Qalipu First Nation marks a milestone, celebrating 10 years as recognized Indigenous band

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Marilyn Matthews is a Mi'kmaw craftsperson from Corner Brook who sold her handmade jewelry at Wednesday's 10-year anniversary festival. (Colleen Connors/CBC  - image credit)
Marilyn Matthews is a Mi'kmaw craftsperson from Corner Brook who sold her handmade jewelry at Wednesday's 10-year anniversary festival. (Colleen Connors/CBC - image credit)

Newfoundland and Labrador's newest Indigenous band marked a milestone Wednesday, celebrating 10 years since Qalipu First Nation was established under the Indian Act.

About 50 people gathered on Majestic Lawn outside the Qalipu main office yesterday, with more congregating at several locations on the west coast and central areas of Newfoundland, for feasts and festivities.

The regional chief with the Assembly of First Nations travelled from Nova Scotia to take part in the party in Corner Brook.

"It's a milestone for this community. I'm just so glad to take in this event and the celebration," said Paul Prosper.

"It's a testament to the resolve and the commitment of the Qalipu Band and their membership. It represents a certain sense of pride of shared history a shared culture and a shared recognition of coming together and practicing these Mi'kmaq ways."

Members celebrated with a barbecue and a large cake while also holding elections for new chief, vice-chief and council, with voting taking place digitally and by phone later in October.

Colleen Connors/CBC
Colleen Connors/CBC

Marilyn Matthews set up a vendor booth at the Corner Brook celebration, selling her handmade jewlery to the crowd.

"My passion is with seed beading. That's where I got started and I just love seed beading," she said.

She uses bone from Indigenous vendors and creates necklaces, earrings and other jewelry to sell. Matthews started crafting in 2012, when the Qalipu First Nation Band was just starting. She was never a crafty person before, she said.

Colleen Connors/CBC
Colleen Connors/CBC

Now, Matthews and other vendors can show off what they've learned.

"We get to embrace our culture. We get to have celebrations like this. And a lot of people who are not Indigenous love to partake in our culture and that's very uplifting for us," she said.

Membership claims

While Sept. 22, 2021 marks ten years since the federal government established Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation, membership in the band has been a topic of contention for many.

Nearly 24,000 people were recognized as founding members, in 67 Newfoundland communities and abroad. Within a few years of being established, more than 100,000 people had come forward claiming to be members.

The federal government reviewed membership claims, and many lost their status and related benefits.

Earlier this year, in March, Ottawa pressed pause on talks to potentially include more members.

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