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Mi'kmaq/Maliseet Nations News, November 2010 Issue

Celebrating European Colonization

By Mi'kmaq Elder Dr. Daniel N. Paul, C.M., O.N.S.

November 16, 2010

Roger Cohen - Columnist for theNew York Times, November 15, 2010. His opinion piece is about how the Palestinians are charting a new effective course that will ultimately give them internationally recognized statehood.

"...That "something" is fundamental: the transition from a self-pitying, self-dramatizing Palestinian psyche, with all the cloying accoutrements of victimhood, to a self-affirming culture of pragmatism and institution-building. The shift is incomplete. But it has won Clinton over. And it's powerful enough to pose a whole new set of challenges to Israel: Palestine is serious now..."

We, the citizens of the First Nations of the Americas, must do what the Palestinians are doing to achieve their goal of effective self government, chart a new course that is built on our cultural heritage, which is the solid effective self-government that our Peoples had developed and implemented before the European invasion.

European Invasion and Colonization

The summer of 2010 saw an event happen in Nova Scotia that happens far too often throughout the Americas, Indigenous Peoples celebrating with European institutions, in particular European royalty and European Christianity, the invasion of the two Continents by Europeans. In July of last summer, such a celebration occurred in the Maritimes, the Mi'kmaq feted the English (British) Crown, as represented by Queen Elizabeth II, and representatives of the Roman Catholic Church. During colonial times these two European institutions were responsible for the destruction of Mi'kmaq civilization as our ancestors knew it, the loss of our country, and the near extermination of our People. I credit such a happening with the fact that our People are largely unaware of the horrors that these two institutions visited upon the Mi'kmaq during European colonial times, and other First Nations of the Americas.

When one takes into account that the true history of the European invasion of the Americas, which relates the barbaric attacks against all of the First Nation civilizations of the two Continents, which were, in the face of far superior European armaments, almost helpless to defend themselves, is mostly unavailable, the before mentioned statement is understandable. The true history, which is not taught in schools, but is readily available if desired, relates that over the passage of time these barbaric assaults resulted in many Indigenous civilizations being exterminated altogether, and the remaining civilizations reduced to near ruin, millions dead, virtually all of their territorial lands, resources, and property stolen, and most survivors today living in destitution. In place of the truth, we get a diet of lies, which is willful blindness on the part of the descendants of the invaders. But this can now be changed, we ourselves can collect the truth, and teach the truth, in particular to our own Peoples.

The before mentioned explanation I've given for why some of our People, and leaders, would celebrate the European colonial invasion, and consequent appropriation of our countries with the two institutions mentioned, and the imposition of foreign ideals, is why I wrote a First Nations History Book and entitled it We Were Not the Savages (I encourage all to read it). It's my attempt to set the record straight. I did so because the demonizing colonial propaganda, which dehumanized the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas by depicting them to be bloodthirsty barbarian savages, and is the root cause of the systemic racism that stigmatizes Indigenous Peoples today, is still widespread, and, indefensibly, there is no concerted effort being made by the descendants of the invaders to set the record strait.

Before I go further, I'll provide some information on what the European invaders used during their colonization of the Americas to try to legitimize and justify their barbarity. The following is only an overview, only a book on the subject can relate the full story.

Doctrine of Discovery and Christianity

The origins of the Doctrine of Discovery can be traced back to a Papal Bull (proclamation) issued by Pope Nicholas V in 1452. In it he proclaimed that it was permissible for Christians to claim lands held by non-Christians because only Christians were entitled to hold lands. In 1493, one year after the barbarian Christopher Columbus got lost and landed in the Americas, Pope Alexander VI extended to Spain the right for it to conquer newly-found lands by issuing the papal bull Inter Caetera. This was after Christopher Columbus had already begun appropriating for Spain the lands of the Indigenous People of the Americas. Arguments between Portugal and Spain led to the Treaty of Tordesillas, which clarified that only non-Christian lands could thus be taken, as well as drawing a line of demarcation to allocate potential discoveries between the two powers. It must be noted that in spite of their hatred for the Catholic Church, European Protestant Nations adopted the warped Bulls of the Popes with great enthusiasm, and applied them as enthusiastically as the Catholics did when stealing Indigenous lands.

The Doctrine of Discovery was used when France claimed the land of the Mi'kmaq, which they christened Acadia. In 1618, Marc Lescarbot, a French lawyer, articulated how this warped Christian law legalized France's right to Acadia (now the Canadian Provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island): This, by the way, was eight years after Chief Membertou had converted to Christianity.

"The earth pertaining, then, by divine right to the children of God [Christians], there is here no question of applying the law and policy of Nations, by which it would not be permissible to claim the territory of another. This being so, we must possess it and preserve its natural inhabitants, and plant therein with determination the name of Jesus Christ, and of France."

Thus, in 1713, at the end of one of their numerous wars, England and France signed the Treaty of Utrecht, which, unknown to our ancestors, included a provision that transferred the lands of the Mi'kmaq and other First Nations to England.

In view of the White supremacist attitudes prevailing at the time, the fact that Amerindian Nations, including the Mi'kmaq, were left out of the treaty negotiations, not even made aware of its signing, should come as no surprise. A letter from Governor T. Caulfield to Vaudreuil, dated May 7, 1714, attests to the fact that the Mi'kmaq had been left in the dark: "Breach of the treaty of peace and commerce committed by Indians under French government upon a British trading vessel at Beaubassin. Enclosed letter from Pere Felix, giving the Indians' excuse, i.e., that they did not know that the treaty was concluded between the two crowns, or that they were included in it...."

Finally, in 1715, the Mi'kmaq were enlightened. At a meeting with the Mi'kmaq Chiefs two English officers informed them that France had transferred them, and the ownership of their land, to Great Britain via the Treaty of Utrecht, and that King George I was now their sovereign. The Mi'kmaq responded, in no uncertain terms that they did not come under the Treaty of Utrecht, would not recognize a foreign king owning their country and would not recognize him as having dominion over them. The Chiefs then clarified for the English that they had never given over ownership of their land to the French King, or considered themselves to be his subjects, and therefore he had nothing to transfer. With no agreement, open hostilities between the Mi'kmaq and the English resumed. Thus, the die was cast for close to fifty more years of conflict, broken, from time to time by occasional periods of uneasy truce.

After the Mi'kmaq learned that the French had claimed their land and, unbeknownst to them, transferred their territories to Great Britain by treaty two years earlier, the Mi'kmaq directed protests to St. Ovide de Brouillant, Louisbourg's military commander in 1715, and after September 1717, Governor. He responded: "He [the French King] knew full well that the lands on which he tread, you possess them for all time. The King of France, your Father, never had the intention of taking them from you, but had ceded only his own rights to the British Crown." In view of Marc Lescarbot's 1618 legal opinion that France was the owner of Mi'kmaq lands, because the Mi'kmaq were not Christians, and the Treaty transfer provisions, one can easily conclude that Ovide told a bald faced lie to continue France's alliance with the Mi'kmaq.

In the future, before we celebrate anything with the Catholic Church that happened during European colonial times, the Pope should be asked to come to the Americas and publically revoke the Papal Bulls that the European invaders used to steal the lands of the Indigenous Peoples of the two Continents, apologise for the tens of millions that were killed by the European invaders under the umbrella of the Bulls, and the loss of our freedom. And, above all, use the moral authority of his office to pressure the Eurocentric countries that were created in the Americas as a result of the invasion, to begin a process of writing history as it transpired, and discontinue the fairy tales that now pass for the history of the Americas.

Now for the English Crown.

After 1713, Great Britain was hell bent and determined to subjugate the Mi'kmaq and reduce them to beggars in their own land, or exterminate them all-together. Every barbaric means available was put to use to realize it's goal.

The most reprehensible of the methods selected by the British colonial governors of Nova Scotia were proclamations for the scalps of Mi'kmaq men, women and children, a practice that was widely used by British Governors before to decimate, and in several cases exterminate entire Tribes in what is now the eastern states of the United States of America.

Three proclamations for Mi'kmaq scalps were issued by Nova Scotia's British colonial governors. During 1744, the Mi'kmaq had the British fort at Annapolis Royal under siege, which caused the colony's Governor, Paul Mascarene, to request military assistance from the British Governor of the Massachuetts Bay Colony, William Shirley. On November 2, 1744, Shirley responded by declaring war on the Mi'kmaq, and their allies. The war declaration included a provision that provided that cash payments would be paid to those who harvested the scalps of Mi'kmaq men, women and children, and for the scalps of any who were assisting them. Captain John Gorham, who commanded Gorham's Rangers, was sent to Nova Scotia with his men to enforce the declaration. Their barbarities terrified all, including many British subjects.

Shortly after June 21, 1749, when Governor Edward Cornwallis arrived in Nova Scotia to found a settlement of suitable Protestants settlers at Chebucto Harbour, later renamed Halifax, he had English officers meet with the Mi'kmaq Chiefs to inform them once again that the King of England owned their land, and as the owners they were going to start building English settlements. In response, on September 23, 1749, the Mi'kmaq renewed their declaration of war against the British.

On October 1, 1749, Governor Cornwallis convened a meeting of his colonial military government, aboard HMS Beaufort, at anchor in the harbour, to decide upon a response to the Mi'kmaq declaration of war. It was decided not to declare war in return upon the Mi'kmaq, but to treat them as bandits, and offer a monetary reward for their scalps. Thus, on October 2, 1749, Cornwallis issued a proclamation that specified monetary rewards that would be paid to British Subjects that harvested the scalps of Mi'kmaq men, women and children. Geoffrey Plank, a history professor at the University of Cincinnati, labels it "a time when it was a capital offence to be a Mi'kmaq." The stated intent of the policy was to exterminate the Mi'kmaq. The following year, although scalps were being brought into British forts for payment, they apparently were not coming in fast enough, on June 21, 1750 the monetary reward was increased five fold. Cornwallis was removed as governor in 1752, however, before departure he, on July 17, 1752, revoked his bounty proclamations. Obliviously, as I'm writing this in 2010, his extermination plans failed!

Another scalp proclamation was issued in 1756, by Governor Charles Lawrence, this one was only for males over 16 years. It has not been repealed by an Act of Parliament.

On June 25, 1761, some of the Chiefs of the Mi'kmaq Nation gathered at the Governor's farm in Halifax and participated in a Burying of the Hatchet ceremony with British Governor Jonathan Belcher, and also signed several Peace and Friendship Treaties with him. The treaties were afterward ignored until the 1980s, when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled they were valid documents.

From 1761 onward the remaining Mi'kmaq were reduced to poverty, and suffered from starvation and malnutrition, which made any diseases they contracted almost always fatal. In the mid 1800s the situation was so bad, and the population was dwindling so fast (around 1400), that it caused two of the colony's Indian Commissioners, Joseph Howe and Abraham Gesner, to make predictions that the "Tribe would be only a memory if corrective action were not taken." After which, assistance increased somewhat, but did not end starvation.

When Canada was created in1867, by an Act of the British Parliament labelled The British North America Act, the federal government was given responsibility for Indians and Indian lands. Starvation was reduced considerably, however, malnutrition ran rampant up until the 1940s - the remaining population was somewhere around 1500 - to 2000. Finally, after 1946, vastly improved health care and better food supplies provided by the Feds stabilized the population and it started to increase. As a result, today there are somewhere around 25,000 Mi'kmaq. If proper assistance had been provided by the British Colonial Government after 1761, and by the Canadian government after 1867, the population of the Mi'kmaq today might well be half million or more.

In view of the before-mentioned, it would be only proper if all the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas put off any future celebrations with the English Crown, and other European governmental and social institutions, until such time as the Queen, or one of her successors, and other European leaders, come to the Americas and make full and open apologies to us for the horrors that their colonial ancestors inflicted upon our ancestors and their descendants!

Click to read about American Indian Genocide

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DANIEL N. PAUL

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