The Tantramar region lies in south-east New Brunswick, one of Canada’s ten provinces. It is bordered by:
New Brunswick to the west,
the Bay of Fundy to the south,
the Northumberland Strait to the north,
and Nova Scotia to the east.
Based on the human ability to move and to settle, we have a human history of migration, settlement and conflict over place and this place is no different. A sound place to start on the formation of an understanding of this region is to acknowledge that the land on which we gather is the traditional unceded territory (i.e. power over this territory has not been given up or surrendered) of the Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) and the Mi’kmaq peoples. This place is covered by the “Treaties of Peace and Friendship” which Wolastoqiyik and Mi’kmaq peoples first signed with the British Crown in 1725. The Treaties did not deal with surrender of lands and resources,, but in fact, recognized Mi’kmaq and Maliseet title and established the rules for what was to be an ongoing relationship between nations.The marshes have a long history of human occupants. For at least 5,000 years prior to European contact, indigenous peoples harvested the plants, wildfowl and small mammal resources that abounded where the fresh and saltwater meet. Native oral tradition alludes to the Tantramar Marshes as a meeting place as Mi’kmaq bands moved seasonally between seacoast and forest to collect essential food and other resources. This pattern meant that they established temporary encampments on the margins of the marshes. They also established well-‐traveled portage routes crossing the Chignecto Isthmus through the marshes thereby linking the Bay of Fundy with the Northumberland Strait. Their presence as the first people of the area continues in the survival of certain place names, such as Westcock, believed to be an English corruption of “Vestkack,” possibly meaning “Great Marsh” and “Chignecto,” the name given to the isthmus on which the marshes rest, which seems to derive from the Mi’kmaq term “Sinunikt” or “Siknikt” meaning foot cloth, possibly associated with native legend.
(Source: Al Smith, Tantramar Heritage Museum)
The region is governed by four municipal governments (Village of Dorchester, Village of Memramcook, Village of Port Elgin, and the Town of Sackville), one First Nations community (Fort Folly First Nation), and nine local service districts.
The name for the Tantramar region comes from the translation of the French word “tintamarre”. The region was given the name Tintamarre by Acadian settlers, who used the word to describe the din or racket caused by migrating birds and local waterfowl. The Tantramar name is a testament to the region’s biodiversity which acts as a regional symbol.
The total population of the region is 14,545 people. The populations of Sackville, Memramcook, Dorchester, and Port Elgin are 5,411; 4,638; 1,119; and 451 respectively.*
*Current as of 2006 Federal Census
The Tantramar region is located in New Brunswick, Canada’s only officially bilingual province. English is the most frequently used language in Tantramar, followed by French. Residents, found primarily in the Memramcook area, are bilingual in both French and English, and French immersion schooling is available.
The Tantramar region hosts a wide range of educational facilities including nine licensed preschools, five elementary/middle schools, two secondary schools, one university, and one seniors’ college. One hospital (Sackville), one health clinic (Port Elgin) and three seniors’ homes service the region. There are few resource centres for families scattered throughout Tantramar including the Tantramar Family Resource Centre (based in Sackville) and the Port Elgin District Voluntary Action Committee. Police and volunteer firefighter services are present in all four main communities which also serve some of the rural areas beyond their boundaries.
The Tantramar region is heavily reliant on service industries such as education, health, and financial services – 72% of the workforce is employed in the service industry. Average family income varies across the region, with higher averages recorded in Sackville and Memramcook regions. Unemployment rates in the region are higher in rural areas, although the rates have dropped across the region between the 2001 and 2006 census. Mount Allison University is the largest employer in the region with over 500 employees.
The majority of exports in the region come from the agricultural and fisheries industries. Seventeen percent of the region’s land is used for agriculture. In the early 1990s and 2000s, tourism was a quickly growing industry for the Tantramar region; however, recent economic recessions have slowed growth.
A large portion of the region is marshland located at or below sea level. Beginning in the 1630s, an intricate series of dykes was constructed that prevents 85% of these marshlands from flooding. More than half of the district is woodland (58%), farmland makes up 19.2%, residential is 16.6%, recreational is 4.9% and institutional is 0.7%.
Shale gas exploration in the region has begun in recent years despite concerns from various parties regarding the unknown circumstances of the extraction process.
The region used to be a heavy exporter of red sandstone in the early part of the century, but development has stopped in the past decades.
Wind blowing off the marshlands is a prominent resource for the region, although capitalization on this resource has been limited.
The lower geographical half of the region, including the Town of Sackville and Villages of Memramcook and Dorchester are located in the UNESCO Fundy Biosphere reserve. Most of the region is designated as a transitional area, although buffer zone designation can be found within the region’s borders.