Abstract

Recent global initiatives such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples have brought the issues facing and needs of indigenous peoples to the forefront of international attention. While underscoring respect for traditional practices, these initiatives have yet to appreciate fully the extent to which indigenous peoples’ practices engage ways of being, living and believing that encompass a holistic understanding of the relations between humans and all facets of their ecosystem. The Mi’kmaq, the indigenous people of Maritime Canada, capture and express their holistic understanding through the concept of Netukulimk. In this essay we review core attributes of Netukulimk. We also review key moments in the colonialization assault on Netukulimk as a primary means for subordinating and marginalizing the Mi’kmaq. We close the essay with an overview and discussion of recent developments wherein the Mi’kmaq are working to revitalize the place of Netukulimk in treaty-based rights and Mi’kmaq law-ways, particularly within self-governance and resource stewardship initiatives. The Mi’kmaq experiences provide insights regarding the challenges and requirements for achieving respect for traditional practices as key to affirming the rights of indigenous peoples.

Acknowledgments

The research reported herein was supported by funding awarded in the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s Aboriginal Research Strategy program (grant # 856-2007-0029). We would like to thank the reviewers for their insightful and helpful suggestions. Corresponding author is L. Jane McMillan at ljmcmill@stfx.ca

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