Grand Keptin Andrew Denny of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council says it’s important that all Canadians learn the history of the Mi’kmaq people. (CBC) Andrew Denny says Oct. 1 is an important day in the lives of the Mi’kmaq people.
It’s not only the first day of Mi’kmaq History Month, but it’s also Treaty Day.
Since 1986, the first Monday of October has been set aside to recognize the special relationship between the Crown and Indigenous people outlined in peace and friendship treaties dating back nearly 400 years, to the early 1700s.
That makes all Nova Scotians — and all Canadians — treaty people, along with the Mi’kmaq, said Denny.
"I love Canada … but it’s important that Canadians know we’re their allies, not their subjects," he said.
Denny, a resident of Eskasoni First Nation in Cape Breton, is Grand Keptin of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council, a non-elected body that represents the traditional and spiritual government of the Mi’kmaq people.
Grand Keptin is a hereditary position held previously by Denny’s father, Alexander Denny.
Denny was in Cape Breton’s Wagmatcook First Nation last week to speak on the significance of Treaty Day.
He told students to approach the world through the Mi’kmaq point of view. ‘Our wealth is the family’
"In the Mi’kmaq point of view, everything revolves around our language," he told Steve Sutherland, host of CBC’s Information Morning Cape Breton program.
"It is important that they learn their language, because the Mi’kmaq point of view doesn’t just look at wealth. Our wealth is the family. It’s the friendship. It’s the allies. Your neighbours. It’s getting along, working together and making sure that everyone survives. Not just the strongest."
Denny told the students about a day when he was in Grade 10 at Riverview Rural High School in Sydney and heard his class was going to learn about Mi’kmaq history.
"I was so proud and happy that we were going to talk about my people," he said.
"And when you looked at the history book of the time, it had three sentences in the paragraph. It stipulated that the Mi’kmaq were savages. The Mi’kmaq were warlike. The Mi’kmaq were uncivilized.
"I just looked at the textbook and I raised up my hand, and of course poor old Mr. Johnson was the teacher at the time, and I told him, ‘This is wrong. This is not our history.’ And being the son of Grand Captain Alec Denny, that was my first impression of our culture at my high school."
That was years ago. Since then, Denny said, a more accurate history of the Mi’kmaq people and of the peace and friendship treaties has been included in the Nova Scotia schools curriculum.In addition, high schools have been built in Nova Scotia’s First Nation communities, which has helped set the stage for a better future, he said. Schools having significant effect "Our kids are graduating at an 85 to 90 per cent rate and going off to university," Denny said. "We stress the fact that we’re not sending them to school because we don’t want to babysit them. We are sending them to learn that they can be self-sufficient, as our ancestors always were."Our young people are more engaged, they’re more eager. They don’t look down upon themselves anymore. They look at the fact they come from a nation who has withstood the trials and tribulations of history and we are still here, and we are still holding out our hand to our ally. Let’s walk together."The strength of a nation is that you can hold out your hand and say, ‘We walk together.’"
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