Rethinking Recognition: Mi'kmaq and Maliseet Poets Re-Write Land and Community

By Senier, Siobhan | MELUS, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

Rethinking Recognition: Mi'kmaq and Maliseet Poets Re-Write Land and Community


Senier, Siobhan, MELUS


Land and community are two ongoing concerns of contemporary Native American literature and literary criticism, and with good reason; if indigenous writing and theory are to remain genuinely useful to indigenous people, they must stay grounded in these two fundamental pillars of tribal culture. At the same time, given that many Native people do not live on reservations or in their traditional homelands and many individuals have unacknowledged or somehow contentious status in their tribes, we might consider how those experiences speak to indigenous territories and group identities and how they inform new indigenous writing.

This essay looks to new Mi'kmaq and Maliseet poets to see how recognition affects Native peoples' self-representation. (1) By recognition, I mean the formal, colonial governmental processes that acknowledge indigenous territories, identities, and self-governance. In the United States, beginning in the early 1970s, Mi'kmaqs and Maliseets were among the many tribes vigorously pursuing federal recognition. The Maliseets won recognition under the 1980 Maine Indian Settlement Claims Act (MISCA), along with the Penobscots and Passamaquoddies. The Mi'kmaqs did not receive recognition until 1991, even though they worked closely with the Maliseets on this goal.

In Maine as elsewhere, recognition has produced mixed results. On the plus side, it has enabled tribes to buy back small parts of their traditional land bases. It has opened the door to resources that are supposed to be guaranteed to Native people as restitution for those lands, especially improved housing, health services, and education. Furthermore, recognition signifies a formal, government-to-government relationship between tribes and the US, which has arguably helped bring some tribes a good deal of positive visibility and power.

On the negative side, MISCA disrupted some communities and alliances and in some cases even took away hard-won benefits. Some Maine Indians were against the settlement act from the outset. Others find today that it has actually created new barriers to the exercise of sovereignty or that it has weakened a previous sense of community. On the twenty-fifth anniversary of the settlement act, Passamaquoddy elder Madonna Soctomah remarked, "I can remember when everybody took care of everybody else and that's how we survived. We used to gather regularly and play games. Now there's no community life here. It's like everybody's a recluse" (Tuttle). (2) Thus, while recognition is often sought, it can also do violence to Native people, dividing them from their homelands and kin.

Competing investments in and stories about recognition are dramatically illustrated in the writing produced by Mi'kmaq and Maliseet people before and after their federal recognition cases. In this essay, I focus on a short-lived collaborative newsletter, The Aroostook Indian, produced out of Houlton, Maine, between 1969 and 1976. I then turn to two contemporary poets: Alice Azure (Mi'kmaq) and Mihku Paul (Maliseet). Both women presently live in urban areas of the United States, have connections in northern Maine, and have band affiliations in Canada, where most of the Mi'kmaq and Maliseet reservations are located. This pair of writers lets us ask how off-reservation Native people with varying relationships to recognition write about land and community. While there is no simple or unified answer to this question, I suggest that the poets in particular describe wider territories and more capacious communities than recognition or its implementation normally implies or fosters.

Federal recognition has been an overriding goal of northeastern indigenous people in the US since the 1960s and 1970s. Tribes can be "unrecognized" for any number of reasons. Some were officially "terminated" under the federal termination and relocation policies of the 1950s. (3) In the Northeast, where settler colonialism was well-entrenched before the United States formally came into being, many tribes already had treaties and land cessions with early colonial governments and tended to remain outside of US federal jurisdiction until they started pressing for recognition in the late twentieth century. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Rethinking Recognition: Mi'kmaq and Maliseet Poets Re-Write Land and Community
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.