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Mi'kmaq leader Brendan Sheppard helped negotiate band status for the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Band. ((CBC))

Thousands of Mi'kmaq people on the Island of Newfoundland – who are not members of the Conne River Mi'kmaq Band – now have status under the federal Indian Act.

After decades of talks, the federal government officially recognized the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Band Monday.

Members of the band will have access to federal programs and services, but no land has been set aside for a reserve.

Chief Brendan Sheppard said there are thousands of Mi'kmaq who will now be able to claim their birthright.

A process has been established to determine who is eligible for band membership. It’s expected the band will have more than 20,000 members.

The Federation of Newfoundland Indians began seeking federal recognition more than 20 years ago.

Qalipu is the Mi'kmaq word for caribou.

The Conne River, or Miawpukek, first nation was established in 1987. It has about 800 members living on its reserve on the south coast of Newfoundland - close to 2,000 more members live off the reserve.