I grew up in rural Newfoundland. When I was a child I often played in the woods pretending to be a little Indian girl. My mother had told us stories of how the Indians lived off the land and so I would pick berries and pull up ferns to eat the roots. My imagination knew no bounds as I crept through the woods stalking wild animals. (I never found any) A few years ago I learned I need not have pretended. According to census records I am a descendant of the Mi’kmaq people. Unfortunately I do not know which of my grandmothers was a Mi’kmaq woman.
The province of Newfoundland and Labrador was settled by mainly the English and French who sought to reap the benefits of a rich fishery. My great grandfather on my mother’s side was English. Most of the settlers married Mi’kmaq women. But, with the colonial mentality of the time, First Nations peoples were considered “heathen savages”. This, combined with patriarchy, meant Mi’kmaq women were considered less than their white counterparts and their births and marriages were often not recorded. In addition, the families of Mi’kmaq people had to keep their identities secret as much as possible in order to work at any job. Bigotry and prejudice were wide spread. As a result many people are only learning of their Mi’kmaq forebears over the past ten years.
I feel we have been robbed; Robbed of a rich culture; Robbed of our identity. But there is hope as new groups have stepped forward to revive a culture nearly lost to us. It is now possible to learn much about native ways including learning the Mi’kmaq language, if we choose to do so. As I move forward to reclaim my heritage I do so to honour all my relations.