Turn to the treaty
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