For centuries the Mi’kmaq people of Newfoundland have been hiding in the shadows, afraid to admit their heritage for fear of reprisal and defamation. Dating back to the 1600’s, long before the Europeans came to the island there were Mi’kmaq natives living on what is currently known as the province of Newfoundland.
In 1949 the Newfoundland government under Joey Smallwood’s guidance, wrongly advised the Canadian government that there were “no Indians on the island of Newfoundland”. This prevented our native Mi’kmaq people from properly receiving formal, legal recognition as First Nations people from the federal government. After Newfoundland joined Confederation, the Mi’kmaq people of this province tried for many years to gain recognition from the government of Canada and while some progress was made over time in small measures, the movement has been slow and arduous.
After the Federation of Newfoundland Indians (FNI) was established, negotiations with the federal government took place whereby both parties were eventually able to sign an agreement in principle (AIP) years later, and encourage all Mi’kmaq people to join the newly formed Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nations Band. Applicants required affidavits, proof of ancestry, documented ties to Newfoundland, as well as a number of other criteria for membership. This seemed like a great advancement for recognition that was long overdue.
Unfortunately, in late autumn of 2012 the Qalipu Band application process came to a standstill when the number of applications that were submitted exceeded expectations due to inaccurate forecasting on the part of the FNI and the federal government of Canada. With much work left undone over several months, the AIP was allowed to expire on March 21, 2013 before the processing of thousands of outstanding applications was complete. Neither further resources, nor extension was provided to finish the job they had started and to honor their commitments by processing all of the applications that were submitted in good faith. An estimated 70,000 applications were left unprocessed and put into storage indefinitely. Absolutely no meaningful information was provided regarding confirmation of receipt, nor at what stage applications were currently engaged within the enrollment process, if indeed applications were even opened and reviewed at all. Direct inquiries by applicants were generally evaded beyond general statements that the entire Qalipu enrollment process was on hold indefinitely.
As a direct result, the Mi’kmaq First Nations Assembly of Newfoundland Inc. (also known as “MFNAN”) was incorporated on May 23, 2013 as a newly formed group which originated initially as an advocacy group called the “Qalipu Watchdogs” in support of the many unprocessed applications awaiting acceptance to the Qalipu band. The formation of MFNAN was due to the stagnated enrollment and registration process that came to a standstill when the Qalipu Band and the federal government of Canada failed to extend their original AIP and process the outstanding applications under the existing criteria under which thousands of former applicants had already received status with the federal government as registered Indians. The formation of MFNAN as an incorporated body stems from the lack of support provided for all the Mi’kmaq people of Newfoundland.
Additionally, snippets of information from both the Band and the federal government have suggested that major, sweeping changes are predicted and inevitable for the original AIP which could very well affect thousands of existing status band members as well. As an incorporated body, we will be advocates for fair and equal treatment of all Newfoundland Mi’kmaq first nation people and steadfastly be ready to take legal action, if necessary, against those who obstruct justice and fair treatment for MFNAN members.
With the recent Qalipu application process completely stalled as a result of both the Qalipu Band and the Federal Government’s inaction, we felt that the best way to move forward was to create a new incorporated body to support all of our people through advocacy and the teaching of Mi’kmaq-Newfoundland history while promoting our culture and customs so that they thrive and are available to pass onto future generations.
We invite and encourage all Newfoundland Mi’kmaq people, regardless of your current place of residence, to join with us on the newly established MFNAN. Pjila’si! (Welcome)