Tag Archives: FNI

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.