Turn to the treaty

The Coast - - THIS WEEK -

The Back to School ar­ti­cle “Pjila’si Mi’kma’ki” by Lara Lewis—de­scribed as a primer on Mi’kmaw his­tory and cul­ture—high­lights how the dif­fer­ent nar­ra­tives in­volv­ing Indige­nousEuro­pean re­la­tions and re­lated treaties of the 1700s are in­ter­preted. The cap­ture of Port Royal by An­glo forces in 1710 and the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 set off events im­pact­ing Indige­nous groups for the next half-cen­tury.

Dum­mer’s War, named af­ter Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor Wil­liam Dum­mer of Mas­sachusetts and not Drum­mer’s War as re­ported, in­volved the Wa­banaki Con­fed­er­acy con­fronting New Eng­land forces. The treaty end­ing the con­flict was rat­i­fied by more than 70 chiefs and tribal rep­re­sen­ta­tives at An­napo­lis Royal, NS in June 1726. Fairly gen­eral in terms of “land own­er­ship” or oc­cu­pany, the treaty’s word­ing states, in part, “we [the said tribes] ac­knowl­edge His Said Majesty King Ge­orge’s ju­ris­dic­tion & do­min­ion over the ter­ri­to­ries of the said Prov­ince of Nova Sco­tia or Aca­dia,” and “the In­di­ans shall not mo­lest any of His Majesty’s Sub­jects or their de­pen­dants in their set­tle­ments al- ready made or law­fully to be made,” fol­lowed by, “the said In­di­ans shall not be mo­lested in their per­sons, hunt­ing, fish­ing and shoot­ing and plant­ing on their plant­ing ground nor in any other their law­ful oc­ca­sions.”

Of par­tic­u­lar note is Lewis’s state­ment “the City of Hal­i­fax was founded on un­ceded Mi’kmaw land in 1749.” That is, founded il­le­gally. This raises the ques­tion of how we in­ter­pret cer­tain pro­vi­sions in the treaties and whether we as­sign more im­por­tance to the writ­ten text or the oral con­text in which they were cre­ated. Given the cur­rent Ed­ward Corn­wal­lis de­bate, a read or re-read of the treaties may help Nova Sco­tians to bet­ter un­der­stand our tur­bu­lent past.— Len Can­field, Hal­i­fax

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