By the Rev. Kenn Stright, a retired Presbyterian minister in Musquodoboit Harbour, N.S.

I have to ask myself, why I am concerned with Indigenous rights and especially the latest effort to establish a moderate livelihood fishery in Saulnierville, Nova Scotia, by the Sipekne’katik First Nation? Simply put, it is because of where my feet are. I stand on the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people with whom I am bound by Peace and Friendship Treaties. In Nova Scotia—where the current conflict over lobster fishing is unfolding—representatives of the British Crown entered into Peace and Friendship Treaties in the 1700s directly with Indigenous peoples on a nation-to-nation basis. These treaties affirm the rights of Indigenous peoples. The treaties established peace and commercial relations. They guaranteed hunting, fishing and land-use rights for Indigenous peoples and their heirs.

Treaty rights refer to the traditional, cultural, legal and economic activities of Indigenous peoples and have been affirmed by the highest courts in this country (for example, the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in the 1999 Marshall Decision).

My feet are on Treaty territory. As a citizen of this country, I am bound to these treaties and promise to uphold them. And it is that little word “promise” that is crucial to where I place my feet.

Protest photo, courtesy of the Rev. Kenn Stright.

Support for fishers protest photo, courtesy of the Rev. Kenn Stright.

I am a Christian and my feet are firmly planted in that religious tradition. As a Presbyterian, I know myself to be in Covenant with God through Jesus Christ. A covenant (Jeremiah 31:33 says, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people”) holds both promise and obligation. As a person under covenant, I am bound by its terms. The prophet Micah defined those terms succinctly:

“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).

Justice is a crucial part of covenant. It compels me to seek justice. As a person living in covenant and bound by treaty, I often find myself needing to take personal action even when it is uncomfortable and unpopular to do so.

I am also deeply committed to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and to the healing and reconciliation we all need in this partnership called Canada. As a Christian, one of the most cherished words in my vocabulary is reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5: 18-20). Maybe I just want to be a peacemaker (Matthew 5:9) or maybe a good neighbour (Matthew 19:19b).  All I know is that on September 26, a cool fall day, I found myself on the Halifax waterfront with hundreds of others—in the middle of a pandemic—in support of Indigenous fishers who have been facing intimidation, racism and violence as they seek to exercise their treaty rights to a moderate livelihood.

My feet, firmly planted in covenant and treaty, have often taken me to Sipekne’katik First Nation where my traditional elder warmly welcomes us to her land, to her home and to her sweat lodge. If more people planted their feet here for a day or two we might begin to experience reconciliation and find that justice flows (Amos 5:24) from this place and into the Bay of Fundy and into the hearts of Indigenous and non-Indigenous folk alike!

Learn more about Mi’kmaq fishing rights here