New Brunswick

Ancient Mi'gmaq foot path gets a facelift

Pabineau First Nation used the Nepisiguit Mi’gmaq Trail for hunting and trade 5,000 years ago. The footpath still exists, and runs 133 kilometres from Bathurst to Mount Carleton.

Revitalization of 5000-year-old trail a joint effort between Pabineau First Nation and trail committee

Pabineau First Nation used the Nepisiguit Mi'gmaq Trail  for hunting and trade 5,000 years ago. The footpath still exists and runs 133 kilometres from Bathurst to Mount Carleton. 

Danis Comeau, a member of a recently formed revitalization committee, hiked the entire trail in June. He covered approximately 20 kilometres each day.

"After a lot of consideration and planning and help from the committee and their expertise, I decided to start on June 19 and I allowed myself about 12 days."

While much of the trail was passable, Comeau says it was hard going in several spots where the path was unmarked and had become overgrown.

Partnership with First Nation

An initiative by the Pabineau First Nation in 1985 flagged and cleared the route from Pabineau Falls to Mount Carleton, but the accessibility was short-lived.

"They had done a fairly large section of the trail and in 1997 from Gloucester Junction to Middle Landing, they inaugurated that part, made pamphlets and established viewpoints and locales and stuff like that," says Comeau.

"Since then, it's the same as any kind of project. When a local government falls, those projects fall with them. That's what happened with this project."

Comeau's group is working with two employees of Pabineau First Nation to get the project back on its feet, and eventually clear the entire trail for hiking and camping.

Blessing from an elder 

Before setting out on his journey, Danis Comeau consulted with Gilbert Sewell, a Pabineau elder and historian.

"He gave me a blessing before leaving and he asked me to bring some tobacco with me to thank the river and thank the elders and thank the nature helping me through my journey," says Comeau.

Sewell grew up hunting and fishing on the trail and the river it crosses.

"When the water goes down and it flushes up, it's called 'win', or turbulence. But 'win' can also mean evil. That's why, when I go to the river, I pray to the river. I ask the river not to take my life." 

Sewell says he knows many people who have drowned in the Nepisiguit River, and that this initiative could make the trail a safer place, and more accessible to ecotourists.

"It's for the public, it's for safety also in case someone gets lost, but it's also good for view, and camera-buffs. You'll get beautiful shots up there, especially of the falls, and the river itself," says Sewell. 

Danis Comeau says his goal was to take in the views, and change his perspective. 

"I wanted to experience nature in a different way, and of course it was a physical task," he says.

"What I get from it is maybe a little more modesty towards what the river offers, and the challenges it can occur."

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