Tag Archives: FNI

Glenwood Tannery

37 years ago this month, the Mi’kmaq band council in the central Newfoundland town of Glenwood began operating a smoke tannery. A Gander Beacon article about the official opening is transcribed below. It was published on Oct. 5, 1983 on pages 1 and 6. Neither the writer nor photographer are named. Tap images to enlarge.

Glenwood Tannery Gander Beacon 1983-pA1

Indian Band Council officially opens tannery

The Glenwood Indian Band Council held the official opening of their Traditional Smoke Tannery last week and is proud of the fact that it is the only one of its kind in the whole world.

cutting-rawhide-1983Among the special guests attending the ceremonies were Mrs. Hazel Newhook, MHA for Gander; Calvin White, president of the Federation of Newfoundland Indians; and Bob Stares, manager of Canadian Employment Immigration Commission (CEIC) at Gander.

Mrs. Newhook cut the rawhide strip which was used instead of the traditional ribbon to officially open the facilities. She was assisted by Larry Jeddore, chief of the Glenwood Indian Band Council, and Bob Stares, manager of CEIC. Despite the wet weather conditions at the time, everyone enjoyed the tour of the tannery, especially watching the employees dehair moose hide in preparation for tanning. The smoke house was in operation at the time and a display of handcrafted products were on display so the guests could see first-hand the type of items that will be possible from tanned moose and caribou hide.

smoke house 1983
“Smoke house in operation”

After a tour of the facilities guests were treated to a luncheon-style buffet, including cold roast moose meat, turkey, salads and desserts, which was prepared by the women of the Indian Band Council.

Hazel Newhook

Mrs. Newhook was the guest speaker at the luncheon and congratulated the Band Council on their success of such a unique venture also in securing government funding through CEIC for buildings, equipment and training purposes. She said the provincial government helped in a small way through the Department of Culture, Recreation and Youth by collecting moose and caribou hides from all across the province and making them available to the tannery free of cost. She also expressed a desire to obtain a couple of leather products that she is interested in, and says she looks forward to being able to purchase those in future from the tannery. In her closing remarks she explained that the key to the success of the industry would be in marketing the finished product and wished the Indian Band Council best wishes in their plans for expansion to include a craft shop.

moose-hides

Calvin White

calvin-white-1983Mr. Calvin White, president of the Federation of Newfoundland Indians, added humor to the celebrations when his remarks included a joke which involved Chief Larry Jeddore. On a more sober note he congratulated the Band Council on their success thus far explaining this was a historic occasion but as such was not unique to the Micmac Indians of Newfoundland. He went on to explain that Buchans mines and the town itself was founded by a Micmac Indian, M. Mitchell. In elaborating on the contribution of the Micmac Indians to the province of Newfoundland, Mr. White said every able-bodied Micmac in the province offered themselves in service for their country during World War I, and those who were too old for service during the Second World War saw their sons follow suit. He also commented on the role the Micmacs played in the forest industry when conditions in the woods were so bad that the white men refused to work, he said, “burnt beans and sour bologna didn’t daunt the Micmac, because he loved the forest…, it was his home!”

dehairing-moose-hideMr. White also said that this new industry is crucial to the town of Glenwood right now, especially since Bowater has left the area in such a state. He said the Band Council will not leave the area to find work but will strive to promote this industry, and will make a contribution by staying here. However, says Mr. White, the viability of this operation is in jeopardy unless the provincial and federal governments support the Indian people as they do the Newfoundland fishermen. He says they need a chance to prove what they’ve undertaken here, and they need to be encouraged to strengthen their communications while playing a leading role in the economy of this province.inside-tannery

Roger John

Roger John, representing the Atlantic Regional Indian Arts and Crafts Association, spoke briefly at the luncheon wishing the Indian Band Council good luck for their future success. He says, “It’s been a long time coming, but it’s here!” He explained that the next step would revolve around the retail end of the industry. He said this needs a serious look because “we’re taking the leading role by the fact that this has never been done before and we have no data base to draw information from. It will take six months to one year to work out a production system and already there are buyer offers from outside the province.” Saskatchewan has approached the council with an offer to buy 200,000 square feet of tanned leather, but, he says, revenue is necessary to make the whole thing a success and he hopes that funding agencies will recognize the potential of this project. He suggested that governments stand by the program for at least another year and help it develop the way it could.

guests-at-opening 1983

Bob Stares

Mr. Bob Stares, manager of CEIC in Gander, was the last speaker at the luncheon and he congratulated the Band Council on their efforts thus far and wished them every success in the future. He says he was glad to have shared in the venture and looks forward to watching them grow into a viable industry.Larry-Jeddore
Glenwood Tannery-Gander Beacon 1983-pA6

Jim John Tourism Ad

Jim John on the Gander River, a full page ad in MacLean’s magazine May 2, 1977 issue.

Jim John in MacLeans-2-May-1977-p43
Jim John, from Glenwood, in Newfoundland Tourism ad 1977 (tap for larger view)

From the Dept. of Tourism, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, it reads in part:

“The Original. Micmac Indian guide JIm John Jr., like his father before him, is a legend in his own time. He poles a Gander River boat, unique to this area of Newfoundland, in search of splendid salmon and the mighty moose.”

On MacLean’s website recently, I saw “free access to archives for a limited time”. A quick search and I found a Newfoundland tourism ad I’d wanted to see for many years.

Tony John had told me about the ad. But he didn’t have a copy, and neither did anyone else. But he remembered what it said, and the implications. And I remembered what he said. ‘The government calls Jim a ‘Micmac guide’. Then they tells us we’re not aboriginal.’

Irony in advertising

Tony was Jim John’s nephew. He also had been president of the Federation of Newfoundland Indians and chief of the Glenwood Mi’kmaq Band Council. So Tony well knew the irony of the ad in light of political reality.

Provincial governments argued against official recognition of Mi’kmaq in Newfoundland before and after the date of this ad. The province even commissioned a study to rebut the FNI and Conne River Band Council’s 1980 land claim statement to the federal government. Albert Jones’ Assessment and Analysis of the Micmac Land Claim in Newfoundland was released in 1982.

Despite provincial opposition, Conne River received status under the Indian Act in 1984 and became the Miawpukek reserve. A few years later, individuals closely related to living Miawpukek band members could apply for “off-reserve” status. Other families and communities, however, still had nothing until Qalipu, a landless Indian Act band, was created in 2008.

Johns of Glenwood

Jim John Sr. and his wife Helen Benoit were from Conne River. They settled in Glenwood in the early 1900s. Their children were Norah, Louis, Catherine, Gertrude, Gregory (Tony’s dad), Harry, Michael, Theresa, Philomena, Jim Jr., and Delphine.

I remember going on the Gander River with Jim and his cousins. He pointed out every landmark and every tricky bit of water. He knew them all. Jim knew the river like the back of his hand. All his siblings, especially Harry, did too.

Boats & Builders has more on Gander River boats. Dennis Bartels’ chapter in Native People, Native Land, written in the 1980s, gives a sense of the political times in Newfoundland (Amazon below). My Qalipu Band of the Mi’kmaq Nation looks back to those years.

Qalipu Band of the Mi’kmaq Nation

Monday it was announced: Mi’kmaq people of Central and Western Newfoundland are now members of the Qalipu band under the Indian Act.
Jim John and Dorothy, Gander River 1979 It’s been 39 years since they began politically organizing for that recognition. Hallelujah, and about time.

I’ve wondered if it actually would happen in my lifetime. I have spent my working life on and off involved in this process. I began in 1979 as a new graduate student at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Over the years, I’ve continued working for the Federation of Newfoundland Indians (FNI). The early enthusiasm I felt every time there was a hopeful word from Indian Affairs faded long ago. All we have to do is show x, y or z? Yep, sure thing. Sorry, heard that before.

No Indian Act at Confederation

I’ve never really understood the reluctance by Canada and Newfoundland to give people Qalipu St. George's, Newfoundland, view from the beachthe recognition and status to which they are entitled. It was a fluke (or trade-off) when Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949 that excluded the new province’s First Nations from status under Canada’s Indian Act. At the time, it would have limited their rights of citizenry. Status Indians did not have the vote and other rights taken for granted by most of us.

But the First Nations of Newfoundland and Labrador also did not have the benefits and recognition that inclusion in Indian and Northern Affairs legislation accorded. And, in 1949, a major overhaul of the Indian Act was already in process. In 1951 the most restrictive aspects of ‘wardship’ were removed from the Act.

In the early 1970s, Mi’kmaq in Newfoundland and Innu and Inuit in Labrador began working for the same rights and recognition as their kin in the Maritimes and Quebec had. Together in one association at first, they split into separate groups to pursue their Sign entering Miawpukek (Conne River) reserve, Newfoundlandobjectives in the best way for each of them. The FNI was born in 1972, representing all Mi’kmaq people of the island.

In the early 1980s the Baie d’Espoir community of Conne River split off. As a small predominantly Mi’kmaq community, they believed they’d have better luck on their own than working with a larger Mi’kmaq population spread across a wide area. And they did. It took direct action, like a government office occupation and a hunger strike, to do it. In 1984 the people of Conne River gained Indian Act status. Three years later, land around the village was designated as Miawpukek reserve.

FNI to Qalipu

Soon after, Indian Affairs allowed people with direct kinship to Miawpukek to apply for “off-reserve” status. That gave them individual rights like post-secondary Larry Jeddore with moose in Glenwood tannery 1983education and non-insured medical benefits. Of those eligible to apply, many did. However,  people like the late Glenwood chief Larry Jeddore did not. He had been born in Conne River of a chiefly family. He spoke the Mi’kmaq language. And he was one of the founders of the FNI. But he wanted to see all Mi’kmaq people of the island recognized. He didn’t live to see it but he fought hard for it.

FNI Larry Jeddore in Glenwood band office 1983Agreement in principle to register all Newfoundland Mi’kmaq as members of a landless band was reached in 2008. And finally the new band, Qalipu, exists. Without reserve lands, members receive only the benefits of “off-reserve status.” However, it is official recognition of what they have always known and kept alive: their ancestry, heritage and community as Mi’kmaq people.