Mi’kmaq Engage in Discussions on the Future of their Nation’s Citizenship
What are culturally appropriate ways to meaningfully engage Mi’kmaq people in citizenship discussions? What are the differences between Community Membership and Mi’kmaq citizenship? What are Mi’kmaq citizenship considerations for future generations and what does the future of ratified Mi’kmaq Citizenship law look like in its fullest potential?
These are some of the questions that were discussed during a forum successfully co-hosted by the National Centre for First Nations Governance (NCFNG) and the Mi’kmaq Rights Initiative, or Kwilmu’kw Maw-klusuaqn (KMKNO) in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia on February 22nd, 2012.
Citizens are the foundation of our Nations. They share language, creation stories, community history and family relationships. They hold collective memories. When First Nations take control over their own criteria for citizenship they are making intentional, political statements about their past, present and possibilities of their future. Defining citizenship is foundational aspect of nation rebuilding.
This forum aimed to explore different perspectives about tradition and culture in a respectful environment, identify the core values and strengths that define and unite communities and identify important values and principles that should be reflected in governance institutions. Additionally, the aim of the forum was to in the development of citizenship criteria that is reflective of Mi’kmaq culture and values and to provide an opportunity for participants to take responsibility and control over this fundamental element of governance.
“Being responsible to our people and working to make the best decisions for our communities is extremely important. Studies have shown that if we continue to follow current federal government policies, within two generations some of our Mi’kmaq communities will not have any status Indians left living in them. There is no question that there is an urgency to take over this responsibility to ensure that our children, Grandchildren, and great-Grandchildren are recognized as Mi’kmaq citizens” stated Chief Deborah Robinson during her welcome to Mi’kmaqi on behalf of the Assembly of Nova Scotia Chiefs.
Dr. Pamela Palmater, a Mi’kmaq lawyer and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in northern New Brunswick also delivered a powerful keynote address. Dr. Palmater pointed out that pre-contact citizenship was never tied to scarcity or surplus of resources.
“The goal of this forum was for all delegates to walk away with an enhance understanding of Culture, Tradition and Effective Governance as it relates to Citizenship. Asking the question ‘who is Mi’kmaq?’ is just the tip of the iceberg. As evidenced by the forum’s representation, these discussions are timely and important to the Mi’kmaq people”.