Susan Aglukark is no longer listed as an honourary patron of the Never Forgotten National Memorial Foundation, the group behind the controversial Mother Canada™ proposal.
Aglukark is an Inuk singer who has mixed traditional folk music with modern country and pop. Her song “O Siem” hit number one on the Canadian country music charts in 1995. She is a three-time Juno Award winner, and in 2004 was named to the Order of Canada “for her ‘powerful songs that relate the stories of Canada’s Inuit’ and for her advocacy for the people and communities of Canada’s North.”
Aglukark continues her work to assist people living in the north. In 2013 she founded Arctic Rose, an organization devoted to reducing the cost of food in the Arctic. Last year, she donated and shipped over a thousand pounds of food to food banks in Iqaluit and Rankin Inlet.
“The vision of the Arctic Rose Project is to help realize a safe and nurturing Nunavut for our children and youth, a basic right according to the Declaration of the rights of a child,” writes Aglukark in the Arctic Rose newsletter. The newsletter also provides news and resources related to the abuse of Inuit children by clergy.
The Mother Canada™ proposal has raised considerable controversy. After a CBC article in June highlighted the role of honourary patrons of the foundation, broadcasters Peter Mansbridge, Lisa LaFlamme and Lloyd Robertson ended their association with the foundation.
Aglukark has not immediately responded to a Halifax Examiner request for comment. But her disassociation with the NFNMF may be related to concerns that the monument will adversely affect land considered valuable by the Mi’kmaq.
Parks Canada has hired Membertou Geo-matics Solutions to conduct a Mi’kmaq ecological knowledge survey of Ke’kanakweje’ka’tk, the Mi’kmaq word for Green Cove, the proposed site of the Mother Canada™ statue. That survey is complete, but earlier this month Tuma Young, a Mi’kmaq ethnobotanist, submitted a “12-page report that sheds light on the cultural importance to the Mi’kmaq people of Green Cove,” reported the Chronicle Herald:
As part of his report, which he started in June, Young identifies 54 different plant species used for various traditional purposes, including food, medicine and clothing. He argues that the proposed project will not only threaten these plants, but also “the high and the pink granite outcrop will no longer be recognizable.”
“The most surprising discovery was that of the large amount of quartz crystals present in the geology of the area. Virtually all of the pink granite contained quartz crystals,” wrote Young in his report:
This is a significant cultural issue and may be the most important one of all.
The L’nu [Mi’kmaw] worldview is how the L’nu see the ecological world around them and what their roles are in this world. This worldview is expressed through the language, the songs, the ceremonies and the stories that have been passed down from one generation to another. The L’nuk have stories that explain how they came to this area, how they came to being, how the lessons that are contained in the ecological landscape are taught to successive generations and how things came to be.
A very significant part of the L’nu worldview is the stories of Kluskap, a spiritual leader, prophet, and god-like being with supernatural powers. Kluskap and the stories about him, his pets, his canoe and the like, all explain, encode and express the worldview of the L’nu. There are stories, carefully and lovingly transmitted through innumerable generations, about Kluskap breaking his canoes, fighting Abamu, and bringing water to the L’nu, his family and his travels around the world, etc.
A central teaching theme in many stories about Kluskap is that wherever he lay or sat down to rest, he did so on a bed of crystal, either quartz or amethyst. For traditional L’nu people, the appearance of crystal is evidence of where Kluskap rested. It is clear that Green Cove would be seen one of those places and traditional L’nuk would naturally have used this place as teaching area to tell the stories about Kluskap.