Last weekend I attended a ceremony to mark the return of ancient artifacts to Metepenagiag First Nation (formerly known as Red Bank). The artifacts, which are about 3,000 years old, were discovered on the shores of the Little South Miramichi River in the early 1970s by local historian Joe Augustine. Over the next few decades more than 50,000 items have been found and conserved in various provincial facilities across New Brunswick. Now, years later they are being repatriated to the Metepenagiag nation and the public was invited to take part in this event.
Although the Metepenagiag Heritage Park is located in my region, only a forty-minute drive, my husband and I left early to make sure we arrived on time to find a parking space and a good seat to watch the event. I expected a large crowd as the event was covered extensively in the media and an advert promoting the celebration was mailed to residents in the surrounding communities. However, very few people ventured out to celebrate the return of history.
The ceremony opened with a local singer, George Paul, singing O Canada in the Mi’kmaq language. It was an absolutely beautiful version of our national anthem. This was followed by an honor chant, speeches from government officials, band leaders, and finally the smudging and return of the artifacts. Then guests were invited to visit the main museum and park before the feast of traditional dishes prepared by indigenous chefs.
The museum is spacious, with carefully designed displays (photos below), highlighting the Mi’kmaq culture and its historical importance in the area. Additionally, it showcases the 3000 year habitation of the Oxbow site in Metepenagiag . The volunteers were enthusiastic, knowledgeable and very willing to share their culture.
Here is a photo of the food – not exactly my idea of a feast. I grew up eating Miramichi salmon, so I took a huge chunk, but it was raw and I couldn’t eat it. The seal flipper and sturgeon were pretty tasty, but the wild boar, under-cooked veal, seal stake, moose hamburger and dry bannock were not my cup of tea.
After eating we decided to hike the trail to the river. Parts of the trails are overgrown with vegetation and a lack of signposts leads to several dead ends, but the weather was pleasant so we attempted various routes until we made it to the river.
There was only one other hiker on the trails, but we saw a few people along the shores of the river. From here we decided to walk along a mud road along the river until we hit a dead end. I took a few photos and then we headed to the lodge before making our way to the main park area to head home.