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Updated: Sun, 20 Oct 2013 15:56:37 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

N.B. fracking protests are about nature, Manitoba chief says



Elsipogtog Chief Aaron Sock meets with Manitoba Grand Chief Derek Nepinak Sunday. CBC

Elsipogtog Chief Aaron Sock meets with Manitoba Grand Chief Derek Nepinak Sunday. CBC

Hundreds of people gathered Sunday afternoon for a meeting in New Brunswick to talk about an ongoing protest over shale gas exploration.

A speaker at Elsipogtog First Nation apologized to journalists who had their vehicles and equipment seized by some protesters Saturday.

The apology sparked a standing ovation from the crowd of 300 community members and protesters. Both reporters involved tweeted that they were touched by the apology. 

Journalists were then asked to leave while the community discussed its anti-fracking strategy. 

Time to heal

Earlier Sunday, a Manitoba chief gave gifts and support to his counterpart in New Brunswick's Elsipogtog First Nation Sunday as part of a day to plan their next steps after a tense week of anti-fracking protests.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said it stands in solidarity with Elsipogtog First Nation and sent Grand Chief Derek Nepinak to ElsipogtogMi'kmaq territory over the weekend.

He met with fracking protesters and Elsipogtog Chief Aaron Sock. Nepinak gave Sock tobacco and beaver pelt among other items as a show of strength and support. 

Nepinak said he hoped the gifts will also remind Canadians that First Nations people are peaceful and focused on protecting the earth. Sock said he was humbled by the gifts and grateful for the visit. 

Sock added that his community was reeling from the events of the last week and needs time to heal. He intends to speak again with New Brunswick Premier David Alward, although he said he's not sure when that will take place.

Alward said he plans to meet with Sock this week.

Sock also is speaking with the RCMP. He said Thursday's confrontation broke a 20-year relationship between RCMP and the First Nation. 

'Watching and praying'

Nepinak met with other First Nations on his way to New Brunswick. 

"Grand Chief Nepinak left the fire keepers and supporters with words of encouragement, noting that there are thousands of indigenous and non-indigenous supporters across Turtle Island and beyond watching and praying for the safety of everyone involved in the difficulties," Sheila North Wilson of the Manitoba assembly said in a media release. 

Turtle Island is the First Nations name for North America. 

Nepinak said the protests were peaceful, contrary to "mainstream media reports." The gifts he is bringing have deeper meaning, he added. 

"The offering of tobacco and sage represents the medicines needed to practice faith and bring clarity of mind and spirit in the face of misinformation and uncertainty. The presentation of the beaver pelt represents the wisdom needed to guide the people through difficult hours, days, weeks and months ahead,” said Nepinak.

The CBC's Stephen Puddicombe reported optimism within the protest movement. 

“People were very happy with how things unfolded in the latter part of the day yesterday. They shut down Highway 11 between Moncton and Miramichi, a main highway in the province, for an hour," he said Sunday.

"The police barred all entryways and exits off the highway so there would be no confrontations.”

Media vehicles returned

Demonstrations against fracking were held on Saturday in the New Brunswick communities of Sackville, Moncton, Rexton and Bouctouche. Hundreds of people held signs, waved flags and blocked roads to protest shale gas exploration in the province. 

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Two media crews had their vehicles and equipment seized by five protesters in Rexton and went to police to file a complaint. The situation was resolved and the journalists got their gear back. 

Protesters told CBC it was time to regroup and refocus after a turbulent week that saw police face off with protesters, vehicles torched, weapons seized and dozens of people arrested. 

The New Brunswick demonstrations drew solidarity protests in other parts of Canada. 

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