What does it mean to be Mi’kmaq? That’s a question several Mi’kmaq Nova Scotians are hoping to explain, as they celebrate Heritage Day 2017.
As part of Canada’s 150th birthday, this year’s Heritage Day recognizes Mi’kmaq culture and people through activities and celebrations held across the province Monday and over the past weekend.
“One of the things that we have to understand is that the Mi’kmaq have been residing in this territory we call Mi’kma’ki for more than 150 years, and we’re celebrating the 150th anniversary, and one of the things that the Mi’kmaq really wanted to show is that we’ve been here for longer than that,” Nova Scotia Treaty Education lead Jamie Battiste told Global News Morning Monday.
“We also wanted to show our contributions to Nova Scotia, share a glimpse into who we are.”
Battiste said things like the Mi’kmaq heritage calendar — which features different annual celebrations and talks about the ingenuity of Mi’kmaq people — as well as events, have proven to make the culture more prominent in the province.
One of those events is a two-game Mi’kmaq Heritage Classic hockey tournament that took place in Membertou and Millbrook over the weekend, which Battiste says shows the Mi’kmaq contribution to Canada’s national game.
“The earliest records, of 1844, show Mi’kmaq playing an on-ice game,” he said.
The theme of this year’s tournament was “Bury the Hatchet,” and featured a show-down between the Mik’maq people and the government. Several government officials played, including Speaker of the House Geoff Regan and Transportation Minister and Glace Bay MLA, Geoff MacLellan.
Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq arm wrestling champion Trevor Sanipass also spoke Monday about the indigenous people’s historical influence in sport and community, while introducing a documentary in the works showcasing his sport.
When he isn’t arm wrestling, Sanipass uses social media to translate phrases from Mi’kmaq to English, in hopes of teaching more people about the language.
“I like to share our culture, especially the language is important, not just for our own people, but for other communities and cultures as well,” Sanipass said.
Sanipass said he sees this year’s decision to celebrate Heritage Day by recognizing Mi’kmaq people as a “revival of the traditional ways.”
“I find it more that people are embracing the spirituality back into their culture,” he said.
Sanipass said cultural practices like smudging ceremonies, which he said he hasn’t seen in the last 10 years, are being seen more frequently today in work places like his.
Another project in the works for Sanipass is the documentary Arm Nation, which features aboriginal arm wrestlers from across Canada and the struggles they face in their sport.
WATCH: Trevor Sanipass talks social media Mi’kmaq translations, arm wrestling documentary with Global News Morning
The documentary follows the athletes as they journey to different tournaments across the country, from Saskatchewan to Halifax, competing and showing off their heritage.
The documentary will consist of 13 22-minute shows and is expected to be aired on APTN in 2018.
Sanipass is also working to be the first Mi’kmaq elected to the Nova Scotia legislature, running as an NDP in the riding of Waverley-Fall River and Beaverbank.
Heritage Day in Nova Scotia highlights a different cultural icon or group each year. Heritage Day 2016 celebrated Nova Scotia journalist and politician Joseph Howe, and Heritage Day 2015 celebrated civil rights leader Viola Desmond.
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