judiciously its trust responsibilities, for First Nations and their lands, this would do it; it took the government almost a decade to enact the legislation it needed to manage Indian affairs.
Finally, in 1876, nine years after Confederation, Canada devised and legislated the legal code it required to manage and fulfil the requirements of its Constitutional obligations! But the government of 1876, in direct contradiction of its trust position, was true to form. It included a section in the Indian Act which made it illegal for an Indian Agent not to make every effort to sell off First Nation lands:
138. Every Agent who knowingly and falsely informs, or causes to be informed, any person applying to him to purchase any land within his division and agency, that the same has already been purchased, or who refuses to permit the person so applying to purchase the same according to existing regulations, shall be liable therefore to the person so applying, in the sum of five dollars for each acre of land which the person so applying offered to purchase, recoverable by action of debt in any court of competent jurisdiction.
The following section of the 1927 Indian Act placed an impossible burden upon Bands that wished to take legal action against the Crown or file a claim:
RECEIVING MONEY FOR THE PROSECUTION OF A CLAIM
141. Every person who, without the consent of the Superintendent General expressed in writing, receives, obtains, solicits or requests from any Indian any payment or contribution or promise of any payment or contribution for the purpose of raising a fund or providing money for the prosecution of any claim which the Tribe or Band of Indians to which such Indian belongs, or of which he is a Member, has or is represented to have for the recovery of any claim or money for the said Tribe or Band, shall be guilty of an offense and liable upon summary conviction for each such offence to a penalty not exceeding two hundred dollars and not less than fifty dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two months.
A few examples of other descriminatory Sections
Indian Act, Section 138, 1876 (Penalty – selling lands)
Indian Act, Section 86, 1876 (enfranchising section)
Indian Act, Section 140, 1927, Dances and Festivals,
Indian Act, Section 140A, 1930, poolrooms,
Indian Act, Section 120, 1930, Prevention of Trade,
Indian Act, Section 46, 1911, removal of Indians,
Section 46 was used in Nova Scotia by the government in the early 1900s to force the relocation of the Sydney Band of Mi’kmaq from the waterfront area of Sydney to what is now Membertou.
Biassed Indian Act Sections such as those mentioned were not unusual. Its another piece of irony that prior to Confederation the First Nations Peoples had suffered unremitting racist persecution, most of which was dished out in an ad hoc fashion. After Confederation, when more enlightened thought was supposed to be afoot, persecution was codified in federal and provincial laws.
I want to clarify this before we go further: For any who might be inclined to think that the Indian Act was designed to preserve First Nations’ cultures it wasn’t. In fact, it was designed to deliver the final blow to them, but fittingly, in the end it was their salvation. The men who sought to destroy these cultures, motivated by racist perceptions of themselves as products of superior civilizations, would roll over in their graves today if they knew that the actions they took to facilitate the demise of First Nation civilizations were the very actions that ultimately saved them.
Its not hard to conclude from reading the Indian Act that those who designed and administered it did so in the racist belief that “Indians” were somehow mentally deficient and as such would never be able to successfully use the Department’s careless and incompetent administration of its provisions to win court decisions. If there are still any of those types around today they must be confounded by the intelligent way First Nations are seeking, and getting, redress in the courts in this regard. Landmark decisions have been won on the grounds that succeeding federal governments have, with unbelievable incompetence, failed to meet the dictates of trust responsibilities as prescribed by law. Considering the irresponsible way federal bureaucrats have administered the Indian Act, one can anticipate a bright financial future for the First Nations after resolving these matters through litigation.
Some of the most insidious provisions the government included in the Indian Act, and added to with future amendments, were the enfranchising sections. These provisions were enacted for the express purpose of hastening extinction of Registered Indians by assimilation. Under these sections, individuals and entire Bands were enfranchised. They were hoodwinked into believing that somehow or other, by giving up their rights as Indians, they would reap all the benefits of Canadian citizenship. But, most of those who gave up their “Indian” rights were rewarded by becoming destitute wanderers that nobody in Canada wanted. Fortunately, despite the best efforts of succeeding governments to entice them to do so, the vast majority of First Nations’ Peoples refused the bait.
The enfranchisement section as it existed in 1876 shows how obnoxious its intent was:
86. Whenever any Indian man, or unmarried woman, of the full age of twenty-one years obtains the consent of the Band of which he or she is a member to become enfranchised, and whenever such Indian has been assigned by the Band a suitable allotment of land for that purpose, the local Agent shall report such action of the Band and the name of the applicant to the Superintendent General.
St. Catherine’s Milling and Lumber Company
In 1888 the Privy Council, the highest court in the land at that time, handed down a decision which recognized that “Indian” title in land predated Confederation, the Royal Proclamation of 1763, and colonization. Their conclusion was that “Indian title” was aboriginal in nature, and therefore all the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the Indian Act did was simply recognize that fact.
Guerin Decision November 1, 1984
The best-known case to date, which illustrates how bureaucratic incompetence can backfire, is the Supreme Court of Canada decision known as Guerin. It’s a case where the federal government, in a craven attempt to duck responsibility, attempted to have its trust responsibilities to “Registered Indians,” and for managing their lands, recognized as simply a “political trust.”
Simon v. the Queen, 1982
Recognizing the treaty of 1752 as a valid treaty, hunting and fishing rights thereunder
Pictou Landing Band, Boat Harbour, 1989, not litigated. Settled out of court for more than $35 million and land.
The Shubenacadie residential school opened off-reserve in the village of Shubenacadie in 1930. As per the provisions of the Indian Act, it was staffed by members of religious orders who practised the same religion as the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet, Roman Catholics. The principal was a priest and the teachers were nuns. The curriculum was the same as that prescribed by the Nova Scotia Department of Education for the provincial school system, except for the courses in religion, and in how to be ashamed to be an Indian. Children were taught about all the advantages of White life and all the evils of First Nations’ isolation, language, and culture. These institutions were used by the Department of Indian Affairs for many purposes other than education: enforcement, punishment, and terrorism, to name a few.
Three sections still in force demonstrate archaic thinking:
118. Every Indian child who is required to attend school shall attend such school as the Minister may designate, but no child whose parent is Protestant shall be assigned to a school conducted under Roman Catholic auspices and no child whose parent is a Roman Catholic shall be assigned to a school conducted under Protestant auspices except by written direction of the parent…
120. (1) Where the majority of the members of a band belong to one religious denomination, the school established on the reserve that has been set apart for the use and benefit of that band shall be taught by a teacher of that denomination.
(2) Where the majority of the members of a band are not members of the same religious denomination and the band by a majority vote of those electors of the band who were present at a meeting called for the purpose requests that day schools on the reserve should be taught by a teacher belonging to a particular religious denomination, the school on that reserve shall be taught by a teacher of that denomination.
121. A Protestant or Roman Catholic minority of any band may, with the approval of and under regulations to be made by the Minister, have a separate day school or day school classroom established on the reserve unless, in the opinion of the Governor in Council, the number of children of school age does not so warrant.
The before mentioned provides proof that religious discrimination is still enshrined in law in Canada. Muslims, Jews, members of other non-Christian faiths, and non-believers are excluded from teaching First Nations’ children in Canada in 1997
The following is an extract from a report submitted to the Supt. General of Indian Affairs by Dr. Robertson dated June 9, 1936. It was submitted in response to an assignment given to him by the Privy Council to undertake an in-depth study of the living conditions of the “Indians” in the Maritimes:
While there are a great many what we might call good houses among the Indians, while conditions vary in different districts, while better conditions exist among the Indians living on Reserves, more particularly those close to an Agent, yet in every district there are unsanitary houses, houses badly in need of repair and, in the great majority of districts, houses that are absolutely unfit for occupation.
There is a lot of TB and venereal diseases. While there has been considerable improvement in the health of the Indians of late, this condition cannot hope to be continued under the present undernourished conditions, bad housing and the close contact of children with parents and other members of the family who are suffering from tuberculosis. From the foregoing it will be seen that conditions among the Indians are very bad and many of them are depending wholly upon what they receive from the Government for their support.
While this is not one of the methods by which he formerly obtained his living, it is one on which the Government has expended considerable money in breaking land and supplying him with fertilizer and seed. Before condemning the Indian for not increasing his farming operations, let us look at conditions under which he was asked to do so.
Although Robertson identifies racism by outlining how it prevents the People from being self-sufficient, he, like his predecessors and successors, does not call it by name. Nor does he offer any suggestions on how it might be effectively dealt with. One should note that the Department of Indian Affairs has never set aside one cent to help First Nation Peoples combat the racial discrimination the People suffer.
Robertson states that an “Indian” can work “only under supervision by a White man”. Although he was probably one of the more liberal-minded officials at that time he was not above making such stereotyped statements. Unfortunately, it became a by-word of the bureaucracy. They would mention their need to provide constant supervision in their reports for decades to come.
To get the centralization show on the road, in late 1939 and early 1940, Indian Affairs bureaucrats in Ottawa formulated a plan for the creation of two Indian agencies on the two Reserves in Nova Scotia where the Mi’kmaq were to be relocated–Shubenacadie and Eskasoni.
In 1942, with the Privy Council’s endorsement of two agency locations in both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the Department hired four full-time Indian Agents and implemented its centralization plan for the Maritimes. Thus a new challenge to the survival of the region’s Mi’kmaq and Maliseet cultures was created.
From the onset of the plan’s implementation, opposition was very strong among some members of the Bands. As time passed this opposition came to be held by the majority. As a matter of fact the Agent at Eskasoni, JA MacLean, in a moment of truth admitted to Hoey in a letter dated May 27, 1944, “that approximately 75 percent of the Mi’kmaq in Nova Scotia were opposed to centralization.”
In a response to MacLean’s memo, dated June 5, 1944, Hoey said: “The writer is of the opinion that you should not attach too much importance to this nominal opposition”.
It has never been clear to me if Registered Indians became citizens by the Act’s enactment, or remained Wards of the Crown.
Adopted by the United Nations in 1948, ratified by Canada in 1952
The government amended the Citizenship Act PF 1947 in 1956 to normalize some aspects of First Nation People’s citizenship. However, up until it repealed the enfranchisement section in 1985, if a registered Indian wanted to give up his/her Indian rights they had to sign a declaration stating:
“…and certify that I am capable of assuming the responsibilities of citizenship…”
Placing Maritime Bands under the Indian Act, 1958-9, the regional office started working on this in 1956.
Registered Indians were finally permitted to vote in Canadian elections.
The government finally permitted us to pick our own doctors, dentists etc. and we were given money to buy the kind of food we wanted. Up to this time professional services were provided on a political basis and we were told what food we could buy from a designated grocer with the right political credentials.
Entitlement programs enjoyed by other Canadians extended to band members.
THE WHITE PAPER WAS A BLATANT ATTEMPT BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO JETTISON ITS CONSTITUTIONAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR INDIANS AND INDIAN LANDS. ALSO, WOULD HAVE TRANSFERRED TO THE PROVINCES ALL COSTS FOR ENTITLEMENT PROGRAMS FOR INDIANS.
Maritime Indian Reserves finally began to get water and sewer services.
Aboriginal used in Section 35 without definition.
The inclusion of the word “Aboriginal” under Section 35 of the Canada Act, without adequately defining its meaning, is causing all kinds of problems for First Nations. People are coming out of the woodwork claiming to be “Aboriginal” and this is how the government receives them: Employment and Immigration Canada’s definition of Native; “who perceives himself/herself to be a…Indian.”24 People who have marginal, if any, First Nations’ blood in their veins have availed themselves of this interpretation and are taking advantage of benefits that are normally reserved for “Registered Indians.”
Repeal of some of the discriminatory sections of the Indian Act, including enfranchisement and liquor sections.
None! Band Councils have not been required by the federal government to enact by-laws under the Indian Act provisions for self government which would have given the Band members a method to control their government. Believe it or not, all band business is conducted under the honour system, which is open to widespread corruption, and corrupt it is.
In March 1996, Max Yalden, former Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, in giving the Commission’s annual report to Parliament described the position of Canada’s Natives: “our most serious human rights problem…they continue to be treated with paternalism, denial and delay.”
ThE FOLLOWING is a statement made to me by an elderly Scottish gentleman after the first edition of my book, We Were Not the Savages, was published in 1993. He had not read the book, just some reviews:
“You creature you, how dare you be critical of those who have done so much for your people. My ancestors educated yours and made their lives complete!”
Part of the speech of a white male speaker at a business people’s forum in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia:
“our ancestors came to the Americas five centuries ago, found, and started populating and developing two vast and vacant continents.”
Part of a speech made By Art Donahue, a former speaker of the Nova Scotia legislature, at a human rights conference at the Halifax Metro Center:
“since responsible government was established here by Europeans.”
A statement made by an official with the Nova Scotia Wildlife Federation after we had signed a hunting agreement with the province:
“the Micmacs will coat the province, from Yarmouth to Sydney, with the blood of our wildlife.”
Two highway signs I lobbied to have changed:
Annapolis Royal, established 1605, Canada’s oldest settlement.
Annapolis Royal, established 1605, Stroll Through the Centuries.
Bedford, a Stopping Place Since 1503
Bedford, a Traditional Stopping Place
Caused by suffering from open and systemic racism Canada’s First Nation’s peoples are mostly under-educated and poverty stricken. Thus, they are unable to compete effectively in the Nation’s job market and economy. This indefensible situation has begot for the country thousands of festering legal problems, Oka, Eel Ground, Gustafsen’s Lake and so on and economic problems.
There seems to be no realistic efforts by the Nation’s politicians to change things. For instance, to-date, the federal and provincial governments have steadfastly refused to agree to recognize the fact that First Nation’s Peoples are legally and morally entitled to effective and independent self-government within the framework of Canada. What is being offered is little better than municipal powers.
Canada needs to look inward and face its racist past and then find the moral certitude to come up with realistic solutions that will satisfy the survival needs of its First Nations Peoples!
No Mi’kmaq, since the European invasion began, has ever been appointed by a Colonial, Federal or Atlantic Provincial Government to any position of importance in Atlantic Canada. And, immorally, in the year 2007 there is no movement afoot to change it.
Dr. Daniel N. Paul, C.M., O.N.S.
May 19, 2008