December 30, 2008
Thousands of people in the province are rushing to prove their Mi'kmaq ancestry so they can join a landless band set to form in late 2009.
The Qalipu band is part of a agreement between the federal government and the Federation of Newfoundland Indians that would give its members, about 7,800, status under the Indian Act.
The agreement — a majority of FNI members voted in favour of it in March — would provide those who can prove their Mi'kmaq ancestry access to government services such as health and dental benefits, as well as funding for post-secondary education.
Unlike other aboriginal bands that fall under the Indian Act in Canada, members of the Qalipu Band will not be provided with land to form a reserve.
Stephenville resident Doreen Swyers has already collected thousands of records on her family history in order to join the new Qalipu band.
"Well, I got mostly everything now that I need — birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, pedigree chart, done up — I got it all, everything ready," she said.
Brendan Sheppard, president of the Federation of Newfoundland Indians, said people need to prove they have a direct relation to an ancestor who was registered with the government as Mi'kmaq in the 1945 census.
Sheppard said the FNI has hired staff to help people fill out their applications to join the band.
"Don't expect to walk into an office and be able to be serviced," Sheppard told CBC News on Tuesday.
"There's a huge number of people coming into those offices. Those with appointments obviously have to be dealt with. So I'm stressing very strongly that people should make contact with our community assistants — make an appointment," he said.
So far, about 2,000 people have applied to the FNI to become part of the new band.
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