Sipekne’katik First Nation belongs to the wider Mi’kmaq nation known as Mi’kma’ki that stretches from the Canadian Maritimes to the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec. Today there are Mi’kmaq people that also live in Newfoundland and in Maine, USA. There is a total population of about 40,000 Mi’kmaq people that live nationwide.
Historically members of the Mi’kmaq nation referred to themselves as L’nu, and to other people as Nikmaq, meaning my kin, as a form of greeting. Speaking Mi’kmaq language is of great importance to continuing our culture and way of life. Sipekne’katik changed the name of the community from the given settler name ‘Indian Brook’ to the traditional name Sipekne’katik in late 2013, which means “where the wild potatoes grow” (Chief Rufus Copage, 2014).
Sipekne’katik was officially founded in 1820 as a parcel of land established as a reserve and was given the name ‘Indian Brook’. Mi’kmaq oral history reports that this area may have been used for century’s prior as a sacred site to prepare for ceremonies and to prepare for hunting and fishing trips.
The history of Sipekne’katik also traces back to a darker time in Canada’s colonial history. In 1699, Father Rale, among other settlers, colonizers, missionaries began to force the entire Mi’kmaq population on the peninsular NS into one settlement near Sipekne’katik/Shubencadie, NS. The land of Sipekne’katik was primarily used as a site for mission work between the years 1700- 1820. The Canadian Government’s centralization plan gained momentum in the 1900’s with the continued forced relocation of Mi’kmaq people to one area in mainland Nova Scotia around Sipekne’katik/Shubencadie. This resulted in a large number of Mi’kmaq people relocating to live in the community of Sipekne’katik, and in fact there is still a large community of people in Sipekne’katik today.
Shubencadie Residential School was located near Sipekne’katik First Nation and was in operation from Feb. 5, 1930, until June 26, 1966, during which time approximately 1000 Mi’kmaq children attended the school (Cape Breton University, 2016). Survivors still reside in our community today, some of whom have contributed their stories to the Mi’kmawey Debert Cultural Centre IRS (Indian Residential School) Legacy Project. The IRS Legacy Project is a project of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that began in 2013, dedicated to sharing Shubenacadie Indian Residential School survivor’s stories. Sipekne’katik First Nation is proud to be part of this ongoing project that honours the lives of survivors and their families through the sharing of their stories.
The results of Father Le Loutre’s War led to the negotiations between Mi’kmaq people, Jean Baptiste Cope and the Canadian government which led to the signing of the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1752. The Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1752 was signed in Shubencadie/Sipekne’katik district on November 22, 1752 in Halifax by Jean Baptiste Cope and representatives for His Majesty The King (Government of Canada). The Treaty signing of 1752 is honoured with what is known as Treaty day on October 1st and was upheld in Supreme Court of Canada until 1985 (Union of Nova Scotia Indians, 2015). Please see 1752 Peace and Friendship Treaty document for further reading!
Influential people who are from Sipekne’katik
Anna Mae Aquash (Pictou) (1945-1975) was born in Sipekne’katik First Nation and became a well-known First Nations activist. She moved to Boston in the 1960’s to join the American Indian Movement (AIM) to fight for Indigenous resistance and education. She was part of several key demonstrations including the Thanksgiving Day 1970 Mayflower II disruption and the 1972- Trial of Broken Treaties.
Jean Baptiste Cope (Major Cope) (1698- 1758-1760) Cope or kopit in Mi’kmaq means beaver, and this name was thought to have been given to Jean Baptiste by the French army. Jean Baptiste Cope was a key figure in Father Rale’s War, King Williams War, and Father Le Loutre’s War. He was a Mi’kmaq Chief, negotiator, and worked to achieve peace for the Mi’kmaq people at Shubencadie/Sipekne’katik. Cope signed the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1752. A monument was built in Sipekne’katik First Nation in 2002 to honour Jean Baptiste Cope and the 1752 Peace and Friendship Treaty signing
Today, Sipekne’katik First Nation is a resilient, welcoming community, that continues to honor our histories, practice traditional ways of being, knowing, and living, while continuously working to support the health and wellness of our peoples, for generations to come. Sipekne’katik First Nation welcomes you to learn more about Mi’kmaq people and culture, and to visit our beautiful community, where you can learn about Mi’kmaq language, share in our traditions, and way of life.