Violet Benoit Dawson – Spiritual Leader
Violet Benoit Dawson was born in the historic Mi’kmaq community of “Seal Rocks” and is the daughter of Harold and Laura Bennett/Benoit. Presently, she is serving as the Spiritual Leader of the St. George’s Indian Band, a position she has held since 2001 when she was elected Chief of the Indian Band Council. Violet served as Chief of the St. George’s Indian Band from 2001-2007, being re-elected for a second term in 2005. She first got involved with the Band in 1989 as one of the adult leaders volunteering with the youth group known as the Quimo Traditional Mi’kmaq Dancers and Drummers. Her first love has always been learning about her culture, in particular Mi’kmaq Spirituality. She has spent the last twenty years learning and practising Mi’kmaq spirituality that she believes forms the very essence of the identity of her people.
Politics was always something she wanted to avoid as her opinion was and still is “Spirituality and politics don’t mix”. However, in the spring of 2001, several band members approached her and told her that the Band was in serious trouble. These band members asked her if she would please do something about this crisis. She was reluctant at first, but once she was convinced there was indeed a crisis, she made up her mind to do something about it. In the summer of 2001, she became vice-chief of the St. George’s Indian Band, then she held the Acting Chief position for a time and in the fall of 2001 , she was elected Chief of the St. George’s Indian Band Council.
During her term as Chief, “Thanks”, she says “to the brilliant, hard working, supportive and passionate people who served with her”, the St. George’s Indian Band was taken out of a crisis situation and the profile was raised to what it is today. “We are proud of what we have accomplished together as an Indian Band, but there are still many of our initial goals that we would like to see through to completion” says Dawson
Some of these goals include the construction of a Mi’kmaq village at “Seal Rocks”; a monument in “Hungry Grove” to remember the Mi’kmaq people who perished there “only 12 km from town”, establishment of archaeological sites, development of hiking trails, a Healing Center for People who’s lives have been tragically affected by negative influences and our own Senior Citizen’s Home.
Even though she was forced to step down as Chief in 2007 due to serious health issues, she continues to stay active by organizing and leading the band’s yearly Aboriginal Day Celebrations and the Elder’s Feast, along with making various cultural presentations for Parks Canada, the Federation of Newfoundland Indians, the Port au Port Indian Band Council, HRSDC Stephenville, the Girl Guides and Brownies, Our Lady of Mercy Elementary School and various Mi’kmaq Cultural Gatherings.
She fully supports the present executive and council under the leadership of Acting Chief, Karen White. “I couldn’t have left the Band in more capable hands”, says Dawson. “Karen is one of the hardest workers I have ever had the pleasure of working with. She is at all times professional, efficient, productive and accountable.”
“Stepping down as Chief has permitted me to return to and focus more fully on my first love, that being Mi’kmaq Culture and Spirituality. My hope for the future is that through the formation of the Qalipu First Nation’s Band, all the Mi’kmaq people throughout the province of NL and those who reside outside this province will come together under one banner with the united goal of bringing back to future generations all that was taken from our ancestors. Education, economic development, health and housing are priority issues of course, but the inner strength that can be nurtured and grown from the knowledge of who you are and where you come from and taking pride in that knowledge, that is what will ensure success in all these other endeavours.”
Violet now resides in Barachois Brook (located just across a small bridge from “Seal Rocks”) with her husband, retired RCMP officer, Michael Dawson. They have three children, Jennifer, Jeremy and Jonathan. Jeremy and Jonathan are a twin and are both in the RCMP. Jennifer is employed at the Provincial Court in Stephenville, NL. Mike and Violet have two grand-children, Mason Bryan Hobbs (deceased) and Sadie Violet Dawson.