So, I was reading Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back: Stories of Nishnaabeg Re-Creation, Resurgence, and a New Emergence (which is amazing) again when a thought crossed my mind about my people–the Mi’kmaq of Taqamkuk and my band, Qalipu.
While the process for enrollment is a disaster-mess-horror show and while I’ve gone into my feelings on it in ‘Part I’ (of this non-series), I actually see a sliver of a opportunity here. Connection to the land, to the communities we have designated and to lived experience there, was seen as inherent to the process.
Before I go on, three immediate caveats:
- The process for setting out this connection was arbitrary, based in colonial determination, and done often seemingly at random. None of the implementation seemed standardized. We picked the spots, sure, but fuck if we had anything real to do with how anything was interpreted.
- In spite of this, Qalipu has given away legal right and title to our land. (Coming back to this, though!)
- Really, our communities should be making this determination, not the goddamn colonizer.
But, whether you are in or out of either of the bands, something that can be said I think is that it is recognized as a broad truth, even by colonizing forces, that Taqamkuk Mi’kmaq have a connection to this land. The arguments for band registration limitations in this case here prove this–in spite of swindling our people of their Canadian legal right–as they are premised upon this being our land.
To other indigenous people, this probably is like well, fucking duh, Brad. So? For us, we have been portrayed as marauders and outsiders to our own land for five centuries. Othered as foreign, while settler Newfoundland culture developed and erased us.
The tension between now widened recognition of our being of this land and yet being denied it sits all around us. It is a tension that has immense social and political potential. While one give (and I, along with many, have given) critique of the enrollment process, if we’re looking for a way forward, it will inevitably surround this tension.
Further still, with the question of the band being dealt with and leaving so many unsatisfied, now is the time to look towards traditional structures of governance. We do not have these in place due to colonial erasure. However, we have our elders from Miawpukek and from across Mi’kma’ki to aid in rebuilding these spaces–they have already done this work and Miawpukek’s elders are part of our nation’s Grand Council.
A more traditionally governed space could hold legitimacy beyond the strictures of the government sanctioned space. While such traditionally governed spaces could aim to answer that tension and assert our sovereignty, regardless of the agreements signed in our name.
We can’t be afraid to assert ourselves in this way, instead we must do this as part of our regeneration, our revitalization. Only by moving past the current poisons and wounds of the colonial state can we hope to do this–and we can, if we use the tensions the State and our leaders have created to build the inertia towards traditional, broader governance for all Mi’kmaq in Taqamkuk.