The Sipekne’katik First Nation’s Mi’kmaw-regulated lobster fishery has faced tense and sometimes violent opposition by commercial fishery workers, but support from hundreds of Mi’kmaq and non-Indigenous allies is reaching fishers at the wharf where many anchor their boats.
At the federal wharf in Saulnierville, N.S. — which was the launch site of the fishery — Millie Augustine of Elsipogtog First Nation has had an inside view of the support the fishery has been receiving.
She’s been volunteering at the wharf, cooking for the fishers, their fellow community members and their non-Indigenous allies.
“I’m cooking for the people,” said Augustine, a former lawyer.
“They’re taking the stand for our treaty rights … doing their share, and I’m doing my share as well.”
Since the Sept. 17 launch of the fishery, hundreds of Mi’kmaq from across their ancestral territory of Mi’kma’ki, which encompasses most of the Atlantic region, have shown support for the community and its fishers through rallies, donations and by travelling to the wharf.
Augustine said the show of support and the work required to organize it, is a full-time job. She’s cooked meals with donated food for up to 80 people a day this week, and has seen about 60 donations of food and supplies arrive at the camp.
She’s been cooking mostly over a small fire pit in a tent structure bordered by lobster traps.
“There’s so many people showing up with food, I barely have time to cook, but that’s just how Mi’kmaw people are,” she said.
“We always fed our people. We’re one big family and we feed our family.”
The general mood since she’s been around has been “very, very positive,” Augustine said, adding it’s a result of near-constant support and donations from non-Indigenous communities in Nova Scotia.
Gate keepers ‘keep the peace’
Reaching across the dirt lot a few hundred metres from Augustine’s kitchen is a makeshift gate of lobster traps and nautical rope, attended by volunteers keeping track of visitors and deliveries.
Rosalyne Grant of Sipekne’katik First Nation said the gate is meant to keep track of information and determine if visitors could pose a risk to the Mi’kmaq.
“We ask them why they come here, what their purpose is, if they support us or they don’t,” she said.
“That’s it. [We] keep the peace.”
Grant, who has been captured in numerous livestreamed videos facing off with opposing fishers in the past week, said she’s at the wharf to defend her nation’s rights.
“I’m a strong believer in the 1752 treaty,” she said.
“That’s our l’nu [Indigenous] right, and I believe those boats out there and the men on them have the right to go fish.”
Lannie Porter, who is Wolastoqiw (Maliseet) from Woodstock First Nation, N.B, said she was prompted to come to Saulnierville when she saw livestreamed videos of what was taking place in the area.
“I couldn’t sit home. I had to be here,” Porter said.
“I came as soon as I could. I’m here to support our fishing rights and to support my brothers and my sisters and help out in any way that I can.”
It’s the second time Jesse Gould of Membertou First Nation in N.S. has travelled to volunteer at the site since the fishery launched.
“I got work at home, but I … told them I gotta come up here,” he said.
Like Porter, Gould said videos shared on social media pushed him to come to the wharf. He’s been on site nearly a week and has spent hours taking information from visitors.
“I’ve been standing here at the gate for a while. It’s needed,” he said.
“You gotta be prepared for anything.”