Understanding historical Mi’gmaq treaty and aboriginal rights and relations for the 21st century : an “along the grain” approach
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SubjectAlong the grain research; Gift-giving; Land Restitution; Mi’gmaq; Peace & Friendship Treaties; Resource Revenue-Sharing
This synthesis paper summarizes the three components of my dissertation via portfolio. My first article, The Essence of Honour & Humanity: Revisiting the Treaty-Making Process in Mi’gmaq’i, looks at the development of the Peace and Friendship Treaties, between the Mi’gmaq and the British Crown, in what is now the Maritime provinces. This research is carried out using an “along the grain” research technique, where colonial figures who acted with honour and humanity are studied to see why they chose to act differently from their superiors and colleagues. For this paper, Paul Mascarene, an 18th century British colonial official in Nova Scotia assigned to Indigenous treaty negotiations, was chosen. Mascarene came from a persecuted French Huguenot background and was an avid academic reader, especially in the area of ethics. This background is explored and how it may have influenced Mascarene’s decision to incorporate Indigenous perspectives in the treaty of 1726, despite the potential implications for his career. My second article, Gift-giving, Diplomacy and Mi’gmaq Resource Revenue Sharing as a Treaty Right & Responsibility, investigates the role of gift-giving in the treaty relationship between the Mi’gmaq and the British Crown in the 19th century. As a diplomatic tool, gift-giving was already a well-established cultural practice for the Mi’gmaq and the British Crown. However, they used gifts in very different manners. For the Mi’gmaq, gifts were used to establish and maintain relationships and demonstrate respect for territorial boundaries. For the British, gifts were used as a colonial pacification mechanism. In New Brunswick, there needs to be a shift from gift-giving to resource revenue sharing, whereby the Mi’gmaq are respected as treaty partners in the modern context. The history of Captain Henry Dunn O’Halloran’s work with the Mi’gmaq in the 19th century is explored to demonstrate that some British colonial officials understood and respected their treaty relationship with the Mi’gmaq nearly 200 years ago. Captain O’Halloran was recognized by the Mi’gmaq for his efforts to support them, and they presented him with an elaborately beaded jacket. In turn, O’Halloran supported a Mi’gmaq delegation in their mission to meet Queen Victoria and express their concerns about colonial policies and practices affecting their lands, fisheries, annual gifts and religious freedoms. Finally, the policy report addresses Mi’gmaq concerns regarding lands in New Brunswick. Though the British signed Peace and Friendship treaties with the Mi’gmaq in the 18th century, they did not honour the terms of these treaties. The settlement of lands was supposed to take place only with the agreement of the Mi’gmaq. However, the British started granting lands to individuals who supported them in the American War of Independence. In addition to treaty-defying land grants, European squatters also started to establish themselves on Mi’gmaq lands. The colonial New Brunswick government developed licenses of occupation for Mi’gmaq communities to limit further infringements on Mi’gmaq lands. Some of these licenses of occupation lands became the current nine Mi’gmaq reserves in the province. These reserve lands are a tiny remnant of the original territory of the Mi’gmaq in New Brunswick and do not begin to meet the needs of the Mi’gmaq in the 21st century. Examples are given from other jurisdictions, including Nova Scotia and New Zealand, where Indigenous land restitution efforts are well underway and provide important lessons for New Brunswick.
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