Membertou Heritage Park remembers Donald Marshall Junior
Two decades have passed since Donald Marshall Junior's historic Supreme Court win for First Nations Fishing Rights. To this day, Marshall remains a hero in his home community of Membertou First Nation, and for the first time, residents will be able to view the very eel nets that helped recast aboriginal fishing rights in Canada.
The history surrounding Marshall’s victory can now be found tangled in eel nets, recently installed by Membertou Heritage Park, which were at the center of the controversy.
“To us, he was a true warrior of our people, a warrior of our rights, not only in the justice system but also our fishing rights too,” says Membertou Heritage Park general manager, Jeff Ward. “It's like having a part of Donald Marshall Junior's spirit here again.”
Ward says having the nets in the community will help tell the story about the treaties from 1760 and 1761, which allowed Mi'kmaq people to earn a moderate living from hunting and fishing.
“I was quite surprised that these nets even existed,” says Ward. “I mean, they were probably in an evidence locker somewhere, and for whatever reason they're still here today.”
Marshall became a household name after he was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1971. Years later, in September 1999, his second legal victory made national headlines and cemented his place in history.
“It gave credibility to what we had been saying all along and what Junior Marshall went through all those months of harassment,” says Membertou chief, Terry Paul.
The nets arrived at Membertou Heritage Park after the community reached an agreement with Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Ward says he hopes the nets will soon be on display for everyone to see.
“We are going to clean them scientifically and restore them in a proper way, so they will exist for the next 500 years,” says Ward.
Marshall died in 2009 at the age of 55, but his name and historic win live on, and his story will continue to be told through the fishing gear at the heritage park.
Meanwhile, Ward says the site could exist solely based around the nets and the history they hold. He notes he’s grateful to have them and be able to share Marshall's story.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kyle Moore