Volunteers excitedly greeted hundreds of visitors at the Sands at Salters area on the Halifax waterfront Friday morning.
Mi’kmaq song and dance entertained the crowd as they lined up to get a free salmon dinner provided by the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre. The centre prepared and distributed 500 meals on a first-come-first-serve basis to celebrate Treaty Day.
The day, which falls on Oct. 1, was officially proclaimed 35 years ago to commemorate the relationship between the Mi’kmaq and Britain. The day also marks the beginning of the Mi’kmaq History Month in Nova Scotia.
According to the Union of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq, Oct. 1 was designated in the treaty of 1752 as the date on which the Mi’kmaw people would receive gifts from the Crown to “renew their friendship and submissions.”
The 1752 treaty showed the Crown’s intentions to make peace and provide trading, hunting, and fishing rights to the Mi’kmaq.
Debbie Eisan, elder and community events manager at the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre, said she was “so pleased” to see people learning about the treaties and the residential school system since Thursday.
“It’s all about being allies and learning from each other,” she said.
One of the long-standing traditions on Treaty Day is the salmon dinner, which reflects the Mi’kmaw people’s values of sharing with others.
The salmon cooked for Friday’s dinner was caught in the Listuguj First Nation by Mi’kmaw fishermen.
It was baked in the oven at the centre with roasted garlic seasoning and butter and served to the crowd in take-out containers. The meal included vegetables, potatoes, a bun, and juice or water.
James Cameron got his first taste of a traditional salmon dinner on Friday. Originally from Scotland, he came to Halifax two years ago and is now a student at Eastern College.
It was this year that he started learning about the history of the Indigenous people in Canada and how they were affected by colonization. Cameron said the topic was not taught at schools in Scotland.
“It’s been hard listening and learning about that but it’s extremely worthwhile,” he said.
“We can only learn so much from a textbook, but you can learn so much more from the people and listening to their stories.”
Philippe Noel and his wife Maggie Campagna brought their two young girls, aged two and six to the event. Originally from Quebec, the family of four have previously visited First Nations in their home province.
“As a society, we're very interested sometimes to see other countries, to see other nations, but not a lot about the (First Nations) that are a part of Canada,” said Noel as the girls played happily on the grass.
“So, we want … for our children … a better knowledge of First Nations and their culture and to meet them in person.”
Education surrounding Indigenous people, said Noel, barely scratched the surface when he was at school.
“We learned in school who is John A. Macdonald, but we didn't learn the other part of this story … I think it's a big part of history that was just taken away from us.”
Noel urged all parents to create opportunities for their kids to meet and learn about the Indigenous communities in Canada. It can be as simple as picking up a book at the library.
Activities are planned for children on the waterfront Saturday to learn about Mi’kmaw culture. They include a lesson about teepees, a beading workshop, and a colouring activity where they can create dreamcatchers that will be donated to the IWK Health Centre. Events start at 12 p.m. and are expected to go on till 3 p.m.
Nebal Snan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle Herald