Nationhood in Action at the Honouring our Land Mawiomi
Grand Council members, elected leaders, Elders, academics, community members, and youth assembled at the Honouring our Land Mawiomi on March 21-23 in Listuguj. Over this three-day event, participants shared stories, songs, and engaged in active conversations about moose harvesting, nation building, and the transmission of Mi’gmaq knowledge to the youth.
The discussion responds to an ongoing concern raised by several communities about moose hunting on Mi’gmaq territory without properly requesting permission of local communities. In the fall of 2017, Chief Darcy Gray met with the Grand Chief of Kahnawake to express Listuguj’s concerns and to remind him that there is a traditional protocol of asking, and waiting for permission, when hunting on Mi’gmaq territory.
The talks at the Honouring our Land Mawiomi culminated in the acceptance of a Proclamation that recognizes that Moose harvesting by Mi’gmaq should be in keeping with Mi’gmaq law including the concept and practice of Netugulimg. The Proclamation does not say ‘how many moose’ Listuguj community members, or others, can harvest. Rather, the Proclamation is intended to open the doorway and provide a foundation for Listuguj to adopt its own regulations for the responsible and respectful management of moose resources.
Pam Palmater, Mi’gmaq activist, author and lawyer, delivered a keynote talk at Alaqsite’w Gitpu School for Siggw Culture Day as part of this mawiomi. Palmater emphasized that nationhood is about taking action and is expressed in the ways we live. She added that it is critical that nationhood talks include Youth.
“You are the ones who need to be actively engaged in nation building right now on a daily basis. Our nations, especially the Mi’gmaq nation who has suffered five hundred years of colonization, we actually need you in nation building. We need you to be leaders right now, warriors right now, caregivers right now.”
At the gathering, Elders and youth raised concerns about safety, about respecting hunting areas, and about how to share the moose meat with community. Others raised concerns about over harvesting and emphasized the need to use all parts of the moose. There is a clear need and desire for communities to develop their own moose harvesting protocol.
“This event was a learning opportunity. It was about opening up that dialogue for people to share, to build, and to contribute. We are coming out of this event with guiding principles to develop our own moose harvesting plans. This is not our last gathering, it is the beginning and continuance of something bigger,” said Chief Gray.
Jaime Battiste (Treaty Education Lead at Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey in Nova Scotia) delivered a powerful presentation about Mi’gmaq self-determination and Treaty Rights. He played the following video during his presentation: Click here to watch a video on Treaty Education in Nova Scotia.
“We have persevered through famine, disease, and genocide,” said Battiste. “Relationships are the most important thing and our rights [to our land] have been there all along.”
Gji-Geptin Antle Denny of the Grand Council echoed this assertion by emphasizing how governance is rooted in families, language, and connections with Mi’gmaq ancestral lands.
Other highlights from the mawiomi include: three (3) facilitated discussions with approximately one-hundred participants. Paige Isaac and Denny Isaac facilitated A’tugwaqann (stories from Gespe’gewa’gi) where participants shared their stories from the land. Corey Metallic, Jasmine LaBillois, Luke LaBillois and Danny Paul delivered panel presentations on moose harvesting community programs. Tracey Metallic held an art workshop with a small group of mawiomi participants. The grades seven and eight students, and their teachers, from Alaqsite’w Gitpu School took part in a workshop on traditional approaches to moose management facilitated by Clifford Paul of the Unama’gi Institute of Natural Resources.
The event came to a close with a feast on Saturday evening. Grand Chief Arlen Dumas of the Assembly of the Manitoba Chiefs delivered a keynote reminding us that nation building is about acknowledging relations and staying connected with each other. Click on this link to hear Grand Chief Dumas singing the Mi’gmaq Honour Song.