Indigenous

Indigenous people wanting to support Mi'kmaw fishermen in N.S. get creative

The dispute over a Mi'kmaw-regulated lobster fishery in Nova Scotia has caught the attention of Indigenous people across the country and many are getting creative with how they're lending support to the fishers.

'I just knew it was going to be a bit of an issue to get a lot of people out there'

Alexa Metallic has been going back and forth from Halifax to Saulnierville, N.S., site of Sipekne'katik First Nation's lobster fishery. She has been organizing fundraisers and using her social media pages to educate people on the situation. (Brodie Young)

The dispute over a Mi'kmaw-regulated lobster fishery in Nova Scotia has caught the attention of Indigenous people across the country and many are getting creative with how they're lending support to the fishers.

"It's really, really, really beautiful to see. And it makes the bad days good," said Alexa Metallic.

Metallic is Mi'kmaw from Listuguj, Que., and currently lives in Halifax. She has been helping to organize fundraisers for people involved in the Sipekne'katik First Nation's lobster fishery in Saulnierville, N.S.

This past weekend she put a call out for financial donations on her Facebook and Instagram pages.

"I was there initially when everything sort of started popping off, but I thought things would calm down. And then I saw a call out for more people to go out," said Metallic.

This is one of the first full pieces of quillwork that Jeanette Henry has created. It is made of porcupine quills and birchbark. (Jeanette Henry)

"For myself, it's a three-hour drive from Halifax… So I just knew it was going to be a bit of an issue to get a lot of people out there."

She was expecting a couple hundred dollars in donations and was surprised to get over $3,500. She put a good portion of it to covering people's gas money, and used the rest of it for supplies and to help the fishermen who have had their equipment vandalized.

"It just feels amazing to know that other people and not just L'nu [Indigenous] are wanting to honour the treaties and honour our rights," said Metallic.

Since the fishery began, she has been using her social media feeds to help educate people on the issue, and she co-produced a YouTube video called "All Eyes on Mi'kmaki."

Brodie Young and Jocelyn Mas'l also worked on the video that features interviews with Mi'kmaw fishermen.

Raffling off artwork and crafts

The pandemic has made it tougher for people to physically attend actions. But that isn't stopping people like Jeanette Henry from raising funds for her people.

The Mi'kmaw crafter is also from Listuguj, and since her community is outside of the Atlantic bubble, Nova Scotia's COVID-19 regulations restricting access to the province mean she cannot go to where the fishery is happening.

Jeanette Henry of Listuguj, Que., can't go help out at the wharf in Nova Scotia because of provincial COVID-19 travel restrictions. (Submitted by Jeanette Henry.)

Instead, she has donated one of her very first pieces of quillwork to be raffled off in support of the fishermen.

"[It's] something that I created before the whole pandemic started," said Henry.

"The design is something that represents the springtime, like open waters, new growth. But looking at it now, it could even represent our treaties, basically because it's our resources."

Henry said she has been inspired watching young Mi'kmaq like Metallic take on the roles of organizers and fundraisers.

"I knew I wanted to contribute, whether it be donating money. But Alexa, she is somebody who is actually from my community and I know she's out there in Nova Scotia being on site," said Henry. 

"So it's nice that I have that connection to her. [She is] giving me the opportunity to give back to her, who is then giving back to all the Mi'kmaki." 

In Yellowknife, another artist has been raising funds through a Facebook group called "Indigenous Artists Supporting Mi'ka'ki."

Gerri Sharpe, who is Inuk from Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, founded the group that asks artists, craftspeople and beaders to donate their work to be auctioned off and the funds distributed to people in Nova Scotia.

Gerri Sharpe is a grandmother who spends a lot of her extra time beading, crafting and sewing. She has shifted her fundraising efforts to help the Mi'kmaw fishers in Nova Scotia. (Legacy of Hope Foundation)

"The actual fight that they're doing is not new," said Sharpe, who has relatives living in Nova Scotia.

"[The support] is not just from the North. This is from all four corners of turtle island. This is from all four corners of everybody who has felt racism."

Sharpe originally set up the group to help raise funds for Black Lives Matter movement but has turned the efforts toward the Mi'kmaq nation.

"It takes everybody to stand up and say you should not be doing this. Not in today's times, in today's world. It is not enough to say 'I'm not racist,'" said Sharpe.

There are also plans this week for solidarity actions across Canada in cities like Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto and Winnipeg.

With files from Danielle d'Entremont

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lenard Monkman is Anishinaabe from Lake Manitoba First Nation, Treaty 2 territory. He has been an associate producer with CBC Indigenous since 2016. Follow him on Twitter: @Lenardmonkman1

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