Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
This presentation illustrates the nation-building strategies that the Mi’kmaw people of Nova Scotia have implemented in recent years. I introduce the theoretical concept of "contextual nationhood" to discuss the differences in the Mi’kmaw people’s expressions and perceptions of their nation when this is conceived in cultural, political, economic, or territorial terms. Subsequently, I illustrate how the provincial dimension of nationhood, which the Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq have collectively embraced as the most effective framework to pursue treaty rights and socioeconomic development in the last decade, has already become a burden to some First Nations in the province. If until 2015 it was mostly individual community members who voiced their skepticism toward the provincial “break-up” of the Mi’kmaw Nation, which comprises 29 bands spanning across five Canadian provinces and the U.S. state of Maine, such skepticism has recently extended to the Mi’kmaw elected leadership. For some, the short-term gains of this province-based strategy pose greater risks to the long-term cultural and political integrity of the Mi’kmaw Nation. As a result, two communities, Millbrook and Sipekne’katik, have recently abandoned the tribal alliance linking the thirteen First Nations in the province and are now pursuing negotiations independently. Based on ethnographic research, this talk sheds light on the rationales behind these choices and, more broadly, reveals the dynamic nature of current Mi’kmaw nation-building efforts.