After Queen Elizabeth's death, some Indigenous people in N.L. reflect on her legacy

·2 min read
Miawpukek Chief Mi'sel Joe said he remembers when the Queen ascended the throne in 1952. He later met Queen Elizabeth when she visited Newfoundland and Labrador in 1997. (Darrell Roberts/CBC - image credit)
Miawpukek Chief Mi'sel Joe said he remembers when the Queen ascended the throne in 1952. He later met Queen Elizabeth when she visited Newfoundland and Labrador in 1997. (Darrell Roberts/CBC - image credit)
Darrell Roberts/CBC
Darrell Roberts/CBC

After the Queen's death on Thursday, Indigenous people and community leaders in Newfoundland and Labrador weighed in on her legacy and how — or if — the monarchy plays a role in reconciliation.

Queen Elizabeth visited Newfoundland and Labrador three times, in 1959, 1978 and 1997. Her 1997 visit included stops in St. John's, Bonavista, North West River and Sheshiatshiu.

Miawpukek Chief Mi'sel Joe remembers when Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne. He was sitting on the beach watching his father and some other men fix a boat while they chatted about the new monarch. He had no idea he would later meet her.

"That memory has sat with me all those years," he said.

Joe met Queen Elizabeth when she visited Newfoundland and Labrador in 1997, and later met her son, now-King Charles when he visited St. John's in May.

Joe said he exchanged pleasantries with Charles.

"I said to him that I was born when this was a British colony, and he said 'I hope that we treated you good back then,'" Joe said. "You know, I didn't have time to respond to that."

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

Indigenous reconciliation was a focus of the 2022 Royal Tour, with Charles acknowledging — but not apologizing for — residential schools in Canada.

Joe said he's looking to the provincial and federal governments — not the Royal Family — to commit to truth and reconciliation.

"If there's any change [that] comes to us as Aboriginal people in this province it will come directly from the government of the day," he said.

Wally Andersen, member of the Nunatsiavut government, told CBC News Thursday was a sad day. He remembers meeting the Queen during her 1997 visit and having the opportunity to shake her hand.

Andersen was a member of the House of Assembly at the time.

"She took a step inwards and extended her hand. I had the opportunity to shake the hand of the Queen. There's not many people in this province, I don't think, that had that opportunity," he said.

"I was blessed and that's something I'll always remember."

'Every death is painful'

Sheshatshiu Chief Eugene Hart said he'd like to see the Royal Family do more work with Indigenous communities and First Nations. As for the Queen's legacy, he didn't have a definitive answer.

"I really don't know, to be honest with you, what the legacy was there," he said.

During her time in Sheshatshiu in 1997, community leaders presented the Queen with a letter condemning colonization and its impacts.

Sheshatshiu resident Xavier Penashue said he was shocked to learn of the Queen's passing.

"Every death is painful," he said.

He also believes the Royal Family can play a role in reconciliation.

"They can start by, I guess, notifying governments to help out...Indigenous peoples," he said.

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