In or out? Thousands set to learn fate in Qalipu Mi’kmaq FN: Part 1

Trina Roache
APTN National News

Over the next 10 days or so, nearly 100,000 people in Newfoundland and Labrador will receive a letter from the federal government stating whether they have been accepted, or rejected as a member of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation band.

The letters were mailed out Tuesday.

Paul Pike of the Qalipu band is waiting to find out whether he has status under the Indian Act.

“For those of us here that I believe that practice their traditions, whether we have status or not it’s not going to make a difference in that aspect,” he said. “We’re still going to do what we do…I’m on the chopping block so to speak. I was living away in Alaska for 25 years. I came home every year and I maintained contact. So, I think I did my very best to submit everything I could that they were asking.”

St. George’s Mi’kmaq band member Kelly Anne Butler said the wait is bothering her.

“I’m extremely active in the community and have been for some time. My life isn’t going to change but it will still matter to me that the government doesn’t recognize me,” she said.

It all started in 2008 when Canada signed an agreement with the Mi’kmaq. At the time, the Federation of Newfoundland Indians (FNI) boasted around 10,000 members.

In 2011, the Qalipu band was formed and its membership jumped to 24,000, with another 75,000 people from across the country waiting to join.

“But what happened with Qualipu, we gave people a reason in 2011, we’re not ashamed anymore,” said Qalipu Chief Brendan Mitchell. “We’re proud of who we are as a people, as a nation…and that’s the big difference. There were 103,000 people that came out, we only have 500,00 people in Newfoundland.”

For the Mi’kmaq in Newfoundland, it’s been a time of cultural revival and pride.

But the big number of people coming forward grabbed headlines while raising eyebrows and questions.

“Many people, even our own members say to me, ‘where in the hell did 103,000 people come from?’ That situation, truthfully, is what prompted Canada and the FNI back in the day and got leadership to do something about the situation,” said Mitchell.

The band’s former chief and council signed a supplemental agreement with Canada in 2013 adding more criteria to decide who can be part of the band.

“The supplementary agreement was a top-down document driven down to get rid of the vast numbers of people that were applying for status under the Indian Act,” said Dave Wells, chair of the board of directors for the Mi’kmaq First Nations Assembly of Newfoundland.

He said that the effort to narrow the numbers down has created a whole other set of problems. There are rumours that tens of thousands of people will be denied.

“I know a family in Corner Brook,” said Wells. “Twins. Same biological parents. One has a status card, one lives in Ontario, doesn’t have a card. Is that reason to disqualify the one in Ontario?”

Although Qalipu is a landless band, geography has become key to deciding who’s in or out.

“The people that are in jeopardy of losing status aren’t people who live here in our community. They’re people who live outside,” said Mitchell.

Whether you live in Newfoundland or not, if you’re outside a Mi’kmaq community a point system will decide your identity.

Todd Lasaga’s career brought him to Nova Scotia. He is originally from the Mi’kmaq community of Flat Bay in Newfoundland.

“All this paperwork … shows what I had to do to prove who I was as a status person. It’s my birthright. I shouldn’t have to do this,” said Lasaga.

With ancestry, self-identification and community connection, everything comes down to points. If the intention of the point system is to weed out the wannabes, Lasaga said the brush strokes are too broad.

“But it’s not just about going to Newfoundland to be Aboriginal. There’s a lot of stuff here in Nova Scotia that I get out and go to. Different pow wows, different events,” he said.

Many there trace the confusion of the Mi’kmaq back to 1949 when then-premier Joey Smallwood denied there were Indians in Newfoundland.

That denial and discrimination is key to understanding who the Qalipu are today.

“I’ve had some experiences where I was totally accepted until I said the word Qalipu. And then all of a sudden the way people spoke to me really changed. Indigenous people. I can’t fault them. The way it’s been portrayed in the news has not been positive,” said Butler.

Look for part two in the series by Trina Roache who will look at the history of Mi’kmaq living on the rock outside of the Indian Act.

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10 thoughts on “In or out? Thousands set to learn fate in Qalipu Mi’kmaq FN: Part 1

  1. This week, thousands of Micmac applicants and status card holders were notified that they will neither become nor remain members of the Micmac Band of Newfoundland. In my personal opinion, this is the biggest scam and insult to a native people anywhere. Over the years, thousands of Micmac Newfoundlanders have made the choice not to be on welfare and moved off the island in search of work to provide for their families, while keeping ties with their community and their heritage and today thousands are being penalized for doing so.
           My sons and I, are or should I say were, status Micmac until last when we got a letter from the Canadian Government stating we no longer qualify to be members of the Newfoundland Micmac band. Imagine explaining to my two sons you are not Micmac anymore, because we did not go back home enough, unbelievable. I was born and raised a Micmac in Newfoundland and lived in a Micmac community for most of my life but like many others I moved away in search of a better life. I have five brothers on Island today and they are all keeping their status.
    A couple of years ago, the then minister of Indian affairs Mr. Valcourt and the then Chief of the Newfoundland Micmac, Mr Shepard, devised a plan in the back rooms of Newfoundland to eliminate thousands of Micmac from getting their rightful status. They came up with a scheme, a point system that would make it almost impossible for thousands to qualify reducing the numbers. With big smiles on their faces and hands deep in their pockets, they called this new plan, the ‘supplemental agreement’ – which I really believe meant tearing up the original agreement (contract) and making a brand new one. They came up with a point system giving most points to those now living in a Micmac community and Fewer points for those of Micmac BLOOD LINE , people that were actually born and raised a Micmac in a Micmac community. What’s really is bizarre about this whole sneaky affair, is the Micmac of Newfoundland is a LANDLESS BAND. Just because you live in a Micmac community does not mean you must participate in the community does it. You are not forced to go to the pow wow’s and if you went to one weekly are you More of a Micmac, than the one that goes every five years.

    Now back to the amazing point system… The breakdown of the point system was not revealed at that time of the supplemental agreement but simply that you needed the magic number of 13 points to qualify. You had to prove you were actually a participating Micmac and that was more important than BLOOD LINE. You had to go back in time and find receipts, receipts of items that were purchased at a pow-wow, air line tickets, phone bills showing conversations with the community back home, etc.
         Imagine determining ones native heritage based on pow-wow attendance, visits to Newfoundland and your connection to the Micmac community even though you were born and raised as a Micmac on the island for many years.
         I love the people of Newfoundland and I love my native brothers and sisters but how many times can a family afford to travel to the island and who keeps receipts of where they stayed, ate and visited over so many years. A lot which by the way I provided.  Besides, we have something called the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, it’s the year 2017.  Today it is very easy to be part of any community thanks to the online realm.  One can practice in his heritage anywhere in the world now. I am a Roman Catholic but maybe I should check to see if I still am, as I was baptized in Corner Brook but now live in Ontario… I believe this too was all part of this wonder scheme – make it nearly impossible to show community involvement and the numbers would drop off drastically. Did anyone ever notice that these bandits in the night gave zero points for the years that most of these rejected applicants spent being raised and living in one of these Micmac communities?  Mr. Fred Carson of Indigenious and Northern Affairs seems to put a lot of weight on this part of the application and he is doing a fine job of selling this point. He does not care about the people this decision will hurt or the years they grew up as a Micmac in Newfoundland and their past involvement in the Micmac community.
    He does say though that some people not on the island and some living outside of Micmac communities were accepted. I wonder how these people were critiqued. Did some show more flights, more receipts, more phone calls and as a result did this make them MORE MICMAC? Do these receipts validate something about the potency of their ancestral blood? Or was this also part of the scam, to show that they allowed a few outsiders to join the band . Now after making it almost impossible for those that moved away to join the band the Feds came up with another brilliant idea. They passed a bill in the House of Commons ( Bill C-25 ) that would prevent any legitimate Micmac born and raised in Newfoundland from suing the Federal Government. Now THAT, is original (Just a side note: All those that voted for this bill should be put on public display as traitors to Canada and to its Native people. ) this bill is a first and corrupt. Remember now,  My boys and I were legitimate status Micmac up to this point. Only AFTER the Feds and Mr. Shepard realized there were just too many Micmac applying for status did things change.  As I am typing this, A thought comes to mind…I wonder what will happen to those that keep their status and move out of a community and to lets say, Ontario in the future, will they keep their status? And what will happen to the rejected Micmac that moves back home to his place of birth one day and the community he was raised in, Will he then GET his or her status? I don’t think so. This too was part of this masterpiece – Once you are out you are out. Both of my son’s and I do have a chance to appeal, but get this, we were all turned down because we could not show enough connection to the community. So I called Indian Affairs in Ottawa today and explained to them that I have found more evidence to support my claims and would like to submit them with my appeal. Things like, copies of hunting licences , Pictures at a pow-wow, two recent visits to Newfoundland, last year and this pass summer for two weeks each time. Also pictures taken at a pow-wow in flat bay this summer past one even with Chief Mitchell and more documents, going way back. But guess what, you guessed it, I am not allowed to send any new documents in with my appeal. The lady said, they will not look at them.

      This is corruption at its worst. It does not take a rocket scientist to see the evil that has unfolded here. Integrity is a word you will not find anywhere in this whole process. Today I am ashamed to be a Canadian and ashamed to be a native in a country, that should know better. If you were born in Newfoundland and can prove your Micmac BLOOD LINE you a Micmac, period.
         It is not only our federal government that has disgraced all Canadians and the Micmac people of Newfoundland and native people everywhere. Our Micmac leadership has as well. On that night beneath the dim candlelight when a show of hands went up to vote on this poisonous supplemental agreement, one of those hands, was the hand of our very own fearless leader, Mr. Brendan Mitchell. I have heard him speak a number of times, I have met him and happen to think he is a wonderful man but I believe he buckled under pressure and was swayed by those in three piece suits from Ottawa.
    On that night we needed a different kind of man, a man that would stand tall and proud striking his fist in furry on the table at what was about to unfold, fighting for every single Newfoundland Micmac no matter WHERE THEY NOW LIVE.

    So In closing, I will say this.
    Shame on the Government of Canada for your part in this evil deed of deception. I believe your involvement in this deviant act should be exposed to all Canadians. The conservatives may have started this mess but the liberal government of Canada did nothing to stop it. Almost a week has gone by now and Bennett and Trudeau have been missing in action. When they were needed the most, they disappeared but Native people everywhere will not forget there lack of involvement, we will remember them and we should. They will will go down in history as traitors to the native people of Newfoundland.
    I am also ashamed, of all of those that sat at that table that evening with Mr Sheppard. You knew what was going to happen to those now living outside a Micmac community once you voted for this supplemental agreement. You, have betrayed your own people, the Micmac of Newfoundland. The Micmac band of the future now will just be the remnants of a hope and dream. The foundation on which it is being built is one of disgrace.

    May God bless the wonderful Micmac peoples of Newfoundland, where ever you may reside.
    We have been duped, and worst of all, our children have been duped,
    And that, is what really hurts.!

  2. My husband left the island to faithfully serve in the Cdn armed forces for 35 years returning home to visit as much as he could – his application for status has been denied – glad his brother and sister’s were approved

  3. I was living in AB and received my status card. Since then I have moved back to NL. I voted in the last election for the current President and other leaders of the Qalipu band. If I and others lose our status, how can the people we voted in still legally and morally be leaders?

  4. DNA will show if you’re mikmaq or not. People like this, are the ones who ruin it for the real natives. I don’t give a shit how many pow wows you go to.
    Round up the ones with status too, and get them tested. Telling you right now, I bet the ones who brag they got status are white. Squash all the wannebes

    1. Please drop the racist centuries old “Full Blooded” and “Real Natives” B.S. rhetoric indoctrinated in you by the dominant Non-Aboriginal establishment and educate yourself instead on true Mi’kmaq ancestral culture and traditions of inclusivity and tolerance for others especially other Mi’kmaqs.

      Using genealogy analysis as a base, Blood Quantum is commonly used in animal husbandry. Colonial Governments have also adopted it for Aboriginal people to discriminate against us and between ourselves. It has successfully divided and extinguished thousands of us as a people. This is what you are perpetuating with your hateful “round-up” and “squash” comments against these Qalipu applicants.

      While DNA testing can determine with accuracy if a person is related to another, it cannot determine with any certainty if a person is of indigenous ancestry or not much less if they are of Mi’kmaq descent and consequently can identify as Mi’kmaq or any other First Nation for that matter.

      This is especially true of people whose mixed origins span many generations and/or whose Aboriginal ancestry mix is not in a direct maternal or paternal line.

      Based on the Powley decision, the courts have so far ruled that a person is considered “Aboriginal” if that person is of Aboriginal ancestry, self-identifies as Aboriginal and is accepted as Aboriginal by their community.

      DNA testing can only ever answer, at most and only under certain circumstances, the first of those three criteria. As a result, it should never be used as a criteria for enrolment in any First Nation.

  5. Who can I contact about possibly being of the qalipu band. Have mi’ kmaq heritage from that area. Mary Parnell,was great, great, grandmother. hirtle, hartlen family name.

  6. Trina,
    Great story on the QMFN in or out aspect. My name is Jason Isaac Payne and I am a status Indian and a member of the Qalipu First Nation. As well, my wife and children are status members. Trina, here is my story, eleven years ago my spouse and I, lived in the city of Corner Brook, nl and were members of the Federation Of Newfoundland Indians before the status came into play and the new QMFN was born. Corner Brook, nl was listed as a aboriginal community years ago and still is under the new agreement between federal government and the FNI now the QMFN. However, I was born and raised in Bonne Bay, nl sum 90 minute drive from Corner Brook, nl. Years ago Bonne Bay, nl was listed as an aboriginal community. The Bonne Bay area covered from the community of Trout River, nl up to and including the community of Bell Burns, nl. When the agreement was drafted Bonne Bay, nl was not listed as one of the aboriginal communities. Trina, I moved from Corner Brook, nl in 2006 back to Bonne Bay for work and at that time their was no status acquired or thought of status being achieved by the FNI members at that time. Within the last 11 year period, my family and I continued contact with the Chief and the Corner Brook band. My family and I voted on the agreement in principle for the status and so forth. Trina, at this point in time it all comes down to a point system because I do not live in a aboriginal community. My family and I, along with thousands of aboriginal people with status as well aboriginal people trying to gain status that live in Bonne Bay, nl ,which again , covers from Trout River, nl to Bell Burns, nl continues to be treated by government the way our aboriginals ancestors were treated in the past. So much for the Charter Of Rights And Freedom especially when Qalipu members outside the listed aboriginal communities lose their status and the Federal government reframes from providing status to the aboriginal people that have a right to that status. I hope that some day the aboriginal people of Newfoundland and Labrador will be treated equally and fairly by the Federal government of Canada in regard to the aboriginal status. Trina, I look forward to your next segment as well hoping and praying to our creator that the aboriginal people of Newfoundland and Labrador will receive great news.

    1. How can my brother, niece , cousin, aunt uncle all have been accepted . But not me . Makes no sense

    2. Hi Jason, I’ll be following up on this story as it plays out over the next several days and weeks. Feel free to contact me at 902-292-1911, [email protected] or find me on Facebook. Thanks for Watching! The final story in the three part series airs tonight and will go up on the website and Facebook page for APTN National News this evening. Feel free to share!

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