Mi’gmaq & Treaty Rights
We must recognize that we are in the seventh district of Mi’gma’gi, which is Gespe’gewa’gi, the ancestral and unceed territory of the Mi’gmaq.
We are all treaty people. Let’s talk about our rights! What are Inherent Rights?
Many Indigenous people say that the source of their inherent jurisdiction is the Creator who placed them in North America and instructed them in the proper ways of living.
“The Elders are absolute in their belief that it is this very special and complete relationship with the Creator that is the source of the sovereignty that their peoples possess. It provided the framework for the political, social, educational, and cultural institutions and laws of their peoples that allowed them to survive as nations from the beginning of time to present. In their view, it is part of the divine birthright given to their peoples by the Creator.”
Our inherent Rights as Mi’gmaq
Many of our Mi’gmaq Elders talk about our relationship with our territory and with all Creation:
“Ever since the Mi’gmaq were born, we have always had and used our authority to continue to care for the rivers, fish, woods, animals, and birds, here in Gespe’gewa’gi, the 7th District of Mi’gma’gi. Our authority comes from the Creator.”
Exercising our Inherent Rights as Mi’gmaq
We have inherent rights to land and our ways of governing.
Our inherent rights are recognized and affirmed in the Canadian Constitution.
We have inherent rights to develop our own laws and to manage our own resources.
For example, regarding our forests – we could make laws and manage this resource as part of our Inherent Rights.
Before Europeans arrived, we negotiated treaties with other Indigenous nations. We continued this practice of treaty making with Europeans.
1725-1779: We signed a series of Peace and Friendship treaties with the British Crown. We did not cede or surrender our land rights to the Crown.
We entered into treaties with the British to protect our way of life: hunting, fishing, gathering, and trading.
Exercising Our Treaty Rights
What does it mean to say we have Treaty Rights?
The Peace and Friendship treaties – signed over two hundred years ago – are still valid today.
As a nation, we have a right to economically prosper (make a moderate livelihood) from the land
Indigenous Rights and Title
The Canadian Constitution recognizes and affirms the rights of Indigenous peoples. There are two types of rights, which are:
(1) Indigenous Rights
(2) Indigenous Title
These rights exist because – before contact with Europeans – Indigenous peoples were independent, self-governing, and in possession over land that today makes up Canada.
What are Indigenous Rights?
Indigenous rights legally entitle Indigenous peoples to take part in certain practices, customs, or traditions.
The courts say that to claim Indigenous rights, the activity (or practice) must be integral to the culture and practiced before contact with Europeans.
The right to hunt, trap, harvest, and fish are examples of Indigenous rights.
What does it mean to exercise our Mi’gmaq Rights
When we use our woods – for example, firewood, to build canoes, baskets, medicines, and our ceremonies – we are exercising our Indigenous Rights to use our land and its resources.
What are Title Rights?
Mi’gmaq Title is a right in the land itself.
Title means having the right to occupy land and to use that land for a variety of purposes.
The courts say that if we want to prove Mi’gmaq Title, we need to demonstrate three elements: Occupation + Continuity + Regular Use Exclusivity = Title
What does it mean to exercise title rights?
With title, we could access, use, and protect our resources – for example, the forests – under our own authority and jurisdiction.
With Mi’gmaq Title, we could gain control over the forest – not just be able to use the trees for certain activities.
Exercising Our Rights
The Mi’gmawei Mawiomi represents the unique needs of each of its three member communities.
When it comes to protecting, and advancing our rights, the negotiations must be flexible in order to meet the specific needs, challenges, and requirements of each community.
Know your rights, exercise your rights, protect your rights!