INTRODUCTION

Our claims process and negotiations are based on long-held Mi’gmaq beliefs and principles.  This section will take us on a journey through the beliefs that are guiding our path.

BELIEFS BEHIND OUR CLAIM 

Nm’tginen me’mnaq ejiglignmuetueg gis na naqtmueg, translated, means “our territory: we have never given it away or left it.”  That same phrase is the title of our Gespe’gewa’gi Statement of Claim.  

The assertion of Mi’gmaq rights, title and interests is based on the Gespe’gewa’gi Mi’gmaq Nation’s existing relationship with the territory. This relationship has changed and evolved over thousands of years, but our beliefs remain as the spirit behind our claim.

Over thousands of years, our ancestors studied the behaviour of life forms within Gespe’gewa’gi ~ the animals, the plants, the sun, the moon, the earth and the seasons ~ in order to develop an understanding of the dynamics of ugs’tqamu, which means “Creation.”

From this understanding of the land, our social and political systems have come.  This includes our ways of governing that are encoded and passed down in Mi’gmaq language, stories, ceremonies, songs and oral traditions.

GOVERNING SPIRIT OF THE CLAIM 

The following seven principles are the foundation of Mi’gmaq governance. We hold them sacred. They form the spirit and intent with which we are going forward with our Gespe’gewa’gi claims process:

1) Gepmite’taqan – Respect   

Our children are taught to respect and care for all beings within the territory and the importance of maintaining the well-being of our homeland. We learn from our Elders that respect is integral to our relationship with the land, each other, our ancestors and all beings.  So, we all have a role and responsibility, politically and spiritually, to get along. We are all obliged to respect each other’s gifts and responsibilities.

Our Statement of Claim recognizes and upholds mutual respect among our people and among the three parties involved in the claim.

2) Ta’n telmi’watmg goqwei - Giving thanks

The Mi’gmaq recognize that the maqamigal (meaning “lands”) have provided and continue to give us all the necessities of life.  Giving thanks is critical to maintaining our balanced relationship with Creation. Our ceremonies (tobacco offerings, feasts, honour songs, naming practices, sweat lodge ceremonies, etc.) teach about humility, gratitude, and respect in terms of how we take care of each other, including the use and occupancy of our territory.

Our Statement of Claim describes our gratitude to the Creator for giving us the resources, our territory and each other.

 

3) Ta’n telmi’waltultimg - Honour   

For Mi’gmaq, honour plays a large role in an individual’s sense of responsibility to his or her family, community and nation.  Thus, the honour of an individual represents the honour of his or her nation. Individuals with the gift of a big heart were spiritual and on many occasions were great healers as well.  Traditionally, these few individuals were highly honoured and typically became the leaders of families and clans. They utilized their gifts, the wisdom of the Elders, and their community knowledge in order to survive and prosper in an ever-changing environment. Today we honour our Elders for their guidance just as in the past.

 

Our Statement of Claim honours and appreciates our Elders, Chiefs and other officials, including those representing the other parties, who are working thoughtfully and tirelessly on behalf of all our members to achieve our claim.

4) Ta’n telwo’gmawtultimg - We are all Related  

It is our political belief that we are all related, interconnected, and dependent upon one another.  Ta’n telwo’gmawtultimg recognizes all of our relations within Creation and emphasizes the importance of respect. Governance is based on this principle of decentralized governance and shared authority in which no one individual, family, community or nation’s needs dictates or controls the needs of another.  Agreements are entered into for the purpose of extending our interconnectedness and interdependency with each other.

 

Our Statement of Claim shows how we intend to include all the Mi’gmaq people living in the territory so that they, our relatives, receive the many benefits that will result from our successful claim.

5) Ta’n telitpi’taqati’gw - Sharing  

We believe that the Nation – through extended family systems – is responsible for the territory.  For the Mi’gmaq, governing is not about dominating the cycles of life or distributing scarce resources to a few. Instead, management is about sharing resources and responsibilities and fulfilling obligations to extended family kinship systems and all of Creation. By doing this, our resources will remain abundant for the benefit of future generations.

Our Statement of Claim makes it clear that we all have responsibility for managing our resources and that we intend to equally share the resources themselves, based on our own Mi’gmaq governance system.

 6) Ta’n telmawilsutaqati’gw - Responsibility 

Among families and communities within the territory, we intend that decisions about land use and occupancy are and will be made through open deliberation. Each individual (living in a community, in a district, and in our nation) is responsible for sharing his or her understanding of the land and is expected to listen to the needs of others.  We expect that through consultation and consensus-building, we will continue to come together as one mind, as we have for centuries. In this way, responsibility is a practiced way-of-life.

 

Our Statement of Claim describes how we intend to assign mutual responsibility to all our people for the management of our territory.

7) Ta’n telgegnu’mimajultimg - Protocols and Ceremonies  

Through protocols and ceremonies, our laws are recognized and transferred, with obligations and rights for all those who participate in rebuilding the Mi’gmaq nation.  Protocols and ceremonies recognize and affirm one’s responsibilities to the territory, to each other, and to past, present and future generations.  At these times, gifts are usually exchanged in order to mark the relationship. For example, when Elders agree to a treaty or proclamation, they share the gift of smoking a pipe.

Our Statement of Claim goes into detail about the importance of retaining our ceremonies as unique symbols of our way of life.

CONCLUSION

 

We, as claimers of our rightful land, intend to use all of our governing principles described above to make sure that Mi’gmaq ways are acknowledged and upheld during the Gespe’gewa’gi claims process and after our claim is settled.
LEARN MORE
Read our statement of claim, Nm’tginen, in your choice of Mi’gmaq, English, or French
Read the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat research report Mi’gmeway Politics: Mi’gmaq Political Traditions.