Ni’n aq No’kmaq – Me and My Relations
Determining who can exercise Mi’kmaq Aboriginal and Treaty rights is not about Indian status. It’s about who is Mi’kmaq, who we are as a people, and our identity as a Nation, which is grounded in our family roots and connections. We cannot exercise our rights if we don’t have our own process for defining who is Mi’kmaq. We need our own process to define who can exercise Mi’kmaq Aboriginal and Treaty rights and who is Mi’kmaq, and that’s what we’re working towards.
L’nuey, on behalf of the Mi’kmaq leadership, wants to make sure that:
- Rights are being exercised by the Mi’kmaq.
- Resources are being protected and used properly. With rights come responsibilities.
- Resources will be there for future generations.
Every step of the way, we will engage with Mi’kmaq from across the province, on and off reserve, coming back to you at each stage to ask if we heard you correctly and then share our progress.
We launched this work in July of 2020, and we started by determining what we want our process to be called. The name chosen was “Ni’n aq No’kmaq”, which translates to “Me and My Relations”. Our first phase focused on helping generate a clear understanding of the work ahead by sharing banners, posters, and a special glossary of terms.
The Engagement Team of Julie Pellissier-Lush, Richard Lush and Jamie Thomas set out to conduct online and in-person conversations, during which 350 interviews were conducted, representing one-third of Epekwitnewaq Mi’kmaq aged 18+. 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?
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 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.
Round 2 Engagement and Next Steps
The second phase of community engagement kicked off in November 2021 and was highlighted with a podcast, community mailout, and month-long social media campaign. This round of engagement focused on four key questions based on gaps from the first round of engagement.
The team set out to conduct an additional 305 interviews (including denied requests).
Now that we’ve completed two rounds of community engagement, we’re taking what we’ve learned, and have identified a series of important next steps.
For more information on the findings from our Round 2 Engagement, as well as Next Steps, check out the latest Community Update below.