At Maw-Lukuti’kw, the inaugural Epekwitk Mi’kmaq Nationhood Gathering (September 28, 2019), the new Rights and Reconciliation initiative, L’nuey, was launched. L’nuey was created to be the focal point of all PEI Mi’kmaq efforts to assert Aboriginal and Treaty Rights; including, community engagement, negotiations and consultation, in response to the Ila’matulti’k: Mi’kmaq – Prince Edward Island – Canada Framework Agreement.
The Gathering was also the starting point for a community consultation process to set priorities for L’nuey, as well as to guide the organization as it develops.
Subsequently, L’nuey continued to engage the community on their vision for their Rights and Reconciliation Initiative, which included a series of community-based consultation sessions held December to March – as well as an online survey.
At all five sessions, the following questions were used to guide the conversation:
- What if we look beyond the Indian Act? What if we could design the future of our people?
- What do we value as Mi’kmaq Nationhood? What are your long-term (10 year plus) priorities for the Mi’kmaq Nation?
- Who will be the beneficiaries of Mi’kmaq rights and title in Epekwitk?
The Visioning sessions revealed a number of themes:
The importance of revitalizing Mi’kmaq language and culture
The overwhelming majority of those who attended the sessions felt that central to any discussion on Mi’kmaq nationhood is the return to tradition, whether that be language, ceremony, forms of government or land use.
As Indigenous people, they felt that their rights should not end when they leave the reserve, regardless where they live and work.
The concept of who would be the beneficiaries of Mi’kmaq rights and title was a little more complicated. There will need to be much more work and in-depth conversations with community members to understand both what is meant by ‘beneficiaries’ and who will be entitled to rights once confirmed or negotiated.
Initial feedback from the Visioning sessions included the following:
- The Indian Act should not tell us who benefits.
- This should be determined by the community.
- All Mi’kmaq children should benefit.
Involvement in Decision-making
All decisions that impact the Epekwitk Mi’kmaq need to be made by the Epekwitk Mi’kmaq. The federal and provincial governments should no longer be making decisions that impact Indigenous lives without their involvement and say. Furthermore, these decisions need to be made by the Mi’kmaq as a nation, not as two separate communities.
The importance of Elders
Participants highlight the importance of Elders’ participation in all aspects of life. Elder knowledge needs to be central in everything from helping the youth to understand and take pride in their culture to advising government on protocols and decisions.
Continuing to Gather as a Nation
Participants spoke very positively about the Nationhood Gathering and wish to continue to gather as a Nation and work together toward a better tomorrow.
The Importance of Communication
Participants placed a high importance on communication with the community and general public regarding Rights and Reconciliation.
The Visioning process benefitted from some significant participation from the Epekwitk Mi’kmaq. People attended the Nationhood Gathering, participated in online consultations and community consultations.
Turning Input into Action
L’nuey have taken the input from their Visioning Process and applied it directly to their 2020-2021 Strategic Plan.
L’nuey’s first communications priority in 2020-2021 is to improve communication and transparency regarding its activities with the community. A communications strategy has been developed, which will enable greater community engagement and involvement in activities such as Consultation, the Beneficiaries Process, Governance Planning and more.
Communication and transparency are essential to building trust.
Coming soon, community members will be able to take part in webinars, consultations – and receive frequent updates on the activities of L’nuey directly from the staff and leadership of L’nuey.
L’nuey will also develop a broad public education plan that will focus on increasing understanding and awareness of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights, as well as the history of the Mi’kmaq on Prince Edward Island – all while putting a greater emphasis on the Mi’kmaq language.
L’nuey is also committed to enabling the Reconciliation process. Islanders are supportive of Reconciliation but often do not know how to take the initial steps forward. L’nuey will work with the public and with government to ensure that there is real, tangible progress in this regard this year.
In order to evaluate the success of these communications efforts, L’nuey has established the following Critical Success Factors – goals by which the success of our activities will be measured.
- There is an increased public and community understanding of the foundational terms and concepts related to Aboriginal and Treaty Rights.
- There is an increased public and community knowledge of the historic Mi’kmaq presence on Prince Edward Island; including, increased/greater prominence of Mi’kmaq words – greetings, place names, terms – on Prince Edward Island.
- There is an improved understanding of the concept and practice of Reconciliation and concrete public and governmental action is taking place.
These factors will unify the work of staff members throughout the organization. As they advance their individual files, they will also be working toward these collective goals – which will build trust and set the organization on a course for long-term success.
The L’nuey Visioning progress has given clear direction for the organization as it grows and moves forward. It is clear that L’nuey’s success is only possible if the community participates and is engaged from the very beginning.
As we “move toward a better tomorrow,” it is clear that we must do this together. There is no greater task for the future of our people and our communities for generations to come.