HOW A HIGHWAY UNEARTHED A PEOPLE’S PAST AND BUILT A PATH TO THE FUTURE
“The Crossing” is a project of the Senior Seminar in Journalism at St. Thomas University that began in response to the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission directed at journalism programs in Canadian universities. The TRC recognized that professional journalists will play a key role in the process of reconciliation and called on universities to respond. Among the principles of truth and reconciliation articulated by the TRC are the following:
- All Canadians, as Treaty peoples, share responsibility for establishing and maintaining mutually respectful relationships.
- The perspectives and understandings of Aboriginal Elders and Traditional Knowledge Keepers of the ethics, concepts, and practices of reconciliation are vital to long-term reconciliation.
- Supporting Aboriginal peoples’ cultural revitalization and integrating Indigenous knowledge systems, oral histories, laws, protocols, and connections to the land into the reconciliation process are essential.
- Reconciliation requires sustained public education and dialogue, including youth engagement, about the history and legacy of res- idential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal rights, as well as the historical and contemporary contributions of Aboriginal peoples to Canadian society.
Our class project has been guided by these principles. Our first semester was spent exploring the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and searching for stories that would expand our understanding in particular of the Wolastoqiyik communities that surround the greater Fredericton region.
During the course of this exploration, we came across a document entitled “Wolastoqiyik Ajemseg: The People of the Beautiful River at Jemseg” and the story of the Jemseg River Crossing archaeological project in 1996. That story connected us to the story of the proposed Sisson Mine that is currently in the news.
At Jemseg River Crossing, New Brunswick archaeologists and Wolastoqiyik communities created a remarkable alliance that they hoped would guide future development projects. Together, they unearthed and documented thousands of years of history beside the river, rerouted a highway and inspired a new generation of young archaeologists. Two decades later, we are unearthing the story of that moment of reconciliation and some of the ancestral voices that were recorded at the time. We are also exploring how the promises of Jemseg inspired a grandmother, archaeologist and UNB professor to spend the winter living on the site of the proposed Sisson Mine. The project will be published on our class website seeitnow.news in April, 2018.