In 1993, the First Nations of the Wabanaki Confederacy—the Mi’kmaq, the Maliseet, Abenaki, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot, located on both sides of the US-Canadian border— joined together to formally renew their historic alliance for the first time since it was forcibly disbanded by the British in 1862. The gathering—occurring three years after the Oka Crisis, during an upswing of grassroots support for Indigenous self-determination—represented a new political beginning for member Nations long governed by the Indian Act.
“We have to get back at the table and assert our ancestral jurisdiction because our roots go back further than the Indian Act system,” Hereditary Chief Gary Metallic Sr. of the Listuguj District of told APTN in 2014. “Our roots go right back into the ground since time immemorial.”
The Council Fire was lit in 1993 and embers have been kept burning since that time, as the Wabanaki Confederacy has supported its member Nations in a variety of political causes in both the US and Canada. Principal among them have been land claims: the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet First Nations, for example, never ceded their land to Canada, and contend they retain title over them.
Environmental issues have remained strongly related to land sovereignty for the Wabanaki Confederacy. In 2013, when the Mi’kmaw Elsipogtog First Nation blockaded highways in protest of shale-gas exploration for fracking and formally evicted SWN Resources Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police moved on protesters, leading to skirmishes, dozens of arrests, and at least five police cars set on fire. The Wabanaki Confederacy were interveners in a subsequent lawsuit arguing the land does not belong to Canada, as the First Peoples of the region never gave it up.
The name Wabanaki is strongly associated—both historically, and in the 25 years since its reformation—with the political struggles undertaken by the Confederacy’s member nations. For that reason, Wabanaki people were recently surprised to discover that New Brunswick licensed producer Organigram offers an award-winning sativa strain named after them.
“I’d like to know how they went about putting that name on that product,” Hereditary Chief Metallic told Leafly. “Who did they speak to? Because of the different reasons out there, with Elders not exactly supporting this marijuana business—I’d ask them, ‘How did you go about putting the name ‘Wabanaki’ on marijuana?’ If they didn’t get permission or consult with anybody, I don’t think they should put it on there.”
In the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation, 200 kilometres to the west of Listuguj, Consultation Coordinator Russ Letica wondered the same thing.
“What consultation have they had to use that name?” he asked. “What road have they gone down? What is consultation to this company? I work in consultation when it comes to First Nations, so I have a lot of questions when I hear something like this. Who is it you consulted on this subject? Give us a name!”….
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