On March 8, in partnership with the Federal and PEI Provincial governments, the Mi’kmaq community of Lennox Island First Nation will launch an epic and historic Reconciliation event, The Ice Walk.
The Ice Walk will consist of a walk across the frozen path between Port Hill and Lennox Island by those who wish to unite in solidarity with the Mi’kmaq people, and acknowledge the actions of their ancestors or the entities they represent, who were responsible for many of the horrors faced by the first people of this land (Residential schools, Day schools, The 60’s Scoop).
In attendance will be Premier Dennis King, local dignitaries, clergy, law enforcement, government officials and the Mi’kmaq community.
The walk will be followed by traditional teachings and cultural ceremonies, including a Forgiveness Ceremony. The purpose is to not only bring awareness and understanding to the history and realities of the Mi’kmaq on PEI, but also to many other Indigenous communities across the country where ice roads are still active, and lives continue to be lost as a result.
“Beneath the Path of Crows,” a song written by three Indigenous and three non-Indigenous writers, will be released to radio in conjunction with The Ice Walk event, and will be used to raise money for Indigenous youth empowerment initiatives. The song was requested by the Mi’kmaq community on PEI to be written about them. It was performed live on CBC’s The Story and The Song featuring NS Hip Hop artist Shift from tha 902.
There is a six-part docuseries being made about The Ice Walk to highlight the stories of Mi’kmaq Elders and their experiences. This series will be led by Mi’kmaq Director Eliza Knockwood.
The event will be live streamed in classrooms across the nation and be available for viewing all over the world. A silent vigil is being planned for the estimated 20 minutes it will take to cross the ice. The live stream will be available via The Ice Walk YouTube channel and Facebook page.
Order of events: All walkers, security and crew meet at both launch and landing sites (12:30–12:45 pm); Ceremony at Port Hill (1 pm); Walk and silent vigil (1:15 pm); Arrive to ceremonial welcome at Lennox (1:45 pm); Procession into school 2 pm; Forgiveness Ceremony (2:30 pm); Speeches, presentations and performances (3:30 pm); Feast (4:30–5 pm).
During the 19th century, the loss of land and natural resources significantly undermined the economic security, sociocultural cohesion and human dignity of the Mi’kmaq on PEI. Members were segregated from the rest of the (settler) population and forced onto a reserve called Lennox Island, a small island off the coast of PEI, that was traditionally used as a summer residence for the Mi’kmaq people. It was only in the 1940s that a fishing boat began to serve as a public ferry from Lennox Island to Port Hill.
However, during the winter months, members were still forced to risk (or even lose) their lives crossing the ice to purchase basic goods and access services. The construction of a causeway in 1973 mitigated these hardships by ensuring transportation and access was available all year long. It furthermore put a physical and symbolic end to a long process of segregation and isolation.
Today, there are over 400 members that live in Lennox Island while thousands trace their roots to the area.