Episode 8 – The Title and Treaty Show

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In today’s episode, we talk about the important issue of land title and treaties in the Maritime provinces of Canada. While normally this podcast is thirty minutes, we take the full hour to discuss this vital topic with knowledgeable Mi’kmaq and Wolustuk treaty scholars and practitioners.

Title was never surrendered in the Maritimes and the treaties signed with the British Crown pre-date the creation of the country we now know as Canada. Because of this, the existing treaties are extremely powerful and provide for a wide range of options and freedoms for treaty beneficiaries.

But, as we will hear from our guests, knowledge of the treaties and their power has been fairly limited, on a general scale, to date. Those who would benefit most from this knowledge are kept ‘in the dark’. Rather than perceiving of oneself as a treaty beneficiary, the illusion of the Indian Act and the ‘Status Indian’ has taken precedence.

In this show, we also explore whether the two paths – that of title and treaty and that of the Indian Act – can possibly be walked at the same time, or whether one must choose.

This is a big episode, with big ideas. As always, we recommend that you go to the elders for further knowledge and information.

Enjoy and share!

Your friend and migitjo, Annie Clair

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO EPISODE 8

Episode 7 -The Time Machine

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Today on Pjilasi Mi’kma’ki, thanks to the magic of audio sound effects, intrepid host Annie Clair travels back in time to investigate traditional governance structures as they existed in pre-contact times. (Click here to listen to the episode now)

With the assistance of knowledgable guests such as Roger Lewis, curator of ethnology at the Nova Scotia Musuem, Don Awalt, Mi’kmaq historian and genealogist, and Russell Julian and Ron Knockwood, members of the modern-day Mi’kmaq Grand Council, Annie embarks on a voyage of discovery that traces and isolates the impacts of colonial and Catholic influences upon Mi’kmaq governance.

It’s a fascinating look at the manner in which an entire governance structure was designed around glusuaqan, which translates roughly into ‘speaking words’, and how this steadily was undermined through a colonial system that rewarded complicit behaviour. Moving back to the present day, this episode highlights the importance of keeping oral history alive, but also the dangers of ‘getting it wrong’, especially when dealing with the Canadian government in Treaty-based legal cases.

“We need to go back to our elders,” says Clair. “We need to go to them to get that knowledge and to learn the things that are not kept in museums. They’re the ones that have our history and our oral traditions.”

Episode 6 – All About Ligpenigen (Baskets)

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Photo: Courtesy of Sandra (Clair) Racine – for more: http://www.mikmaqwovendreams.com

Well, hello again. We’re happy to share our sixth episode, which is all about the craft of basketmaking and its relevance to Mi’kmaq people. Now, you might wonder what is so important about basketmaking, that we’d devote an entire half hour episode of this podcast to it?

Ah. You might say that the importance of the basket resides within the hands of the ancestors. Because the basket is more than a basket. The intricate processes involved in transforming a tree into a bundle of splints, then into a tightly woven basket, have been refined over the generations into what many consider today to be a high art form.

And of course, when we talk of making baskets, we must ask ourselves the question of ‘why’?

Why indeed weave a basket, when another container might suffice? The story of ‘why’ is interwoven with the colonial experience. Because colonial incursions upon traditional lands and lifestyles, combined with colonial tastes in containers, provide a key to understanding how Mi’kmaq became master weavers in their own right.

Historians suggest that basket weaving, particularly using trees such as black ash and maple, was not part of Mi’kmaq culture prior to the mid-1700s. While no one appears quite certain how basket making using tree splints first was learned, basket making quickly became a source of survival income for Mi’kmaq families who were being pushed to the brink of extinction. As capitalism and private property imposed themselves upon the semi-nomadic lifestyle, weaving and selling baskets to settlers – and later tourists – became a lifeline.

So come on, explore the basket with us. We’ll be talking to master Mi’kmaq basket makers, traditional tree harvesters and settlers of a particular vintage, who remember their first interactions with Mi’kmaq people as being directly linked to baskets. Listen carefully, and you might just catch a whisper of your own past within these stories.

Episode 5 -The human side of the inquiry

Welcome to Episode Five of Pjilasi Mi’kma’ki. This episode focuses on the need for an inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women, and the human impact of being a family member who has survived this phenomenon.

To listen to this podcast, click here.

According to a 2014 report by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, between 1991 – 2012, 3,989 women in Canada were murdered. Of these murders, 705 were Aboriginal women. This accounts for approximately 18% of all female murder cases. This, despite the fact that in the 2011 Canadian census, only 4.3% of the population self-identified as ‘Aboriginal’.

The statistics become ever more troubling when we look at women murdered outside of ‘Metropolitan Areas’. Here, of the 1,555 women murdered between 1991 – 2012, 426 were Aboriginal women. This is approximately 27% of all non-metropolitan female murders.

Of the murder cases where someone has been charged, according to the Native Women’s Association of Canada’s database, 16.5% of offenders are strangers with no prior connection to the murdered Aboriginal woman or girl. This, compared to data collated by Statistics Canada, which reports that between 1997 and 2004, only 6% of murdered non-Aboriginal women were killed by strangers.

When I think about it, when I think that it is more likely that our native women will go missing or be murdered, for me, living in a city right now, I could just be out somewhere, doing something. When I’m alone, I could go missing, be murdered, and I’m just out here minding my own business, trying to be a human being like anyone else.

People would never think that it can happen to you, but it can.

You can be the most loving and kind person in the world, but it might still happen to you as well. And instead, if you’re a native woman, you’ll be branded as an alcoholic, or a ‘hooker’, or an addict, a slut, and you’re nothing but garbage and nobody will care about you anyways. You live in a hell-hole anyways and you’re disposable. So we don’t matter.

But you know what? This is going to stop now. We are fighting back. And this is our land. And we’re going to protect our women, our nieces, our daughters, our aunts, our sisters. And we are taking our power back, with you or without you.

The interviews you will hear in this episode of the podcast are from three mothers of missing or murdered Aboriginal people. They’re three beautiful mothers, talking about their children, and how their lives were destroyed when all they wanted was to succeed in life and help their people. In a flash though, that is taken away.

Episode 4 is Here: The Power of Words

Welcome back to Pjilasi Mi’kma’ki. In this fourth episode, we’ll be talking about the power of language; what’s gained when you keep something alive in a word, and what’s lost when that word dies.

We’ll take a trip to the Mic Mac mall, in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, to get a feel for the non-Native community’s understanding of the Mi’kmaq language.

We’ll also hear from two Mi’kmaq men on very important linguistic missions.

Tuma Young, from Unama’ki – otherwise known as Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia – is a lawyer and a professor at Cape Breton University. Early on, his parents recognized that Tuma wouldn’t become a great hunter or fisher, so they told him to go to school instead!

Tuma has worked for years to preserve traditional Mi’kmaq names of Nova Scotia’s birds and medicines. We talk to him about working with elders, students and within communities to save this important aspect of Mi’kmaq linguistic heritage.

Bernie Francis, also from Unama’ki, is a linguist and has helped developed a Mi’kmaq written orthography that is now widely accepted across Nova Scotia. Francis’ latest project is an interactive Mi’kmaq place name atlas that encompasses Nova Scotia. Bernie speaks of the value of knowing where you are, in Mi’kmaq, in traditional Mi’kmaq territory.

We hope you enjoy this episode.

Episode 3 – Wrestling with the Reserve System

In this third episode of Pjilasi Mi’kma’ki, we will be exploring the reserve system in Canada. In 2011, over 360,000 First Nations people lived on reserves in Canada. Statistically, they were less likely to have access to clean drinking water, were more likely to suffer from alcohol and drug-related issues, and suffered from elevated rates of suicide. A lack of employment opportunities, sub-standard housing and predatory child apprehension policies make reserves a tough place to thrive in.

But statistics only paint by number.

Reserves are also a place where language and culture have, to a degree, been safeguarded. They are places where everybody knows everybody; that’s how family is. Even though there are negatives and positives, the whole community is a family and they’ll still watch over people.

Increasingly though, First Nations folks are gravitating towards urban centres. The urban Aboriginal experience isn’t always an easy one either, with the temptations of addictions and a fast money lifestyle clashing up against a systemically racist system. Even in the city, you see non-Indigenous people looking at Native people like dirt.

Folks like Patti Doyle-Bedwell, of Paqtnkek First Nation, Nova Scotia, work hard to create safe and healthy education opportunities for Indigenous people to succeed. Education can be one of the tools to survive and thrive and ultimately elevate the community’s standing.

“I think sometimes the reservation is like a double-edged sword,” says Doyle-Bedwell, of Dalhousie University’s Transition Year Program. “We’re all together. We’re with our family. Our language is spoken. It’s a way to keep ourselves connected to our family and our culture. But then when you think about the history of it, it was created to keep us separate. To turn us into good White People. To get us away from hunting and fishing. It was like a prison.”

There’s lots to talk about in this episode, from the inception of the reserve system, to daily struggles with addictions and lack of opportunities – both on and off the reserve. I hope you do listen and share with family and friends.

Click HERE to listen to the third episode of this unique Mi’kmaq/English podcast.

Wela’lin, Annie Clair

Episode 2 is here – On Language and Education

In this episode we will be exploring language and education. The reasons why the Mi’kmaq language is in a desperate state are not mysterious. The Mi’kmaq language is threatened by the legacy of colonialism, from residential schools to the modern education curriculum.

In the last podcast episode of PJILASI MI’KMA’KI, we heard about the ‘Sixties Scoop’, where Aboriginal children were stripped from their families and placed into Non-Native homes. The Sixties Scoop was also an attack on language.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission recently affirmed what tens of thousands of Aboriginal peoples in Canada have known for generations; that cultural genocide has taken place in this country on a massive scale. Attempting to kill the Indigenous languages of Canada is a prime example of “taking the Indian out of the child”. Perry Belgarde, in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report, noted that resuscitating the country’s remaining 58 Indigenous languages must be a priority of reconciliation efforts.

“Losing my language is one of my biggest regrets,” says Bert Milbert, an Ojibway ‘Sixties Scoop’ adoptee. “Because we did speak when we were younger. And I think that there’s a percentage of incompleteness within me by not speaking my own language.”

Enjoy this new podcast episode.