Edward Cornwallis was the founder of Halifax. In return, we've honoured him with a statue, and have named a park, a street and a junior high school after him.
Cheryl LeBlanc-Weldon doesn't like this at all. She wants Cornwallis officially "dishonoured"---the statue pulled down and the park, street and school renamed.
"I don't think we should continue to honour someone who tried to commit genocide, who tried to exterminate the Mi'kmaq people of the province," says LeBlanc-Weldon, a Grade Three teacher at Lakeview Elementary in Porters Lake. "We don't want him honoured and have this big imposing, magnificent statue in a beautiful park where children come to play at his feet. No, that's not what this province and what this country is all about."
The Mi'kmaq, of course, had Nova Scotia as their own for many thousands of years, and then shared it, in relative peace, with the Acadians. But through the 18th century they became caught up in the colonial wars of France and Britain. The English sent General Cornwallis to establish Halifax, providing a military presence to keep the French in check.
Three months after settling Halifax, Cornwallis called a meeting of his war council. "That, in their opinion to declare war formally against the Micmac Indians would be a manner to own them a free and independent people, whereas they ought to be treated as so many Banditti Ruffians, or Rebels, to His Majesty's Government," read the minutes from the meeting.
The next day, Cornwallis announced a bounty of ten guineas per Mi'kmaq scalp. A band of warriors, led by the ruthless John Gorham, then roamed the province collecting the scalps of men, women and children. The historian George Bates recounted one incident when "a party of Gorham's rangers one day brought in 25 scalps, claiming the bounty of £10 per scalp. It was strongly suspected that not all of the scalps were those of Indians, but included some Acadians too. The paymaster protested the payment, but was ordered to pay the £250 anyway... The records of Chignecto include several instances of extreme cruelty and barbarism by the rangers..."
The following year the bounty was increased to 50 pounds per scalp, evidently to encourage more attacks on natives.Nova Scotians celebrate their history: it's the foundation of much of our tourist trade, historic sites are protected and with celebrations such as Democracy 250 we identify with the people who came before us. But do we really want to identify with Cornwallis?
And when we memorialize those who engaged in genocide, what are we saying to today's native peoples---those attending Cornwallis Junior High, those walking past Cornwallis Street to the nearby Mi'kmaq Friendship Centre, those children on the playground in Cornwallis Park?
"We don't want to rewrite the history," explains LeBlanc-Weldon. "We want people to know the real history."
To that end, she and others have started an online petition urging local governments to dishonour Cornwallis. The hope is to get a couple of thousand signatures, then to bring the matter to regional council.