Ni’n aq No’kmq – Me and My Relations
Our identity as a Nation is grounded in our family roots and connections.
We are pleased to provide you with an update on the engagement we’ve conducted for the Ni’n aq No’kmaq-Me and My Relations process. The Ni’n aq No’kmaq process will determine who can exercise Mi’kmaq Rights on Epekwitk. We are defining for ourselves WHO is Mi’kmaq, because only the Mi’kmaq of Epekwitk can say who WE are as Mi’kmaq.
This process is not about access to dollars, but instead focuses on who can hunt, fish and access resources in this province as a Mi’kmaq Rights-holder. We launched this work on July 27, 2000 and continued meeting with community members during the end of March 2021 for Phase 1.
The Engagement Team of Julie Pellissier-Lush, Richard Lush and Jamie Thomas set out to conduct online and in-person conversations. Conversations focused on the following nine questions:
- If we could design a future for our people, what would that picture look like to you?
- What do you value as Mi’kmaq? What are our priorities?
- What does it mean to you to be Mi’kmaq?
- Who would be the beneficiaries of Mi’kmaq Rights and titles on Epekwitk?
- How far back should someone be able to claim Mi’kmaq ancestry?
- Who should be part of the decision-making process? Who determines who should be accepted by the Mi’kmaq?
- If you live on PEI and are Mi’kmaq, but are not from one of the two bands, should you still be eligible to benefit from Mi’kmaq Rights?
- Is there anything you don’t understand regarding the work of the Epekwitk Mi’kmaq process?
- Is there anything you would like to share about this process?
To date, almost 350 interviews have been completed, representing one-third of Epekwitnewaq Mi’kmaq aged 18+ being reached. Of those that participated, there was equal representation of voices living on reserve and living off-reserve, including 9% of our respondents being from out-of-province. From the interviews and online surveys, a number of themes and areas where we need to get more information emerged.
Some key themes and concepts
- Most important concepts: family and community, traditions, and language.
- There is pride in being Mi’kmaq.
- Language and culture are important for community members in terms of healing and revitalization. However, language is not a recognized factor in describing Mi’kmaq identity. Rather, all participants have related it to ancestry and community connection.
- There was no consistency in defining who is a beneficiary or how far back should someone be able to claim they are Mi’kmaq. We need to continue to engage on the type of proof required and how far back the cut-off date should be. Most individuals say three to four generations.
- We noticed the lobster dispute last fall in Southwest Nova Scotia provided a tangible example to community members to understand the difference between Aboriginal and Treaty Rights, and band programs and services. This has helped in the conversation asking if Mi’kmaq from other jurisdictions should be able to access Treaty Rights on PEI.
The feedback from these sessions re-enforced the importance of communication in general – getting information out to community members and ensuring everyone has an opportunity to have their voice heard. Thank you for allowing us into your homes and providing your input on this very important topic. This does not mean this work is complete. We are sharing some of our findings with you now and will be starting Phase 2 of the Process later this Winter 2022.
You will start to see some communication tools that will help better define the beneficiary process and associated terms with the goal of providing information, so you can better understand the concept and terms.
Please look out for Ni’n aq No’kmaq banners, posters, as well as information through direct mailouts and a special glossary of terms that will help you better understand the objectives of this work.
Our Process will be Your Process
We engaged with Mi’kmaq from across the province, on and off reserve, and went back at each stage to ask if we heard correctly. Together, our first step was to determine what we want our process to be called and to ensure everyone had a clear understanding about the work ahead.
Community Engagement Update
We asked all Epekwitk community members to submit name suggestions and ideas as to how we would refer to this process. In September 2020, we announced the winning name for the Epekwitk Mi’kmaq Rights Process “N’in aq No’kmaq” – Me and My Relations, which was submitted by Methilda Knockwood-Snache.
We are pleased to provide you with an update on the engagement we’ve conducted for Ni’n aq No’kmaq – Me and My Relations.