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"Know your history and you will always be wise."
 More of this Feature

Part 2: Slavery

Part 3: Portia White
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- Old African Saying

When we think of Nova Scotia's cultural heritage, we think of the Scots and their well documented history of the Clans. We think of the British, and the French settlers, and later, the Swiss and German, all nations with recorded histories from 'the motherland'. We don't always think of the Mi'kmaq, who are struggling today to piece together a written history from their oral storytelling traditions, or of the Black pioneers, whose history in North America has been lost for almost 300 years.

Dorsey James - SculptorUntil recent years, there were no textbooks in our schools that offered these histories. There were very few passages devoted to indigenous peoples or to the settlers of African heritage, and those that did exist were often biased or even racist.

Today, the textbook recording of black history has improved, but it still has a long way to go. According to a recent CBC report, members of "The Black Learners' Advisory Committee" which was formed several years ago in the wake of racial discord at a local high school, state that not enough black history "puts black students at a social and economic disadvantage when they're written out."

Conversely, all students should have the advantage of learning just how richly diverse our history is and how indebted we are to those we've neglected historically. There is no place for racial or cultural exclusion in Canada's education system.

The First Nations welcomed us. In Nova Scotia at some of Canada's earliest settlements, we learned from the Mi'kmaq how to survive through the long winters, how to hunt for food, build shelters, and stay warm. Later, black settlers helped to build our towns, bringing with them carpentry skills and seamanship. They were millrights and farriers, farmers and labourers. They too had to learn to survive, but they did it on their own, ekeing out a living on some of the most infertile land in the province, the reward promised for military service. Many were never given the land and provisions they fought for. They were forced to live as squatters, desolate outcasts in a country that had offered freedom and a rightful place in society.

Next part: Slavery and the First Wave > Part 2 , 3

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Highway7 E-zine, a publication of Hatch Media, is an electronic journal with a focus on commercial, historical, cultural and ecological issues concerning the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia in Canada. Topics include a growing resource of currently more than 300 articles. More articles and image galleries are added frequently as new material is brought to our attention. With Highway7.com, our primary aim is to serve, inform and reflect the rural communities on the Atlantic Coast of Nova Scotia, as well as to acquaint new residents, visitors, tourists, and investors with the special beauty and enormous potential of our region.
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