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‘Melting pot of harmony’: Mi’kmaq artist receives outpouring of support after sign is vandalized

A prominent Mi’kmaq artist is speaking out just days after his work was vandalized with a message decried by many as an act of racism.

But Leonard Paul, a member of the Pictou Landing First Nation, isn’t reprimanding the culprits — instead, he’s thanking hundreds of Nova Scotians who have sent him emails, texts and social media messages of support in the days since the graffiti was removed.

“The tone was unbelievable. Every message was warm, every message was comforting,” he told Global News from his home in Truro, N.S., on Thursday. “Not one negative one. They apologized — they didn’t need to apologize, because it wasn’t their fault.”

The sign that was vandalized is renowned in Nova Scotia. Located along Highway 104, near the province’s border with New Brunswick, it contains Paul’s illustration of a Mi’kmaq elder and reads, “Land of the Mi’kmaq.” It’s a recognition that the province lies in Mi’kmaq territory.

Sometime over the weekend of Feb. 1-2, it was spray-painted with the message, “NS Needs Mills.”

“In a way, I wasn’t too concerned about that,” said Paul, a Halifax-born painter, sculptor and art instructor. “I was more concerned about my own chief, Chief Andrea Paul, like here’s another affront — another stab — but we exchanged some words to keep our chins up and not let it get us down.”

For generations, the Pictou Landing First Nation has suffered the consequences of pollution in Boat Harbour — A’se’k — which has served as a dumping ground for the Northern Pulp mill’s wastewater.

The provincial government recently shut that practice down, resulting in hundreds of lost jobs from the mill and a fresh wave of racism directed towards the Indigenous community.

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