The picturesque vista of the Atlantic Ocean across from the catholic church in Port Felix provided the perfect backdrop last Wednesday for the official opening of Place Savalette as a National Historic Site.
The memorial marks four centuries since the Mi’kmaq, Basque and Acadians first met and shared commercial and cultural relations — including a visit by none other the famous French explorer Samuel de Champlain.
Community members attending the ceremony proudly displayed placards with the names of the many Acadian families with deep traditions in the local community. They were joined by community leaders as well as municipal, Indigenous, provincial and federal officials.
Among those in attendance and extending greetings were Kerry Prosper on behalf of Chief PJ Prosper of Paqtnkek First Nation, Guysborough Warden Vernon Pitts, Guysborough-Tracadie-Sheet Harbour MLA Lloyd Hines, Nova Scotia Minister responsible for Acadian Affairs Lena Diab and Cape Breton-Canso MP Rodger Cuzner.
Jude Avery, president of the Tor Bay Region Acadian Society and the master of ceremonies for the dedication opened the proceedings by acknowledging that the event was taking place in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People.
As Avery noted in his introduction, “this territory is covered by the “Treaties of Peace and Friendship,” which the Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) Peoples first signed with the British Crown in 1725. The treaties did not deal with surrender of lands and resources but in fact recognized Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) title and established the rules for what was to be an ongoing relationship between nations.”
Avery and other speakers made special mention of the people responsible for the generous donation of the property that is now home to Place Savalette, Cecil Cashin and Darlene David-Cashin, who were in attendance.
In terms of the monument park itself, it includes the main deck of a ship with the mast sporting the Canadian, Nova Scotia and Acadian flags. It also features five interpretive panels to highlight important moments of the region’s Acadian history. The interpretive panels are constructed by Waterline Graphix and they display the artwork of Monika Deursch, who also designed the rocks at “Parc de Nos Ancêtres” in Larry’s River.
Avery noted the contributions of businesses such as Exxon Mobil, Seawind Landing and Waterline Graphix. He added that private individuals and community members were a large part of making the day a success, including those who built the park. In particular, Avery saluted park builders Tino Winter, Brian George and Gary Richard.
“In a special way we must recognize the dedication of our members of La Société des Acadiens de la Région de Tor Baie and Steering Committee Bob Weber and Blair Pellerin, who must be acknowledged for their tireless efforts and support,” said Avery.
Also meriting special mention were MODG, the province of Nova Scotia and the federal government. In particular, Keith Mercer of Parks Canada and Mark van der Weil with ACOA were recognized by Avery for understanding the passion behind the project and providing important advice that helped to secure the federal financial assistance needed to bring the project to fruition.
Following the ceremony community members and guests attended a reception at the community hall.