14,000+ Years - The Wolastoqiyik celebrate and educate with a Longhouse in Fredericton

Mark D'Arcy
4 years ago

"Canada is like two grains of sand in an hourglass in the timeline," said Clanmother Alma Brooks of the Wolastoq Grand Council. "We are celebrating time immemorial and we are celebrating more than 14,000 years.  That is what we represent."

The Wolastoq Grand Council have constructed a Longhouse out of birch sapplings, cloth ties, and with cedar boughs on the floor.  It is located on the green beside the Wolastoq (the St. John River), across the street from the Provincial Legislature in downtown Fredericton.  It is just down the main street where Fredericton's CANADA150 events are taking place. 

The communal assembly of the Longhouse is a powerful testament to the traditions of the Wolastoqiyik.  The men harvest and put up the poles while the woman tie together all the poles with the coloured cloth.  "The women tie together all people. They keep our Nations together," explained Grand Chief Ron Tremblay.

In a video interview with CBC New Brunswick, Clanmother Alma Brooks explained why different-coloured cloths are used to tie together the Longhouse structure, "The significance of the colours represents basically everything in creation. The red is us. It is the blood of our ancestors. The green is for the trees, the grass, the medicine - all that lives in creation.  The lighter blue is the sky and then there will be a darker blue that represents the water which is the gift of life.  Nothing can live without water, nothing. And then the spirit path will be held together by yellow and white cloth."  The yellow represents the Grandfather Sun and Grandmother Moon.

(left to right, Mohawk Elder Kevin Deer from Kahnawake, Quebec and Grand Chief Ron Tremblay of the Wolastoq Grand Council)

Opening ceremonies were held on Friday with several government representatives and allies in attendance, including members of the Fredericton and Saint John chapters of the Council of Canadians, and Angela Giles, Atlantic regional organizer for the Council of Canadians.

The Longhouse represents their teaching lodge and their traditional form of government - the oldest know form of government.
Traditional government representatives were present for the opening ceremonies, including representatives from the Wolastoq Grand Council (Grand Chief Ron Tremblay), the Passamoquoddy Nation (Chief Hugh M. Akagi), and the Mohawk Nation (Elder Kevin Deer from Kahnawake in Quebec).

Grand Chief Ron Tremblay spoke of the reconciliation process and unity, "With the allies, such as the Peace and Friendship Alliance and the Council of Canadians, we can do this together."

Hugh Akagi, Chief of the Passamoquoddy Peoples, spoke of the importance of the Indigenous people to everyone here in Canada, "We are the connection to the land, the water, and the creatures." "It is time to put together a meaningful relationship that will last."

Alma Brooks stressed the importance of the pre-Confederation treaties called the Peace and Friendship treaties (1), "The original treaties were made between Nations. Bands are not nations, but are reserves formed under the Indian Act by the Federal Government. It is a misrepresentation to call them Nations. Our rights [as Wolastoqewiyik] are collective rights."



(Fredericton South MLA David Coon addresses the people gathered in the Longhouse, June 30, 2017)

All three levels of government were represented and spoke at the opening ceremony on Friday afternoon, June 30th.  This included MP Matt DeCourcey for Fredericton (Liberal), MLA David Coon for Fredericton South (Green), and Councillor Eric Price for the City of Fredericton. The Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick, Jocelyne Roy-Vienneau was also present and addressed the people.

MLA David Coon repeated the call by Alma Brooks that "Truth has to come before reconciliation." He stressed how important it is to have the Longhouse in such a visible location to the public, "More and more people are opening their hearts and minds to hear the truth."

(Clanmother Alma Brooks giving interview to APTN, June 30, 2017)

"We are here to celebrate the resiliency and resistance of the Wolastoqiyik," said Alma Brooks. "We have approached the government requesting that they show goodwill and restore the original name of the river, Wolastoq (the beautiful & bountiful river). That's who we are.  That river is our namesake.  We see this as a good place to begin the process of implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples."

MP Matt DeCourcey warmly acknowledged the gathering by saying it was an honour to be at the Longhouse "to celebrate along with you beside the beautiful Wolastoq river."

Links are here and here to CBC New Brunswick interviews about the name restoration to Wolastoq.  Historian Jason Hall from St. Thomas University points out, "It is interesting that if you look at a map of New Brunswick the main stream of river is St. John but most of the tributaries are still the Indigenous names or anglicized versions of the Indigenous names."

The Wolastoq Grand Council is requesting support letters for the name restoration from our Allies; as individuals, organizations, and/or Groups.  For more information, or to send letters, contact Alma Brooks almabrooks.26@outlook.com

Below is the agenda for the celebrations.  All the events are open to the public.  The open-air Blanket Exercise will take place on Sunday @ 1:00pm which will guide people through the compelling history of the Wolastoqiyik right up to the present.  

WOLASTOQEWI TIME IMMEMORIAL CELEBRATION
** LOCATION: Next the Beaverbrook Art Gallery **

*June 27th at 7pm - Measuring out the Longhouse
*June 28th at 10am – Construction of Longhouse
*June 29th at 10am - Construction of Longhouse
*June 30th at 1pm – Opening Ceremony
*July 1st at 1pm – Longhouse Teachings Guest Elder Kevin Deer
5pm - Supper
7pm - Wolastoqewi Chanters & Singers
*July 2nd at 1pm - Wolastoqey Blanket Exercise - History of Wolastokuk
4-5pm - Maggie Paul - Sharing of Songs
5–6:30pm - Supper
6:30 – 7:30pm Unity our Confederacy’s - Elder Kevin Deer of Kahnawake
*July 3rd at 1:00 – 5:00pm - Wolastoqewi Artists, Drummers & Chanters
Each Artist can share the stories of their Art, Songs & Chants

After July 3rd, the Longhouse will be disassembled and transported to Sisson Brook in support of the grandmothers taking part in ceremony to protect the land and water from the proposed tungsten- molybdenum open-pit mine. The Wolastoq Grand Council and their non-Indigenous allies (including the chapters of Council of Canadians here in New Brunswick) understand that the risk of a tailings pond spill into the headwaters of the Nashwaak River is simply too great, as demonstrated by the catastrophic Mount Polley spill in British Columbia back in 2014.

#UNDRIPInCanada   #FPICInCanada

NOTES:

(1)  PEACE AND FRIENDSHIP TREATIES

New Brunswick and Indigenous people in this province are bound by pre-Confederation treaties called the Peace and Friendship treaties.  We are all treaty people under these legally-binding documents.

Before Canada was created, Nation-to-Nation treaties were signed by the British crown and the Indigenous people living on large portions of Eastern North America.  The Peace and Friendship treaties were signed by Traditional Life Long Chiefs from the Eastern Waponahki (Wabanaki) Confederacy that includes Panuwapskewiyik (Penobscot), Aponahkewiyik (Abenaki), Peskotomuhkatiyik (Passamaquoddy), Mihkomak (Mi’kmaq) and Wolastoqewiyik (Maliseet). 

The importance of these pre-Confederation treaties cannot be overstated. No treaties have ever ceded land away from the Indigenous people of New Brunswick, and all current treaties are protected in Section 35 of our Canadian Constitution.