Mi'kmaq Confederacy mulling Indigenous names for Port-la-Joye–Fort Amherst site

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Petition presented to Ottawa against Amherst name on historic site

The Mi'kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I. is considering Indigenous names to put forward for the Port-La-Joye–Fort Amherst National Historic Site and say they are looking forward to sitting down with Parks Canada about the long-standing issue. 

In a statement, the confederacy said it's been lobbying for almost a decade to have recognition of Mi'kmaq history at the Rocky Point site.

The confederacy also said it respects the concerns raised by Mi'kmaq elders and community members over the issue.

Last year, Mi'kmaq Grand Council Keptin John Joe Sark requested Parks Canada drop the name Amherst from the site, arguing General Jeffery Amherst was a tyrant and an enemy of Indigenous people.

'Disrespect and hatred'

Parks Canada sent Sark's request to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board, which recommended keeping Amherst's name on the site but possibly also adding a Mi'kmaq name. 

Parks Canada accepted the recommendations.

The confederacy says it plans to do further research on Amherst and on "a couple of" possible Mi'kmaq names for the site.

It added that if the board continues to recommend that the name Amherst remain, then it would advocate the full story be told.

The confederacy characterized Amherst's behaviour as "disrespect and hatred toward Indigenous Peoples in general".

Historians have found evidence in correspondence with others in the British military in the 1700s that Amherst advocated spreading the smallpox virus to Aboriginal people using blankets.

Sark continues call to remove Amherst's name

Meanwhile, Sark said he's "disgusted" by the decision made by Parks Canada to keep the Amherst name. While Sark said he initially put forward Mi'kmaq names to be added to the name of the park, he now feels that would be wrong.

"I now believe that it would be a disgrace and dishonour to the Mi'kmaq Nation and to the rest of the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, for a Mi'kmaq name to be added to a National Park that bears the name of General Jeffery Amherst," said Sark.

He continues to call on the federal government to remove Amherst's name. 

In a September, 2016 meeting of the sites and monuments board, the board said it "could not recommend that the historic place name of Fort Amherst be removed from the official name of the national historic site," noting that the designation is based, in part, on the fact that the location served as a seat of government for the British from 1758 to 1768.

"Additionally, the historic place name of Fort Amherst is intimately associated with the expulsion of the Acadians in 1758," it continued.

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