Return of the vest

Sea Cadets return piece of Chief Nish Paul’s legacy to fam­ily

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Sea Cadets return piece of Chief Nish Paul’s legacy to fam­ily.

A 1998 trip to Ea­gle Haven Lodge for the Royal Cana­dian Sea Cadet Corps 67 Wind­sor led to a great sur­prise al­most 20 years later for Tony Paul.

In 1998 the owner of Ea­gle Haven Lodge was Chief Nish Paul, a man with a big heart and pas­sion for help­ing youth. While the cadet corps was vis­it­ing the lodge, Chief Paul shared sto­ries, wood lore, and his own ex­pe­ri­ences in the woods with the youth.

Dur­ing a spe­cial cer­e­mony, Chief Paul donned his cer­e­mo­nial head­dress — a hand-made, hand-dec­o­rated vest — and per­formed a cer­e­mo­nial dance to give a tra­di­tional na­tive bless­ing for good health and pros­per­ity to the cadet corps.

Af­ter the cer­e­mony, he gave the vest he was wear­ing to the corps as a gift by plac­ing it on a young cadet.

It was the corps’ in­ten­tion to frame and dis­play the vest, but through the years that didn’t ma­te­ri­al­ize.

Five years ago, the corps de­cided to seek per­mis­sion to return the vest to the fam­ily of the late Chief Paul, who passed away 11 years ago.

Through an in­ter­est­ing turn of events in­volv­ing a Face­book post, Lt. (N) Paul John­son con­nected with Cor­r­rina Saun­ders; when Saun­ders men­tioned her maiden name was Paul, the two con­nected the pieces and re­al­ized Saun­ders was the niece of Chief Paul. Saun­ders men­tioned Chief Paul’s son, Tony, would be com­ing home to New­found­land for a visit. It was then the of­fi­cer con­tacted Paul to of­fer him the vest.

Al­though Chief Paul was ded­i­cated to and in­volved with youth, his sons did not get to grow up with him. Paul and his brother at­tended Mount Cashel Or­phan­age, where they were taken away from their fam­ily and iso­lated from their cul­ture.

Since his fa­ther’s pass­ing, Paul has been try­ing to bring home mis­placed or gifted items that be­longed to his fa­ther.

Paul said when he re­ceived the call about the vest he was thrilled to be get­ting it back in the fam­ily — but he did not ex­pect it to be the cer­e­mo­nial vest made by the Eska­soni Mi’kmaq of Nova Sco­tia. His fa­ther had two vests, in­clud­ing one smaller ar­ti­cle he made him­self. Paul as­sumed this would be the vest he would re­ceive; he didn’t think his fa­ther would have given away the cer­e­mo­nial vest.

The fam­ily of­ten won­dered what be­came of that vest he wore to ev­ery cer­e­mony and pow­wow he at­tended.

Paul was stunned when he re­al­ized he would re­ceive the cer­e­mo­nial vest on Sept. 1 dur­ing a cer­e­mony at the Mary March Museum.

“This is un­be­liev­able,” he said. “I was quite sur­prised be­cause I’ve been try­ing to track down this coat — I seen it in the pic­tures that my dad had and in some videos. When I asked around no­body knew where it went.”

Af­ter al­most 20 years the vest has come full cir­cle and will be proudly dis­played in the Ea­gle Haven Lodge with Chief Paul’s cer­e­mo­nial head­dress and leg­gings, and his staff.

“I have the rest of the re­galia, this was miss­ing,” said Paul. “To have this back means I have ev­ery­thing now. It’s gone full cir­cle.”

Since the pass­ing of Chief Paul, his wife has been op­er­at­ing Ea­gle Haven Lodge as a tourist at­trac­tion. Now that she is ready to re­tire, Paul and his fam­ily are com­ing back to New­found­land to take over and re­cre­ate the lodge the way his fa­ther, Chief Paul, had en­vi­sioned it.

“My dad al­ways used to say, ‘I’ve got this lodge here be­cause I want to help young peo­ple — I know the day is going to come when I am not going to be here any longer but you are, and I know that you as­pire to do what I want to do — to in­spire young peo­ple,’” said Paul.

Within the next year Ea­gle Haven Lodge will re­open to give at-risk youth from across Canada a chance to get off the streets and learn em­ploy­able life skills and the Mi’kmaq way, in­clud­ing how to live off the land.

SAMAN­THA GAR­DINER PHOTO

The back of a cer­e­mo­nial vest owned by Chief Nish Paul, who gave it to the sea cadets in 1998. The vest has been re­turned to his fam­ily through his son, Tony Paul.

SAMAN­THA GAR­DINER PHOTO

Tony Paul wear­ing the vest that be­longed to his fa­ther, Chief Nish Paul. The vest was gifted back to the Paul fam­ily by the Royal Cana­dian Sea Cadet Corps 67 Wind­sor.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Chief Nish Paul

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