Coming full circle

Sea Cadets return piece of Chief Nish Paul’s legacy to family

Published on September 12, 2017

GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR, NL – A 1998 trip to Eagle Haven Lodge for the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps 67 Windsor led to a great surprise almost 20 years later for Tony Paul.

The back of a ceremonial vest owned by Chief Nish Paul, who gave it to the sea cadets in 1998. The vest has been returned to his family through his son, Tony Paul.
Samantha Gardiner photo

In 1998 the owner of Eagle Haven Lodge was Chief Nish Paul, a man with a big heart and passion for helping youth. While the cadet corps was visiting the lodge, Chief Paul shared stories, wood lore, and his own experiences in the woods with the youth.

During a special ceremony, Chief Paul donned his ceremonial headdress – a hand-made, hand-decorated vest – and performed a ceremonial dance to give a traditional native blessing for good health and prosperity to the cadet corps.

After the ceremony, he gave the vest he was wearing to the corps as a gift by placing it on a young cadet.
It was the corps’ intention to frame and display the vest, but through the years that didn’t materialize. Five years ago, the corps decided to seek permission to return the vest to the family of the late Chief Paul, who passed away 11 years ago.

Through an interesting turn of events involving a Facebook post, Lt. (N) Paul Johnson connected with Corrrina Saunders; when Saunders mentioned her maiden name was Paul, the two connected the pieces and realized Saunders was the niece of Chief Paul. Saunders mentioned

Chief Paul’s son, Tony, would be coming home to Newfoundland for a visit. It was then the officer contacted Paul to offer him the vest.

Although Chief Paul was dedicated to and involved with youth, his sons did not get to grow up with him. Paul and his brother attended Mount Cashel Orphanage, where they were taken away from their family and isolated from their culture.

Since his father’s passing, Paul has been trying to bring home misplaced or gifted items that belonged to his father.

Paul said when he received the call about the vest he was thrilled to be getting it back in the family – but he did not expect it to be the ceremonial vest made by the Eskasoni Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia. His father had two vests, including one smaller article he made himself. Paul assumed this would be the vest he would receive; he didn’t think his father would have given away the ceremonial vest.

The family often wondered what became of that vest he wore to every ceremony and powwow he attended.

Paul was stunned when he realized he would receive the ceremonial vest on Sept. 1 during a ceremony at the Mary March Museum.

“This is unbelievable,” he said. “I was quite surprised because I’ve been trying to track down this coat – I seen it in the pictures that my dad had and in some videos. When I asked around nobody knew where it went.”

After almost 20 years the vest has come full circle and will be proudly displayed in the Eagle Haven Lodge with Chief Paul’s ceremonial headdress and leggings, and his staff.

“I have the rest of the regalia, this was missing,” said Paul. “To have this back means I have everything now. It’s gone full circle.”

Since the passing of Chief Paul, his wife has been operating Eagle Haven Lodge as a tourist attraction. Now that she is ready to retire, Paul and his family are coming back to Newfoundland to take over and recreate the lodge the way his father, Chief Paul, had envisioned it.

“My dad always used to say, ‘I’ve got this lodge here because I want to help young people – I know the day is going to come when I am not going to be here any longer but you are, and I know that you aspire to do what I want to do – to inspire young people,’” said Paul.

Within the next year Eagle Haven Lodge will reopen to give at-risk youth from across Canada a chance to get off the streets and learn employable life skills and the Mi’kmaq way, including how to live off the land.

Chief Nish Paul

©Submitted photo