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Joseph Paul - 1866

After the colonial government of 1842 made an effort to curb the starvation that was then running rampant among the Mi’kmaq by passing “An Act to Provide for the Permanent Settlement of the Indians,” succeeding colonial government officials religiously undertook efforts to exterminate the Mi’kmaq by assimilation.

One of the methods they used in attempts to realize their goal was to make grants of lands by long-term lease to individual Mi'kmaq, who, of course, they deemed to be sober and industrious Indians. This questionable generosity was provided in a humiliating way. The following is a typical example: Samuel Fairbanks, Nova Scotia Indian Commissioner, reluctantly presented a petition dated November 9, 1866, on behalf of Joseph Paul, my great-grandfather, to the Governor for consideration:

Petitions-Joseph Paul-Indian
“The petitioner resides at Quoddy-to the Eastward of Halifax. He is represented to be a sober and industrious Indian and has built a house on the Island applied for. He asks for a long lease of the Island as well as an addition of one hundred acres.”

Fairbanks listed many reasons why the land should not be granted. In spite of it, the Governor, in what must have been one of his better moments, replied: "Let the petitioner have the lease!" Incredibly, the term of the lease is one thousand years!

The fact that my great-grandfather had to endure the humiliation of being declared a "sober and industrious Indian" before he could acquire a plot of land still riles me. Only those who have experienced this kind of patronizing racist treatment can fully appreciate how degrading the experience is! Photo, sometime between 1875 and 1890

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