August 11, 2009
MIRAMICHI - Local First Nations members say they are Saddened by the loss of one of their Heroes, .Miramichi Leader, Aug 11, 2009
In 1971 Donald Marshall Jr. was charged, tried and convicted for a murder he didn't commit. He was guilty of only one thing, presumably not a crime, being a Mi'kmaq. The Marshall Report issued by the Royal Commission on the Donald Marshall Jr. Prosecution in December 1989 castigated the Nova Scotia justice system, and society in general, for the injustices carried out against an innocent and defenseless Mi'kmaq boy.
MIRAMICHI - Local First Nations members say they are saddened by the loss of one of their heroes.
Donald Marshall Jr., the man who sparked a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that guaranteed aboriginal fishing and hunting rights died yesterday morning due to complications from a 2003 double lung transplant.
Leo Bartibogue was one of the people involved in the dispute between First Nations and non-native fishermen near Esgenoopetitj in 1999 and 2000 and said when he heard Marshall died he was overwhelmed.
"He had so much to give and all of a sudden we hear he's gone."
When he was 17, Marshall went to prison for a murder he didn't commit and spent 12 years there until a witness came forward and cleared his name.
Bartibogue said Marshall was one of his heroes because he stood up for his people even after everything he went through in his own life.
"It's just something that the doors were opened for all of us to start a better life."
Marshall visited Esgenoopetitj during the dispute and Bartibogue said he was a humble man who gave the local Mi'kmaq words of encouragement.
"Those words to me stuck to me."
Bartibogue said Marshall stood up to the government and taught First Nations people they had an inherent right to fish, which made the community think differently.
"He brought all that to us."
Now that he's gone, his legacy is for people to pick up where he left off, Bartibogue said.
"If we want to survive we can't sit back and watch."
Martina Parker hadn't heard about Marshall's death when contacted Thursday morning and said she couldn't believe when she heard he died.
"He's going to be sadly missed."
Although she said people will be able to take up where Marshall left off, nobody will be able to replace him.
"He gave us strength to stand up for our rights, courage and to never give up."
Miigam'Agan said his death had a spiritual meaning to her as she wondered who the man was that went through so many trials from a young age into adulthood.
"He had such intention and such awareness and sometimes we don't really recognize these profits among us until they depart and then there's this overwhelming feeling of wonder."
Through his actions Marshall made her more determined to raise her children in the traditional ways and cultural practices, she said.
"It's a big loss."
Miigam'Agan said most people recognize who Marshall represented because he came from a family of traditional leaders, he encouraged people to practice traditional ways and he brought hope.
"It's so simple, so powerful. I think that's the gift he brought to our community."
Parker said some non-natives thought he was a trouble maker, but he was a good person and she saw him as a teacher.
"He taught us how to go about doing things. If we think it's ours and we should go for it. What he taught us was very important and we'll always carry that."
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