New Brunswick

Bouctouche celebrates Mi'kmaq with new crosswalk

A new crosswalk celebrating M’ikmaq culture and community was painted by the Town of Bouctouche this week.

Members of Indigenous community welcome 'unbelievable' gesture

The Town of Bouctouche painted the traditional colours of the Mi'kmaq medicine wheel on Irving Boulevard earlier this week.,

A new crosswalk celebrating M'ikmaq culture and community was painted by the Town of Bouctouche this week.

The traditional colours of the sacred Mi'kmaq medicine wheel — white, yellow, red and black — now stretch across Irving Boulevard road en route to the Bouctouche Indian Reserve.

"This is just unbelievable," Matthew Sanipass, head of forestry for the Buctouche MicMac Band said.

Matthew Sanipass, head of forestry for the Buctouche MicMac Band, says he's overjoyed the town went for his idea of an Indigenous-inspired crosswalk. (CBC News/Olivia Chandler)

"I was driving down the road and I just yelled, 'Oh my god.'"

Sanipass said he's never seen an Indigenous-inspired crosswalk before and believes it's the first of its kind.

He said the community is very proud and overjoyed about the crosswalk.

"It would be awesome if we were the first in Canada to do it."

A unifying step

He said it is a step in the right direction at unifying communities.

"I truly believe, Eastern Canada, you can't mention the Acadian history without mentioning the Mi'kmaq history."

Bouctouche has painted two crosswalks that represent the LGBTQ community and two crosswalks that represent the Acadian flags, including one on the way to  Pays de la Sagouine.

LGBTQ crosswalks have been appearing across the province.

Sanipass said after he and his girlfriend, Ashley Daigle, were reading about some of the LGBTQ diversity crosswalks on Facebook, he thought how nice it would be if their municipality could do something to represent the local Mi'kmaq community.

Daigle took his comments literally and reached out to Pauline Hébert, Bouctouche's deputy mayor, who was on board with the idea.  

Pauline Hébert, deputy mayor of Boutouche, says she's never seen an Indigenous-inspired crosswalk before. (CBC News/Olivia Chandler)

Hébert said she asked local council and the band's chief if it would be OK.

"I felt this was a great way to include them into our community"

Hébert said the Mi'kmaq people were crucial in the survival of Acadian communities.

"Without them we would never have survived, way back, if you look at the history," Hébert said. "They were there to help us and show us how to survive."

Hébert said she wanted Bouctouche to be more inclusive for all its connected communities.

"We don't have that many opportunities to repay them for everything they have done for us," she said. "This was a small gesture."

A tool to educate

For Sanipass, the crosswalk is a huge step forward in positive relationships between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.

"These symbols aren't just Mi'kmaq symbols, they are everybody's symbols," he said.

For the Bouctouche Mik'maq community, Sanipass said, the wheel represents its spirituality and its four sacred medicines: tobacco, cedar, sweetgrass and sage.

"Those colours are pretty much universal" he said. "What we see them as, they represent our forefathers, our grandfathers, our ancestors."

Both Sanipass and Hébert hope the crosswalk will ignite useful conversations about the cultures of different local communities.

"So much history that a lot of people forget — it's just nice that we can start somewhere."

Sanipass said it's a good reminder for everyone that Indigenous communities have been here for far more than the 150 years since Canadian Confederation.

Local reaction

Hébert said community response has been positive, but not everyone immediately understood what the colours represent.  

The crosswalk is in front of the Blacquière home, where members of the family said they are happy with the change.

"I find it's pretty," Rachel Blacquière said. "I love how they're doing it for all the communities.

Big props and big ups to the Town of Bouctouche. This is truly amazing.- Matthew Sanipass

"I really love how they're combining everything, all the communities coming together, cause that's what's it's really about."

Devita Blacquière echoed the sentiment.

"Everywhere they should have things like that to remind people. It was nice of them to do that."

"Big props and big ups to the Town of Bouctouche, this is truly amazing,"  Sanipass said. "I hope we can all share in this joy."

Hébert hopes more municipalities follow suit.

"I hope it would encourage others to recognize the Mi'kmaq for what they've done," she said.