Child and Youth
IRISH IDEAS – FROM NIALL McELWEE
A research postcard from
There is a long history of the Irish migrating to the province of New Brunswick in Canada resulting in Miramichi claiming to be the Irish capital of Canada today (population of some 19,000). As with most things in life, this is hotly disputed by the community living in St. John.
This summer Susan, my wife, and I had the opportunity to travel over to Canada for just over four weeks. We went for both work (research) and vacation (how beautiful is Miramichi and its people!) and the work part comprises an on-going study on First Nations Peoples, in this case the Mi'kmaq of New Brunswick, and Irish Travellers in the midlands area. We have been struck by the many similarities and differences between Ireland and Canada and, in particular, by perceptions of the treatment, historical and contemporary, of marginalised families and youth in both systems.
We spent just over the month visiting and conducting interviews on Elsipogtog which is a Mi'kmaq community of some 2,484 aboriginal people. The Elsipogtog First Nation Band inhabits the Richibucto Reserve which covers 4,120 acres and is located 5 miles southwest of Rexton. Established in September of 1805, Elsipogtog is the largest native reserve community in New Brunswick.
Why do such a study?
At the right is a shot of some lobsters from Prince Edward Island. Thanks to Mary and Peter for boiling these up for us and preparing a real maritime dish. Our hosts over at the New Brunswick Community College were Margaret Sullivan and Lisa Durette. Margaret lives in Miramichi in a house referred to all and sundry as the "Big Blue House". This is a serious patriotic Canadian house and Margaret’s sister, Lisa, has all the nieces and nephews indoctrinated. The children there are wonderful so as we say over this part of the world – respect. On those warm summer nights, we played a game, the purpose of whuich is to chuck an old washer 19 feet up the garden onto a sawed off pipe – something similar to horseshoes over here. Several of the Sullivan family claim to be the champion, but it is hotly contested and I don’t want to alienate any of my new friends.
The highlight for me, at least, was getting to attend a one day Pow Wow held at Eel Ground Reserve in mid July. This is a celebration of culture and all are invited to partake. Two things struck me that day. The first was the importance of family, and the other was the intermingling of what I might call aspects of the old and the new cultures. Next week we start on the Irish component of the research when Margaret and Lisa travel to Ireland. We hope to publish the study in December where we develop these points and it will be available in ecopy as well as hard back versions.
I hope all readers had an enjoyable summer ...