By Wendy Elliott
Janette Peterson, the newly elected chief of the Annapolis Valley First Nation, said she will focus on young people and education in her two-year term.
Peterson was sworn in Dec. 19 by Don Julien, who is a commissioner of oaths representing the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq.
The ceremony at the band office began with smudging, prayer, an honour song and drumming provided by three young women, including one of Peterson’s granddaughters.
“We’re here for you,” she said including in her promise fellow band council members, brother Laurence Toney and niece Nastasya Kennedy.
Toney noted last week’s event was the first such swearing in ceremony at the reserve.
“We want to make this a better place to live,” he stated.
Kennedy, who is a substitute teacher, said she aims to help the reserve become an inclusive community “where there are no barriers and no one is left out.”
Peterson is considering a band meeting in the New Year to consider wages for the band council.
The 61-year-old grandmother is the first female chief since 1982 when the late Rita Smith of Bishopville completed a six-year run in office.
After running for the office three times,
Peterson replaces Brian Toney, who was chief since 1997.
Currently serving on the board of directors for the Native Women’s Association of Nova Scotia, Peterson has been involved in politics for four decades.
Ida MacLeod is the only Mi’kmaq-speaking native living on the reserve today. She enjoys visiting the daycare centre and teaching the children the words for various animals.
MacLeod attended the Shubenacadie Residential School long enough to lose her native language for a time.
“They beat it out of me,” she stated quietly.
A native of Whycogamah, MacLeod moved to the Cambridge reserve when she was 12 or 13.
She raised her six sons in Dartmouth. None of them speak Mi’kmaq, but MacLeod added she was careful to impress upon them the need to respect their elders.
Today, Annapolis Valley First Nation is struggling to regain its identity. More than 100 people live on the reserve, according to Laurence Toney, and about 200 live elsewhere.
Youth Nicki Lloyd, one of the drummers at the Dec. 19 ceremony, said Wanda Joudrey-Finigan of Bear River was teaching a class in drumming in the community. Lloyd said she is hopeful more classes on Mi’kmaw culture will be possible.
Did you know:
– The Annapolis Valley First Nation, known as Kampalijek, was established in 1880. About 34 acres of land was purchased by the province from Albert A. Webster in Cambridge.
– In the late 1940s, Indian Brook offered houses to a number of families from Annapolis Valley. This resulted in a large segment of the population moving and a breakdown in language and culture.
– Until 1950, the community was monitored by an Indian agent named Rice, who travelled from Indian Brook reserve to deliver ration certificates. The cheques allowed people to purchase food, according to an ethnography compiled by Mi’kmaw students through the Aboriginal LINKS program.
– In 1950, John Toney was elected chief and the first band council was created.
– In the summer of 1986 the Annapolis Valley reserve hosted more than 4,000 people at a successful Indian Summer Games.
– In 1997, the community held its first pow wow.