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The Sword of Rita Joe
Saturday September 9th shall go down as an historic day for the Clan
Sinclair. The sun shone brightly upon the upper reaches of Boylston Park,
Guysborough, Nova Scotia. The few clouds only served to keep away the
debilitating heat which was the hallmark of the Prince Henry Sinclair
Memorial Ceremony held on that same site in another age: July 14th, 1998.
The attendence list was more or less the same as yesterday (Rory I hope
will eventually fill in the names of the assembled guests - especially
Sinclairs that you're wondering about), with a few notable additions,
especially Grand Chief Ben Sylliboy, Don Julien, and Rita Joe.
Despite the presence of sparklingly accoutured Lords and Ladies, the person
with the most individual impact on the event and on every individual in
attendence was Mi'k maq poet laureate Rita Joe. She is said to speak with
the voice of her people - and yesterday it sure felt as though she did.
Jack Sinclair was leading us through much ceremony, although the
proceedings were an interesting blend of the ancient and the modern, the
formal and the folksy, the physical and the symbolic. Innocuously enough,
Rita was listed in the official programme as "Poem Presentation". There was
entertainment scattered through the programme, but there was also ceremony.
I'm not sure which she was intended to be, but it was certainly was much
more than entertainment.
Rita was going to read from a couple of her existing pieces, but when she
showed up Jack and his brother Bill worked her over good. Rita agreed to
compose something especially for the occasion.
When she was introduced there was a warm reception and Rita spoke some
passionate words of thanks and introduction, and then:
Acknowledgement of the Mi’kmaq Nation’s Reception to all Immigrants to
On September 9, 2000 I will welcome
The Venetian Mariners from Italy
Laura Zolo and Captain Jack
Who end the heroic voyage in Guysborough
>From many lands they have visited
Then to ours
I am a Mi’kmaq Representative
Like in the days of 1398
The offered hand is still in place
The other on my heart as a sign of friendship
I am the nation known the world over
Who helped the broken men, their bodies wasted by scurvy
My food, your food
My medicine, your medicine
My fear the same as yours for the unknown
Today there is no fear but a welcome knowledge
That we are friends as it should be
And the view that is offered by Antonio Zeno in 1398
The friendly reception by the Mi’kmaq Nation
I thank him today
and from the voyage of Prince Henry Sinclair and the Clan
The acknowledging history set the Mi’kmaq as compassionate
I appreciate and know as true
… Rita Joe, Sept 6, 2000
As Rita spoke she was nervous (of course - what artist isn't?) but the
symtoms of her Parkinson's which she works hard to keep at bay began to take
her over - but that only caused her to work harder to get the words out ans
her intellect fought the physical within her. And indeed, the power of her
voice transcended all and in that voice could be clearly heard the voice of
her entire nation, all that was, is and will be.
There was not a person there who did not feel this. Laura Zolo was
completely overcome - and not for the last time by Rita Joe that day. It was
beautiful to watch the instant bond that formed between them in those
moments, and to watch it play out over the rest of the afternoon.
The Moment set the tone for many more moments which fullfilled all of the
promise of the day.
When Malcolm, Chief of the Clan Sinclair handed The Sword of Peace to Ben
Sylliboy, Grand Cheif of the Mi'k maq Nation, who in turn handed it to Don,
Julien - Spiritual Leader of the Nation the symbolic was as manifest as the
physical and the moment was everything that Malcolm, Niven, Bill and/or Jack
could have wished when they cooked up this mad scheme.
Congratulations to all, there has been some hard going here in Nova Scotia
for the Clan Sinclair. The tide has turned...ironic that it may have again
taken an Italian Mariner to make that happen...
I apologize, I have to run and don't even have time to proof this...sorry
for the mistakes, errors and ommissions...
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