Saturday, March 19, 2011

4 - Nations

So, my family and I are Bras d'Or Indians. We descend from three lines that I know of so far. Those of Francois Lejeune, Gabriel Lejeune (Sr.) and Angus Benoit.

Here in the United States, where I am living now, I almost never hear the word Indian when people refer to Native Americans. I don't think there is anything wrong with the word, it's just easy to confuse them with the people from India,  and perhaps it doesn't give an accurate representation of the people themselves. It seems that the people of the Bras d'Or use this term because it is historical. Everyone who lives there knows the Bras d'Or Indians.

In the United States, we hear Native American as the politically correct term, but this is deceptive as well. Imagine if we suddenly decided to call every one who lives in Europe, Native Europeans. We could just talk about them as a whole people with no respect to traditions, customs, or religious beliefs. There is no difference between Spain and Finland anyway, right? This is exactly what we do to native people when we use the term Native American, but this seems to be the popular term regardless of this fact.

I like what Canada does much better. They refer to the People of the First Nations.The Constitution of Canada goes so far as to differentiate its aboriginal people as being Indian, Metis and Inuit, although rights are still being determined for the Metis. I'm not saying its perfect, but at least in this name, it says that they were here first and that there is more than one nation. Aboriginal people in North America come from many nations with specific traditions, beliefs and histories. They are not all the same. My nation is the Mi'kmaq nation. I belong to a band within that nation known as the Bras d'Or Indian Village Band Association.

The Little Bras d'Or area has two bands. The Bras d'Or Indian Village Band Association is located in Little Bras d'Or itself and the other band, the Bras d'Or First Nation, is located in Sydney Mines. Both of these bands are seeking recognition by the federal government of Canada. The question is not whether the people here are Mi'kmaq. The question is if the government will see them as Indians.

I must admit that I am baffled by the policies of the government on this one. Take Newfoundland for example. Native people have been there long before the first accounts of European explorers. Didn't they drive away the Vikings? Only in the past few years was an agreement drafted to make an official landless band in the eyes of Canada. They have been a part of Canada since 1949, but are only being recognized as Indians now.

The formation of the agreement in principle in Newfoundland provides hope however. At one point in the history, some of the Bras d'Or Indians left Bras D'or and moved to Newfoundland. Now their descendants will gain official status. We are the same people.

 Here are some links to the Bras d'Or Indians. These sites are worth checking out.

http://www.brasdorfirstnation.com/
http://www.brasdorindians.com/
http://brasdorindianvillagebandassociation.yolasite.com/
http://searchingeagle.webs.com/apps/members/

3 comments:

  1. Heather, I'm researching my husband's family in Nova Scotia. His 4th Great Grandmother was supposedly the daughter of a Mi'kmaq and a Denison woman. I've narrowed down her Mother to one of two sisters but haven't a clue how I can ever discover potential Fathers. She was born 1806-1808 supposedly in Gaspereau. Her Mother was born in Horton in the late 1700's. Where would the closest Mi'kmaq tribal members be living in the early 1800's to King's County?
    Thank you for any suggestions you might have. Laurene

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  2. Hi Laurene,
    Mi'kmaq people were all over this area so I don't know how much help I can be with specific locations. I would start in the area of her birth as that's where they were probably settled for a time. I wouldn't limit the search to that county however given the political climate of the time and the tensions between Acadians/ Mi'kmaq and the British.

    It can be difficult especially as so many of the Mi'kmaq were baptized with French names and are not always listed in census records. They also moved from place to place.They can be in among the Acadians living in the area. (This was the case in my family.) This time period was dangerous for Mi'kmaq and Acadian people so it was not uncommon for people to identify where there was safety. I would suggest a few places to look:

    The first is a site created by the researcher Lark Blackburn Szick. The site is http://homepages.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~downhome/nscensus.html This site will have census records of Acadians, Kings County and Indian census records. I would also encourage you to join a forum that has been set up for the Bras d'Or Indians. There are some on the site who are researching native records and may be able to give you some ideas of where else to look. The fact that you have the woman's name and dates of birth is a good start. The address is www.brasdorindians.com.

    We have had great luck with churches as the Mi'kmaq did go for sacraments and often had witnesses listed as being Mi'kmaq on baptismal certificates and marriage certificates. You can check churches in the area of Gaspereau. If there is a baptismal record it probably lists the parents. Also, I would try some of the Nova Scotia Metis websites as they sometimes have a wealth of information. Hope this helps. I will also ask some of my researcher friends and try to get some more ideas.

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  3. Is it possible to locate someone in the Mikmaq community to talk to.
    I have emailed the contact person on the Bras d Or site but have not received a response.

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