MILLBROOK, N.S. – A team of Mi’kmaq chiefs and council members will play a two-game hockey series, one in Membertou and one in Truro, against staff from the Nova Scotia government to celebrate Heritage Day.
Everyone is welcome to attend the games, Saturday at the Membertou Sport and Wellness Centre, and Monday at the Rath Eastlink Community Centre.
Nova Scotia Heritage Day this year honours the contributions of the Mi’kmaq community and the games will highlight their contribution to the development of hockey in particular.
“The Mi’kmaq were among the founders of hockey itself, fundamentals of the game like the sticks were created by Mi’kmaq craftsmen,” says Chief Bob Gloade of the Millbrook band. “The Mi’kmaq were playing games with sticks and pucks on ice long before Europeans came here – and when Europeans started playing hockey they bought their sticks from the Mi’kmaq.”
A Mi’kmaw elder has hand-crafted three traditional hockey sticks for the upcoming games; one stick will be given to each rink to keep and the third stick will be awarded in Millbrook as a trophy to the winning team of the series.
Chief Leroy Denny of Eskasoni remembers his uncle making hockey sticks in the 1950s and 60s.
“I’m so happy to see this contribution acknowledged,” said Denny. “Like many communities we just love hockey. We have a lot of successful players, playing in semi-pro leagues, playing Major Junior, and we hold some wonderful tournaments in our community. These are great sources of camaraderie.”
[First Nations enjoy hockey success, April 2015]
The Heritage Day two-game series is called the The Mi’kmaq Heritage Hockey Classic – Bury the Hatchet.
Organizers selected the theme to honour a ceremony held in 1761 marking the end of 75 years of hostility between the Mi’kmaq and the British, and the beginning of a peaceful and friendly relationship between the two nations.
Denny thinks the game against the government officials will be a fun way to strengthen relations with the province.
“This is about reconciliation - there’s still a lot of work to do, we have a long way to go but our relationship with the government is ongoing. Sometimes we don’t agree with things but maybe we can settle it on the ice,” he says laughing. “It’s all fun, it’s a family event. We didn't have this in the past but we’re hoping we can keep doing this and I can’t wait to see how we do. I don’t think they can beat us.”
Both Denny and Gloade will be on the ice against the government and Denny says his council is made up of a lot of good hockey players.
“I’m proud of my council, we are a very healthy active group, we try to be good examples for our community,” he said.
Before the Truro game, Samqwan Boyz of Millbrook will sing the Mi’kmaq Honour Song and Kalolin Johnson of Eskasoni will perform O Canada.
Senator Dan Christmas of Membertou will drop the puck to start each game.
During the second intermission a group of Eskasoni high school musicians will perform a song, Gentle Warrior, in tribute to Mi’kmaw poet Rita Joe.
Both teams will take part in an on-ice round dance at the start of the third period as a show of peace, friendship and reconciliation.
A free-skate with the teams will follow each game and the first 100 people through the doors will receive a commemorative t-shirt.
Mi’kmaq artist Alan Syliboy has created a logo incorporating the Thundermaker to for the jerseys of both the Mi’kmaq and Nova Scotia teams.
A Mi’kmaq youth artist has also created beaded artwork on a vintage pair of hockey gloves to be donated to the Membertou Heritage Park and Millbrook Cultural Centre.
Traditional Mid-winter Feast
Both games will be followed by a traditional mid-winter feast open to everyone. The feasts will also feature the launch of the Mi’kmaq Ancestry Calendar.
WHEN AND WHERE?
The Mi’kmaq Heritage Hockey Classic – Bury the Hatchet
Game One - Saturday, Feb. 18
At the Membertou Sport and Wellness Centre at 3 p.m.
Feast at Membertou Trade and Convention Centre, 50 Maillard St. at 6 p.m.
Game Two – Monday, Feb. 20
At the Rath Eastlink Community Centre in Truro at 10 a.m.
Feast at Millbrook Community Hall, 70 Church St. at 1:30 p.m.