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Actor Ethan Hawke, right, attends the Mi'kmaq community's water ceremony on the shores of Pomquet Harbour to support the aboriginal call for a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, near Antigonish, N.S.

Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Four-time Academy Award nominee Ethan Hawke has added his star power to efforts by environmentalists and a Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq community who are trying to muster support for a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Hawke was the special guest of the Mi'kmaq community's annual water ceremony held Monday in Pomquet Harbour near Antigonish.

Hawke, who owns land in nearby St. George's Bay, was asked to attend the event in support of his neighbours.

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The actor said he wanted to stand up for "an absolutely magical place" where he has lived for parts of the summer for the past 15 years.

"I'm sure some people are wondering what I'm doing here," said Hawke. "I'm largely here as your neighbour and your friend and a friend to this area."

Hawke said the native community members have proven to be trustworthy stewards of the land and it was an honour to take part in their event.

The ceremony involved prayers and offerings by Mi'kmaq elders as the sound of traditional drums and the smell of burning sweetgrass filled the air.

Held each season, it honours the Mi'kmaq people's relationship with the water, the fish, the land, and their resources.

Hawke said he's glad his celebrity drew media to cover the event. But he also downplayed his participation.

"I know the real difference will be made in other rooms," he said. "It's just an opportunity to talk about it. I was invited to be a part of this so I take it seriously."

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The Mi'kmaq and environmental groups want a 12-year moratorium on any potential drilling in the gulf. They say it will take that long to complete a proper and comprehensive environmental assessment of a bio-diverse area of the ocean.

"While Canada's thinking about drilling out there . . . we are telling them that they can't do it without talking to the Mi'kmaq," said Troy Jerome, executive director of the Mi'gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat.

Jerome said with a new Liberal government about to take power in Ottawa Canadians need to ask their MPs what they are doing about the gulf.

"Ethan Hawke is here doing something about the gulf, what are you (MPs) doing about the gulf?" he said.

Jerome told a news conference that Atlantic petroleum boards are operating at pace where Nova Scotians don't feel they have a say about oil drilling.

The Gulf of St. Lawrence is one of the largest marine breeding regions in Canada with more than 2,000 marine species.

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The area is home to endangered whales and is also home to a lucrative lobster fishery.

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