CBC

Tobique First Nation Chief says they’re looking into title for traditional lands in western N.B.

Chief Ross Perley of the Tobique First Nation said it's important for New Brunswickers to understand Maliseet territory rights.

Chief Ross Perley of the Tobique First Nation said it’s important for New Brunswickers to understand Maliseet territory rights

The chief of the Tobique First Nation says the Maliseet First Nations are considering putting forth a claim of Aboriginal title for traditional lands in western New Brunswick.

“Right now we’re doing our best to gather all the traditional knowledge we have from our elders and we hope to hire an ethno-historian to build our case,” said Chief Ross Perley.

Preparing to file Aboriginal title claim

While he said he didn’t want to disclose how far along the process was, Perley hinted a claim could come sooner than later.

“Let’s just say that a lot of good work has been done to date and in the very near future we will be prepared to file a Maliseet title claim,” he said.

An Aboriginal title claim could have major implications for the relationship between Maliseet peoples and the government. It could give the First Nations a greater say over any resource development in that area.

chiefs

Maliseet Chiefs gather before approaching the sacred fire to offer tobacco to ancestors. (Jordan Gill/CBC)

More than 150 people, including many of Maliseet heritage, gathered Sunday in Fredericton to celebrate Treaty Day.

This year’s event had a different political atmosphere than last year’s. Since then, the Mi’kmaq of southeastern New Brunswick filed a land claim of Aboriginal title against the government of Canada.

The area, known as Siknuktuk, makes up the entire southeast of the province. If Aboriginal title is granted, it would give partial authority over the area to the Mi’kmaq of the region.

2nd Treaty Day celebration

Sunday’s Treaty Day celebration took place at St. Anne’s Point, which is only a few kilometres away from the ancestral capital of the Maliseet, Eqpahak.

June 4 marks the anniversary of Mascarene’s Treaty, which was signed in 1726 by the British and Maliseet chiefs in Annapolis Royal, N.S.

While Sunday marks the 291st anniversary of the signing, it was only in 2016 that the day started being celebrated.

Perley said marking the anniversary is important to educate people about Maliseet territory rights.

“We do have a treaty that’s still in effect and that we haven’t ceded any lands in our treaties,” he said. “It’s important that we remind ourselves every year that that is a fact.”

Government has ‘a lot of work’ ahead

Perley said both the federal and provincial governments have been improvements over previous ones when it comes to Indigenous issues, but it’s not enough.

“Progress has been made but there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done on [the government’s] part,” he said.

SMUDGING

Smudging before the sacred fire. (Jordan Gill/CBC)

Perley said the thing he wanted non-Indigenous New Brunswickers to take away from the event is that the Maliseet are willing to build a partnership.

“In 1725 we built a partnership with the Crown, with our treaty,” he said.

“There’s still a will amongst Maliseet people to strengthen that partnership…but it has to be acknowledged that this is our territory