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Pilgrimaging on the North Shore Post-Fiona

Hi pilgrims! Have a listen in to the email going out today to our intrepid North Shore Gaelic Weekend walkers. And send up a thought and prayer for good weather for our walking!

"To help prepare for this weekend's walks through Pictou County, I thought you might enjoy some resources.

(You can take the professor out of the classroom, but maybe not the classroom out of the professor!).

Taking my lead from the research and the writing of Indigenous scholars such as Ray Aldred, Margaret Kovach, and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, I'd like to emphasize three things in our weekend pilgrimage: land, story, and relation. The land we will be walking on is rich with history. It tells a number of official stories, and others less well-known! And relations are a big part of making our pilgrimage here on Nova Scotia's North Shore. (Pilgrimages always build relationships.)

Pictou, where we will be staying, has a sign at its entrance, saying "welcome to the birthplace of New Scotland." There's lots of truth in that slogan! We will hear about the Hector and about Gaelic culture Friday evening from Lewis McKinnon, Director of the Office of Gaelic Affairs for Nova Scotia and our resident expert this weekend.

Under canvas in the harbour not far from where we're staying, you will see a full-sized replica of the ship "Hector" that is being restored. On Sept 15, 1773, the Hector arrived at Brown's Point near Pictou, carrying 189 Scottish Highlanders, much the worse for wear. It was the first ship to sail directly from Scotland to Nova Scotia with settlers.

Lewis is a fellow pilgrim and he will tell us more. But as prep for the weekend, you may be interested in this CBC article about a 2017 BBC documentary: However, keeping in mind Land, stories, and relations, take what the BBC host says about the settlers' experiences with a pinch of salt: he says they came to an "empty wilderness." I'm sure the Mi'kmaq would have an opinion about both those words: "empty" and "wilderness"!

October happens to be Mi'kmaq History Month. In addition to the Gaelic history of Pictou County and of Nova Scotia, we will also be paying attention to the millennia-long history of this Land's Indigenous peoples. Especially on Saturday morning when we walk to Quarry Island, we will be filling in some of the missing details of Mi'kmaw inhabitation omitted by some of the websites describing local history: It's a good sign of the times that the wonderful Mrs. MacGregor's Shortbreads shop - which you must visit - has display space dedicated to an Indigenous-owned and run company that specialises in boutique maple syrups. Look them up when you drop by, and have one of Mrs. MacGregor's Nanaimo Bars!) Saturday afternoon we will be walking a portion of the Jitney Trail. The Jitney was the name of the former train service that travelled between (at least) New Glasgow, Pictou, Scotsburn, River John, and Tatamagouche, and the trail retains the name of the old rail service for its sections of the Trans-Canada Trail. Finally, on Sunday we will be walking trails and gravel roads in the area of River John, a quiet village on the Northumberland Strait. River John's website,, in its history section, states the following: "Agriculture and fishing are strong in River John and surrounding area but there was a time when it was home to a booming shipbuilding industry. Read about this fascinating part of River John's past at the Wooden Ships of River John website. We have also created a website about the American Lobster where you can find out about this creature and the fishing industry which is an important aspect of life in River John."

Looking forward to our pilgrimage together this weekend!

Matthew, Shawna, and Sheila, your Camino Nova Scotia staff"

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