Gorsebrook Research Institute

Aboriginal & Northern Research

SSHRC's Aboriginal Research Pilot Program to Document 13,000 Years of Mi'kmaw History

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Past Annual Reports:

2011 2010 2009 2007 2006

Annual Report 2012


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A major focus this year has been on the research and development of the Pjila’si Mi’kma’ki: Mi’kmaw Place Names Digital Atlas and Website Project. The vision of Pjila’si Mi’kma’ki is to document and to raise public awareness of approximately 13,000 years of Mi’kmaw presence within Mi’kma’ki, the ancient landscape of the Mi’kmaq. The project was initiated by the Federal-Nova Scotia-Mi’kmaq Tripartite Forum, Culture and Heritage Committee, and is being carried out in partnership with the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq (CMM), Mi’kma’ki All Points Services (MAPS), Parks Canada, Atlantic Region, and the Nova Scotia Museum. Along with our continued funding from a $250,000 SSHRC Aboriginal Grant (2010-2013), I was successful in receiving an additional $100,000 through SSHRC’s Public Outreach Grant (2011-2012). With this funding, as well as supplemental funding through the Tripartite Forum, SMU, and a number of youth and student employment grants, twelve internships have been created for Mi’kmaw interns over the past two years. This summer, four Mi’kmaw youth—Raymond Sewell, Kachina Sack, Matt Meuse, and Justin Lewis— three of whom are SMU students, received inter-disciplinary training to assist in the research and development of the digital atlas and website. Under the guidance of Mi’kmaw linguist, Bernie Francis, we have fully translated and transliterated over 600 Mi’kmaw place names into the Smith-Francis orthography, and geo-referenced them for the digital atlas. We are targeting March 2013 as the launch date for the initial website.

I was also successful, with assistance from Tim Bernard of CMM, Roger Lewis of the N.S. Museum, and geomatics consultant, William Jones, in receiving Tripartite Forum funding to undertake research on Mi’kmaw Cultural Landscapes. This research is intended to re-visit the delineation of Mi’kmaw traditional districts. A third, smaller, project funded through Dr. Twohigs office at the GRI, has allowed me to hire one intern to research the history of the Grand Council, Shubenacadie District as part of the GRI’s MOU with members of the Grand Council of the Shubenacadie District. Justin Lewis is currently working with me on this research.

Though my International Polar Year Grant (IPY) and the SSHRC Aboriginal Grant held in partnership with the Innu Nation of Labrador, the Smithsonian Institution’s Arctic Research Centre, MUN, and the University of the Arctic were completed in 2011, I have continued to work with a team of northern experts on the development of a curriculum per request of staff members of the Innu Nation. The purpose of this curriculum development is to work collaboratively with the Innu Nation to assist in their process of self-governance. The preliminary curriculum design has been submitted to Richard Nuna of the Innu Nation Environment Office for approval by the Grand Chief and Council. As a co-applicant on Dr. Tony Charles’ successful Coastal Conservation Research Network (CCRN) Partnership Grant, I invited the Innu Nation onto the project as one of the two Canadian First Nations’ communities to develop research programs and policies concerning coastal conservation. I will be working closely with my Innu colleagues and the CCNR project team to develop conservation policies and programs. The grant also has an educational component that will support our long-term (since 2001) educational initiative with the Innu Nation.

In terms of publications, I am pleased to announce the completion of my and Bernie Francis’ book, “The Language of this Land, Mi’kma’ki”, published in March, 2012 by Cape Breton University Press. The book has received excellent reviews and is in its second printing. I am also a co-author on an article with Dr. Andrew Trant and Dr. John Jacobs, entitled, “Teaching and learning about climate change with Innu Environmental Guardians,” published in Polar Geography. Both Dr. Trant and Dr. Jacobs worked with me on developing the Climate Change training with and for the Innu Nation Environmental Guardians 2008-2010. Additionally, I delivered a paper at the American Anthropological Society’s Annual Meeting in Montreal, November 16-20, 2011, entitled, “Being Educated to Death: Ironies and Mixed Messages of Education for First Nations in the Canadian North”, in Montreal as part of a session, Aboriginal Dilemmas in the Canadian Settler State: Anthropology, Law, and Sovereignty, convened by Christopher Roy, Princeton University. I also represented SMU at the University of the Arctic’s Members Council meeting in Tromso, Norway June 12-14, 2012, and attended the Conference Board of Canada’s Conference on “Canada’s North and Beyond”, Oct. 11-13, 2012, both funded through the Office of the V.P. Academic.