After years of toil and wrangling, the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band has been officially created, giving thousands of Newfoundland Mi’kmaq membership as status Indians with access to provincial and federal benefits.
Qalipu, pronounced hal-lay-boo, is the Mi’kmaq word for caribou, according to the new band’s site.
"On behalf of the members of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band, I want to thank all the people who worked so hard in bringing our recognition process to reality," said Brendan Sheppard, chief of the new Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band, in a joint statement with Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (AAND) John Duncan. "Thousands of Mi’kmaq people are finally able to claim their birthright, and while we must not forget our history, we must look forward to the future and do the best we possibly can to develop the tremendous potential that exists among our people."
The creation marks the end of a years-long process that started in 1989, when the Federation of Newfoundland Indians (FNI), comprised of about 7,800 members from nine Mi’kmaq communities on the island, initiated an action in federal court to gain eligibility for registration under the Indian Act, according to background material released by AAND. This sparked a negotiation that concluded with an out-of-court settlement in 2006 and a final agreement that was ratified by the Canadian government and FNI members by 2008.
The creation of the band puts Newfoundland’s Mi’kmaq under the rubric of the Indian Act and replaces the piecemeal funding that was doled out from the 1950s to the 1980s, starting just after Newfoundland and Labrador joined the Confederation in 1949, the last province to do so. Since there was no agreement between the province and Canada over whether or how to apply the Indian Act system to the Mi’kmaq, it just didn’t happen, AAND said. Moreover, given that there were no reserve lands or federal treaties requiring reserve creation, the settlement and final agreement do not provide for any land.
A celebration will be held later in the fall, AAND and the FNI said. Read more about the negotiations and settlement at AAND.