First Nations, Identity, and Reserve Life: The Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia

First Nations, Identity, and Reserve Life: The Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia

First Nations, Identity, and Reserve Life: The Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia

First Nations, Identity, and Reserve Life: The Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia

Synopsis

Issues of identity figure prominently in Native North American communities, mediating their histories, traditions, culture, and status. This is certainly true of the Mi'kmaw people of Nova Scotia, whose lives on reserves create highly complex economic, social, political, and spiritual realities. This ethnography investigates identity construction and negotiations among the Mi'kmaq, as well as the role of identity dynamics in Mi'kmaw social relationships on and off the reserve. Featuring direct testimonies from over sixty individuals, this work offers a vivid firsthand perspective on contemporary Mi'kmaw reserve life.
Simone Poliandri beginsFirst Nations, Identity, and Reserve Lifewith the search for the criteria used by the Mi'kmaq to construct their identities, which are traced within the context of their different perceptions of community, tradition, spirituality, the relationship with the Catholic Church, and the recent re-evaluation of the iconic figure of late activist Annie Mae Aquash. Building on the notions of self-identification and ascribed identity as the primary components of identity, Poliandri argues that placing others in specific locations within the social landscape of their communities allows the Mi'kmaq to define and reinforce their own spaces by way of association, contrast, or both. This identification of others highlights Mi'kmaw people's agency in shaping and monitoring the representations of their identities. With its theoretical insights, this richly textured ethnography will enhance understanding of identity dynamics among Indigenous communities, even as it illuminates the unique nature of the Mi'kmaw people.

Excerpt

This study is based on fieldwork and archival research conducted between 2003 and 2007. The seeds for this work were planted during a previous research project that I conducted in 2000, when I investigated the current significance of tradition among a group of Mi’kmaw lobster fishermen of Nova Scotia and their relationship with the Maritime socio-geographic landscape. My interest in the social and political dynamics of tradition led me to pursue the understanding of the reasons behind them. I began to think about the fishermen’s different perceptions of tradition as points of reference that the Mi’kmaq utilize in order to position themselves and others in social and political arenas. From there, the step toward a broader investigation of Mi’kmaw identity was short.

The history of anthropology is filled with academics who have discussed Native North American peoples’ traditions, identities, and cultures in countless scholarly books, articles, conference presentations, and multimedia products. In introducing a volume now popular in the realm of anthropological studies of Native peoples, Tom Biolsi and Larry Zimmerman (1997) pointed out that anthropology does not ask questions Native peoples necessarily ask or need answers to. This opinion is shared by many in Indian Country, ranging from the scholarly words of individuals like the late Vine Deloria to the curiosity or concern of the . . .

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