METEPENAGIAG MI’KMAQ NATION (GNB) – Thousands of indigenous artifacts are being returned to the Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq Nation. Several were returned today during a repatriation ceremony, while others will follow in the coming months.

The items will be housed in the Metepenagiag Heritage Park, which also received combined funding of $300,000 from the provincial and federal governments.

The artifacts have been in the care of the provincial government since 1975. They include spear points, projectile points, scrapers, pottery and ceremonial objects from more than 3,000 years of occupation.

“Repatriating these artifacts and investing in the Metepenagiag Heritage Park not only recognizes that indigenous people have been in this land for many millennia, but also the important role the park plays as a primary indigenous tourism, heritage and cultural attraction for our province,” said Tourism, Heritage and Culture Minister John Ames. “It is key to our new tourism growth strategy and tourism product development strategy.”

The artifacts originate from two national historic sites: Augustine Mound and Oxbow.

The Augustine Mound National Historic Site is a ceremonial burial mound within the Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq Nation. It exhibits burial rituals and artifacts connected to cultural traditions in eastern North America 2,500 years ago.

The Oxbow National Historic Site contains more than 3,000 years of Mi’kmaq history. The Canadian Register of Historic Places describes the site as a unique cultural record of a flourishing Mi’kmaq community, showing a direct relationship between everyday life of the community and its spiritual centre at the Augustine Mound.

The federal government, through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s (ACOA) Business Development Program, is investing $225,000 to help develop and implement a plan to preserve the heritage park. The provincial government is investing $75,000 in operating funds.

The three-year plan will address strategic direction, product development, marketing and operations. This builds on commitments by the federal government and the governments of the four Atlantic provinces to drive economic growth through the Atlantic Growth Strategy, which supports investments in initiatives that build on the region’s strengths and resources.

“The Metepenagiag Heritage Park is an invaluable cultural icon,” said Miramichi-Grand Lake MP Pat Finnigan. “Its beauty and value cannot be overstated. We are fortunate to have such a site in our region, and to have the opportunity to be enriched by sharing in Mi’kmaq culture, story and song. I congratulate the Metepenagiag Heritage Park and its partners for their dedication to making this site the best it can be and ensuring that its future is protected and preserved.”

Finnigan attended for federal Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains, who is also the minister responsible for ACOA.

The tourism industry employs more than 42,000 people in New Brunswick and contributes more than $520 million annually to the provincial GDP. For every public dollar invested in promoting New Brunswick as a tourism destination, there is an estimated return of $3.19 to the province. The budget for the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture increased by 17.6 per cent this year.