Has Charlottetown got stories to tell? You bet! History comes alive in our little city with a big past—for better and for worse. While being the Birthplace of Confederation was once one of Charlottetown’s biggest claims to fame, the history of this place is much fuller and a lot longer than that one event. The original inhabitants of Prince Edward Island were the Mi’kmaq, who called the island Epekwitk which means “lying in the water.” For 12,000 years, they have been on the Island’s land and waterways.
Waves of immigration, from the French Acadians, to the British, to people from all over the world, have also called this place home and helped to shape our history. Epekwitk history includes horror and heartbreak, with the takeover and occupation of Mi’kmaq land, the largest Acadian Expulsion taking place across the Charlottetown harbour, slavery by government leaders, bigotry and racism. It also includes outstanding people and events, with justice warriors ensuring the voices of Mi’kmaq and Black people, women, and others were heard.
Although the meeting of the premiers at the Charlottetown Conference in 1864 eventually led to Canada forming as a nation, we can’t overlook the fact that decisions were made and actions taken that still have negative impacts today. It is important that we see a fuller picture of Charlottetown’s history and explore various perspectives, including the injustices at play, and those who did not have a seat at the table at the time of Confederation.
Here are a few ways you can learn more about our history:
The Epekwitk Assembly of Councils Building (opening to the public in 2021) – This state-of-the-art, Green Globes Certified building is the centre for shared governance and service delivery activities of Abegweit First Nation and Lennox Island First Nation. This stunning landmark is an important stepping stone towards reconciliation and a long overdue presence for the Mi’kmaq leadership in Prince Edward Island’s capital city. It will also be a focal point of Mi’kmaq history and culture, with artwork and artisan design being reflected on the interior and exterior. Open to the public later in 2021. Lnuey.ca
The Story of Confederation (Upper Foyer of the Confederation Centre of the Arts) – A replica of the Confederation Chamber where the Fathers of Confederation met during the Charlottetown Conference. It includes: a Parks Canada’s film “A Building of Destiny,” which takes viewers to the first eight days of September 1864. The film also showcases related themes, including the First Nations context at the time of Confederation and the role of women in Victorian society. Free entry.
OTHER WAYS TO EXPERIENCE CHARLOTTETOWN HISTORY:
• Tour Beaconsfield Historic House (2 Kent St.)
• “Taste the Town” walking tour with Experience PEI (the perfect pairing of history + food)
• Visit to the PEI Regiment Museum (3 Haviland St.)
• Partake in a Powwow, an important part of Mi’kmaq cultural celebration
• Experience PEI’s Discovery Hunt
• Guided historic tour (by bus/van) of the city with Prince Edward Tours
• Self-guided walking tour of historic Charlottetown using the interpretive signage and monument plaques along the way
• Visit St. Dunstan’s Basilica, an architecturally-stunning church with a rich history
• Take a “Secrets of Charlottetown” Walking Tour to hear the lesser-known stories of Charlottetown’s past
There’s loads to unearth as you explore the city. Take time to discover the heritage homes, storefronts, and green spaces that define the historic downtown. It’s time to discover Charlottetown.