If you’ve attended an opening ceremony, traditional feast, or a pow wow in a First Nations community, you’ve probably noticed that each event starts off with an opening prayer and a song. There is a good chance that the song is “The Mi’kmaq Honour Song.”
How The Mi’kmaq Honour Song Came About…
The Mi’kmaq Honour Song was received in a vision quest ceremony during the 1980’s by George Paul. Paul is a singer and songwriter from Red Bank, Metepengaig First Nation in New Brunswick. He has been involved in reviving and reintroducing ancient and current Mi’kmaq songs, chants and ceremonies for over 30 years. (See article written by George Paul below for more details.)
While attending a Sundance Ceremony in Alberta, George had a vision of a green rolling hills. Dancing up and over these hills were thousands of Indigenous people. As they came closer, he could see that it was the Mi’kmaq leading the dance. Shortly after attending the vision quest ceremony in Kootney Plains while fasting, the feeling weighed heavy on his heart, which caused him to cry until it turned into a chant. This chant gave the message, which is now known as the “Mi’kmaq Honour Song.”
The Mi’kmaq Honour Song is most often performed by one person or a traditional drum group who are the host drummers of an event. The song features a combination of the Mi’kmaq language, meaning and vocals.
Mother Earth’s Heart Beat
Indigenous Spirituality teaches us that the drum and the human heart share a similar purpose – which is to provide life through its beat. It is a common teaching of the Mi’kmaq people that the drum represents the heart beat of Mother Earth. Both represent humanity, nature, love and respect for all living things.
Education is Key
In late 2016, for the first time in Nova Scotia’s history, the Mi’kmaq Honour Song has been taught in schools throughout the province, as a commitment from the provincial government to teach the Peace and Friendship Treaties.
Does your culture have a specific song that is performed at events? Please let us know in the comments below!