Highlights of a symposium which took place at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University (November 4-5, 2013): “Maroon and Mikmaq: An International Indigenous Exchange.”
“Maroon and Mi’kmaq” brought several prestigious speakers (Chief Misel Joe, Colonel Frank Lumsden and Dr. Afua Cooper) to Grenfell Campus, Memorial University, to participate in a symposium about Indigenous issues.
“Documenting Presence” boasts highlights of this important meeting and suggests the worth in considering future similar exchanges.
CORNER BROOK — There is much people today can take away from the history of the Maroons of Jamaica and their revolt against slavery, says Afua Cooper.
The Jamaican-born Canadian historian and author is in Corner Brook to participate in the Maroon and Mi’kmaq: An International Exchange being held at Grenfell Campus.
The Maroons — indigenous people of Jamaica, who originally would have been escaped slaves of Africa themselves, according to Cooper — offered and created freedom for the black slaves in isolated settlements throughout the island British nation.
They fought the British army and won time and time again, despite the obvious power of the opposition.
The associate professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, N.S. said the David and Goliath-like story is a lesson that transcends time and carries relevance across issues.
“If we have oppression in our lives, there are alternatives, that there is always a way out,” she said Tuesday prior to her presentation “The Jamaican Maroons in the 18th-Century TransAtlantic Struggle for Black Liberation” at the symposium.
“It might mean joining with other folks, collaborating with other folks. There is no short of oppressions in the world today. There is a way out, and one needs not suffer in silence.”
However, there is also a pertinence between Jamaica and Canada that goes beyond the history of Maroons settling in Nova Scotia.
As an independent country, there remain issues concerning Maroon lands. Governments and industry are encroaching upon lands traditionally associated with the Maroons, according to Cooper, for exploration of minerals and harvesting or researching flora for medicinal purposes.
“There is a conflict and a standoff, and people pointing to the treaty signed in 1739,” she said.
“The people say, ‘This treaty still stands. You do not own this land. You cannot be encoaching upon our land.
“As I see the new developments, I say the past is still with us, the past is not dead — especially in this era of globalization where companies and corporations want to patent and own every plant, every stone, every jug of water on the planet.”
It is another issue pertinent to Canada, with aboriginal groups fighting to proclaim land ownership or opposing organizations, such as oil and gas companies, looking to profit.
The second evening of the two-day symposium concluded at Grenfell Tuesday. The Mi’kmaq Drumming Group joined Cooper, Col. Frank Lumsden of the Charles Town Maroons, and Chief Mi’sel Joe of the Conne River First Nation in giving presentations.
CORNER BROOK — The colonel of the Charles Town Maroons says building a relationship between indigenous populations worlds apart could prove mutually beneficial for all.
Col. James Lumsden is a guest speaker at the Maroon and Mi’kmaq: An International Indigenous Exchange being held in Corner Brook at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland.
He said the Maroons in Jamaica are working towards obtaining land rights claims similar to the First Nations people of Newfoundland and Labrador.
“My coming here, perhaps in time, we could be a community of like-interests, so we could shine the collective spotlight on any one particular situation to foster change,” Lumsden said Monday afternoon prior to the start of the symposium that opened later Monday evening.
The “chief” spoke about Art as an Expression of Culture on Monday evening. He will again give a presentation tonight on the Windward Maroons: Then and Now.
Lumsden said there is a need to “rescue ourselves” from the dangers of profit over environmental issues in today’s society — if it is not already too late, he added.
“If we do not go back to the values of the past, the values of our ancestors, than you are going to have a long, hard journey into the future in search of values of the past,” he said.
Meanwhile, Stephanie McKenzie of Grenfell Campus and Lumsden first met on a hike to the Orangeville cocoa plantation ruins on Blue Mountains in Jamaica. She also attended the International Maroon Conference earlier this year. In Lumsden, she said she found a similar person as Chief Mi’sel Joe of the Conne River First Nation.
McKenzie believes there is a basis for significant learning in considering the indigenous issues in Jamaica and Newfoundland together.
“One of the incredible things I see, when I take a look at Jamaica and Newfoundland, is the extent to which the talent in the arts is so comparable,” she said. “Our island communities have fostered systems of barter, which make the arts considerably strong.
“I see the arts as the most sustainable and precious resource we have that is not environmentally damaging. If it were properly harnessed in both places, it has such potential for positive change and growth.”
The symposium continues this evening at Grenfell beginning at 7 p.m. in room AS2026. Afua Cooper of Dalhousie University and Chief Mi’sel Joe will also join Lumsden.