New site to commemorate Savalette meeting Champlain

Place Savalette to be opened

By Helen Murphy    

PORT FELIX – Community leaders in the Acadian communities of Larry's River, Port Felix and Charlos Cove have always celebrated -- and researched -- their storied past. A commitment to uncovering and sharing their centuries-old story led to a major project to correct an historical error, and properly commemorate a most historic encounter on their shores -- a meeting among Samuel de Champlain, Basque Captain Savalette and local Mi'kmaw in 1607.

On Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 7, a new memorial site called Place Savalette will be officially opened in Port Felix. The site replaces a modest previous Parks Canada memorial in the woods between Charlos Cove and Port Felix -- a plaque that contained only two lines in English and two lines in French.

"The first step was to convince Parks Canada that the site needed to be relocated," Jude Avery of the Tor Bay Acadian Society told The Journal Monday. That started four years ago, but it didn't take long for federal officials to see the wisdom in the community's argument.

Champlain's notes indicate the meeting took place "four leagues west of Canso, next to Whitehead," said Avery. "It brings you right to Port Felix." The explorer also described it as a site overlooking a group of islands.

In 2005 Larry's River chose to name its summer festival after Captain Savalette.

"Then we felt it incumbent upon us to find out more about him and what transpired on the shores of our bay."

What transpired back in 1607, Avery explains, is essentially one of the first multicultural meetings in what is now called North America. In his writings, Champlain noted the friendly relationship Savalette had developed with the Mi'kmaw population.

"Three cultural groups met at one time and by all reports they got along extremely well."

Avery notes that even today there are elements of Mi'kmaw in the Basque language, and Basque is present in Mi'kmaw.

The opening of Place Savalette is the kick off to this year's Festival Savalette. The main feature of the new memorial site is a boat. "The bow points to our future and the stern points to our past," said Avery.

All three levels of government supported the project and will be represented at Wednesday's opening, along with a representative of the Paqtnkek Mi'kmaw Nation.

"What people will see is one of the most fascinating sites and monuments that you can find in the province of Nova Scotia," said Avery.

Place Savalette is located directy across from the church in Port Felix. The opening event gets underway at 1 p.m.