Smagnis Says: The individual quoted in the article below is correct when he states that greed is behind the motive to aquire status. Canada`s Aboriginal population is around 4%. Newfoundland with a population of 500,000 has over 100,000 on Qualipu waiting list for status..over 20% of total population. Really? Too many convenient Indians pursuing the rights a status card yields like fishing, hunting . etc. I fear we are heading down the road to complete assimilation in many communities now because of too many people with the wrong mind set seeking status.
The Western Star
Ron Jesseau of Corner Brook is a longtime advocate of the Mi’kmaq community, but feels many who hope to become members of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band are not really committed enough to their culture.
©Gary Kean/TC Media
While many people of Mi’kmaq descent feel the controversial Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band enrolment process is wronging their people, Ron Jesseau has far less sympathy.
The longtime advocate for aboriginal rights in Corner Brook said there is no doubt the process has its flaws, but he’s not so sure many of the 103,000 people awaiting word on their membership status really deserve to get it.
Many of those now opposing the possibility of being denied membership know little of the long history of trying to establish the band, said Jesseau. Furthermore, he added most do not live their life in ways that adhere to the culture he said they suddenly now hold so preciously.
Jesseau has been involved with the Federation of Newfoundland Indians (FNI), the entity that negotiated the formation of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band, for more than 30 years. Up until 2008, when the FNI began a concerted membership drive in advance of the band’s formation in 2011, Jesseau said the most members the FNI had was around 3,500 people.
On National Aboriginal Day, members of the Mi’kmaq community hold a sunrise ceremony at 5 a.m. Jesseau said the 50 people who show up is an indication of just how many people are really willing to celebrate their culture.
“Where’s the 100,000 people?” he asked. “For someone who’s been called a jackatar all my life, that’s what upsets me.”
Jesseau’s father tried to protect him from being a target of that slang term by telling him as a child they were not Indians. With their surname synonymous with Mi’kmaq culture, those attempts to shield him were not effective.
It is the people who have risen above that sort of ridicule and are openly proud of who they are that Jesseau feels are worth fighting for.
“No disrespect to the 103,000 people who are trying to get in there, but I have more respect for the people who have been there for the last 38 years in the trenches fighting to get Qalipu created,” said Jesseau.
Too many of those hoping to be successful applicants are only in it for the health care and education benefits, he noted.
“Let’s be blunt: a lot of that comes from greed,” he said. “That’s the motivation and why this has grown so big. It has nothing to do with the culture. We know that and I would never stand up and fight for those people.”
Jesseau says those who support the process or want it to fail altogether will welcome seeing schism within the Mi’kmaq community.
That’s not to say there is no case to be made for those who never knew they were of indigenous descent until only recently, cautioned Jesseau.
“If they know now they are aboriginal, then part of the criteria of having that card is that you practise your culture and be a part of that community,” he said. “Hiding in a closet is not going to do it. Every other culture stands up and is proud of who they are, so why can’t we?”