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‘It’s another way of creating awareness … come to our community see our vibrant culture’

Ron Zakar joins organizer Tabatha Bernard for a photo.

Ron Zakar joins organizer Tabatha Bernard for a photo. (Mi’kmaq Confederacy)

The Mi’kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I is hosting a number of free barbecue social events to promote aboriginal culture as part of Aboriginal Awareness Week from now until May 26.

“It’s a week to honour and promote greater knowledge of Canada’s Aboriginal people and cultures,” said Tabatha Bernard, the human resource advisor for the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I., who is organising the events.

“We are the Indigenous people of the Island and we’ve been here for thousands of years and people need to know we’re just like everyone else,” said Bernard.

“We’re welcoming and non-threatening,” she added. “We want to share … we want people to see who we are.”

Several communities involved

The communities of Scotchfort, Rocky Point, and Lennox Island will all host events as well as the Mi’kmaq Family Resource Centre in Charlottetown.

Across Canada, since 1992, the four days following Victoria Day have been designated as Aboriginal Awareness Week.

The Chief of Abegweit First Nation, Brian Francis, said it’s an opportunity for people just to get together. One of the barbecues will take place at his home in Rocky Point.

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Staff serve up food at an Aboriginal Awareness Week event. (Mi’kmaq Confederacy)

“It’s another way of creating awareness … come to our community see our vibrant culture,” he said.

‘We do have rights in P.E.I’

Brian Francis feels recognition of Aboriginal rights is improving.

“We can trace our roots back 10,000 years and for that reason we feel we do have rights in P.E.I,” he said.

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Don MacKenzie (left) and Randy Angus with Mi’kmaq Confederacy cooking up burgers for an event in Scotchfort. (Mi’kmaq Confederacy)

Francis explained at Abegweit First Nation there are always areas that need improving when it comes to housing, jobs, and opportunities for young people.

“We’re the fastest growing population in Canada, the Aboriginal population, and we’re really no different in our First Nation, we have a young population — it’s growing in leaps and bounds,” said Francis.

Fisheries ‘major boost’ for First Nation economy

Francis said Abegweit First Nation has benefited from its involvement in the fisheries but he would like to see even more access to the fisheries.

“The fishery has been a major boost in our First Nation economy,” said Francis. “It’s by far our largest employer.”

Abegweit has seven lobster licenses, some snow crab quota and other fishery related licenses. It operates as a communal fishery, the community controls the licenses and benefits as a whole from the profits.

Francis hopes the public takes advantage of this week to learn more about what’s happening in Island First Nations.