It’s the day that First Nations people will select leaders to lead the Qalipu band, marking a major milestone in the recognition of what it is to be Mi’kmaq in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Sure, people have been elected to bands before. Ask anyone from the area who’s been a member of local band governance and it’s nothing new. They’ve even elected members to the Federation of Newfoundland Indians, or FNI to those more closely acquainted.
However, this is different. And by the public recognition, acceptance and profile the Qalipu has received — whether good, bad or indifferent — there’s a connectivity that we’ve seen through Qalipu that has not been witnessed before in this province.
The naysayers will point to the irrelevance of the event in their own lives, and ask, “Who cares?” They will say the significance of this event is limited to the 12,000 or so members of Qalipu and no one else. They are wrong.
The importance of having a first election goes well beyond the dedicated members who volunteered their names for this first election. And it certainly goes beyond the chief’s position — the only paid one in the election.
This is the recognition of ancestry. It’s a celebration of the past. Its symbolism carries a path to the future.
There are some people who want to “get their card” to try to abuse these overrated “benefits.” That’s sad, really, and not what this is about. But sadder still are those of us who are not members of Qalipu that, even to this day, throw around racial smears regarding the Mi’kmaq, or any of the other First Nations and aboriginal peoples in this country. This is where change is still needed.
This election may not attract the fanfare of its provincial, federal and municipal counterparts. And because the entire population is not “involved” that’s makes perfect sense. The lack of coverage of local media, save for The Western Star, is likely another dart in triggering a societal response of complacency. That’s fine too.
However, we have to keep in mind the significance of this election beyond the logistics of the election itself. And it will be an important day for the province, regardless of who will be heading the band.