PAQ’TNKEK: First Nations and municipal leaders came together last week for a historic celebration of friendship.
A ceremony to mark the signing of a Friendship Accord between the Paq’tnkek Mi’kmaw Nation and the Municipality and the County of Antigonish took place at Welnek on May 5.
“It’s truly symbolic. It’s something that marks a relationship, a milestone in the history of our community and our surrounding communities, so I’m just so honoured to be part of this event,” said Paq’tnkek Chief Paul Prosper.
In 2016, Paq’tnkek and Antigonish County were selected as participants in the joint Community Economic Development Initiative (CEDI), supported by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and Cando. Over the past two years, representatives of both communities have worked on relationship building while attending workshops to learn about one another’s culture, history, governance and economic development priorities.
“It’s sort of putting all the pieces together and finding the right mix of what a friendship accord should look like,” said Antigonish County warden Owen McCarron. “It took some time, but we wanted to make sure we didn’t rush it, and we wanted to make sure it represented the two communities and how we sort of embody each other’s spirit, while recognizing and respecting the culture.”
Prosper is hopeful that the partnership will continue to grow stronger.
“What I anticipate will come from this is that we have established a relationship, a framework for collaboration where there are common values and principles that are shared between us,” said Prosper.
“It not only speaks to the nature of the relationship but also to specific initiatives that we intend to work on involving economic development, environmental stewardship, tourism, and other things in the future.”
Paq’tnkek and the Town and County of Antigonish plan to work together on a variety of initiatives including a joint solar project, and a regional economic development forum for First Nations and municipalities. McCarron said Paq’tnkek Mi’kmaw Nation and the County of Antigonish submitted a joint application to the national Smart Cities challenge last week.
“The first round of that application if we’re successful would mean a $250,000 pot of money that we could use to develop a bigger project,” said McCarron.
The communities have also been collaborating on the Paq’tnkek highway interchange project, which has occurred simultaneously with the CEDI initiative.
“The two are independent of each other, but the collaboration and the benefits of working together for both communities, we’re seeing examples of that starting to play out,” said McCarron.
The location for Saturday’s ceremony is a special place for the community of Paq’tnkek. The church on site has stood for approximately 150 years and is a place where Mi’kmaw come to celebrate St. Anne, the patron saint for the Mi’kmaw. Following the signing of the accord, Prosper and McCarron planted a black ash seedling on the site as a symbol of the growing relationship between the two communities.
“There is a lot of history here in terms of the relationship the community has initially through the church, the Catholic Church and then through Anku’kamkewey, the treaty relationship. It was an appropriate place to have this,” said Prosper.
The celebration was attended by members of the Paq’tnkek Band Council, councillors for Antigonish Town and County, representatives of FCM, and a number of other speakers. In his remarks, Warden McCarron paid tribute former Antigonish County Warden, the late Russell Boucher. Boucher was an early supporter of the CEDI project, which was brought to his attention by Rose Paul, director of economic development for Paq’tnkek.
“When Rose Paul made the initial application, Russell saw the benefit of that and brought it to our council,” said McCarron. “He was a true champion of it from the beginning and we’re proud to continue that in honour of Russell.”