New Brunswick

Passamaquoddy use new evidence in recognition fight

New Brunswick's Passamaquoddy are using new evidence to back up their pitch to Ottawa for official recognition as a First Nation.

New Brunswick's Passamaquoddy are using new evidence to back up their pitch to Ottawa for official recognition as a First Nation.

The Passamaquoddy has been denied First Nation status by the Canadian government despite repeated attempts. The Passamaquoddy also have two reserves on the Maine side of the border.

Micah Pawling, a researcher, has spent years tracking down documents about Passamaquoddy land claims in both the United States and Canada.

The professor at Bates College in Maine said there is ample evidence of at least three reserves set aside in New Brunswick's Charlotte County in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Pawling thinks much of the land was sold off while first nations were away hunting and fishing and then the documents lost.

"They were later dispossessed of these reserves. Native peoples were still engaged of seasonal mobility, so when people when were not living on the land itself, sometimes Indian commissioners encouraged the province to sell the land."

Pawling said the Passamaquoddy homeland extended up both sides of the St. Croix River as settlers began to take over their land.

As the settlers were creating their new communities, the Passamaquoddy sent written appeals to governments on both sides of the Canada-United States border.

"They did know in the 19th century that in order to maintain a sense of homeland they're going to have to work with two very different governments," Pawling said.

That information provided by Pawling will be used to reinforce the group’s ongoing fight for official recognition by the Canadian government.

"None of this was done with our consent, no consultation, as far as we're concerned this was stolen property, and this is what needs to be addressed," said Hugh Akagi, who is regarded as the chief of New Brunswick’s Passamaquoddy.

Akagi said he is thrilled with Pawling's research into the long-standing land claims and that there's now a solid paper trail showing the First Nation's continuous presence in New Brunswick.

"We've got historical records that place us all through this territory," he said.

An Ottawa research firm has now been enlisted to organize the documents for a new pitch to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.