It’s Friday, November 20, and First Nation tribes are taking control of a $765 million seafood company.

Members of the Mi’kmaq nation scored an enormous victory last week as they reached an agreement to buy Clearwater Seafoods, a company that harvests lobster, crab, scallops, and clams in waters where the tribe’s ancestors once fished.

The acquisition follows weeks of tension between the Mi’kmaq and commercial fishermen. In September, an assembly of tribal chiefs declared a five-day state of emergency after members of the Sipekne’katik First Nation were violently targeted by commercial fishermen for exercising their treaty rights to pursue a “moderate livelihood” through independent fishing, harvesting lobster during a period when the season was officially closed.

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Under the nearly $765 million deal, the Miawpukek and Membertou First Nations — both of which belong to the Mi’kmaq tribal group — paid $191 million to gain control over 50 percent of the Nova Scotia-based Clearwater Seafoods. A company called Premium Foods bought the remaining 50 percent, but the Indigenous tribes will maintain full ownership of Clearwater’s offshore fishing licenses.

Indigenous leaders celebrated the landmark deal. “It’s a new chapter,” said Mi’sel Joe, chief of the Miawpukek in Newfoundland and Labrador, in an interview with NPR. “We’re no longer sitting in the back of the bus — we’re driving the damn bus.”

Joseph Winters

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