MI’KMA’KI: The executive director of the Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources (UINR) says a first-of-its-kind partnership is bringing traditional and ancestral Mi’kmaw knowledge to the Nova Scotian forestry sector.

Lisa Young told The Reporter the initiative will also provide opportunities along with prosperity to Mi’kmaq communities though forestry.

Mimaju’nsuti, formally known as the Mi’kmaq Forestry Initiative, under the direction of the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs, was launched jointly by Kwilmu’kw Maw-klusuaqn (KMK), the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq (CMM), and the UINR.

“It does have a meaning; it actually is kind of a good way to describe the initiative. If you know the Mi’kmaq language, you can capture a lot of meaning in a short phrase,” Young said. “It speaks to maintaining the principles of prosperity, and sustainability of current and future generations, how we are all, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous have an inherit responsibility to honour the Earth and care for the Earth.”

In 2019, Young advised the Government of Nova Scotia granted the Mimaju’nsuti approximately 20,000 hectares of Crown land through a pilot forest project. Fast forward to 2022, an additional 10,000 hectares was added to Mimaju’nsuti land base.

“This is an opportunity for Fist Nations communities, not only to access lands for economic opportunities, but also to have an opportunity to demonstrate that the principles of Etuaptmumk – Two-Eyed Seeing – can help improve forest management,” UINR’s executive director said. “Taking those understandings, principles and values embedded in the Mi’kmaq culture and trying to apply them through a forestry lens.”

The Mimaju’nsuti continues to operate under the pilot, with negotiation of a long-term forestry agreement underway.

“It’s not just your typical, commercial forestry, we’re also exploring things such as ecotourism,” Young said. “And we’re also taking into consideration, of course the protection of species at risk, but also the protection of cultural significant species.”

A long-term agreement, she explained, would enable the pilot project to operate with the mandate of managing and overseeing forested lands while creating opportunities for a wide range of economic, social, and educational uses; from crafting, to ecotourism, to cultural teaching and learning.

The Mimaju’nsuti will leverage its founding organizations’ expertise and experience in forestry and ecological stewardship, while creating space for traditional knowledge and practices and empowering L’nu’k people to re-learn and share traditional ecological knowledge.

Promoting biodiversity and the long-term health and wellbeing of the forests it governs across the province, Mimaju’nsuti includes several parcels of land in the Hants, Annapolis, Halifax, Cape Breton, Antigonish, Guysborough, Richmond, and Inverness Counties.

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Drake Lowthers has been a community journalist for The Reporter since July, 2018. His coverage of the suspicious death of Cassidy Bernard garnered him a 2018 Atlantic Journalism Award and a 2019 Better Newspaper Competition Award; while his extensive coverage of the Lionel Desmond Fatality Inquiry received a second place finish nationally in the 2020 Canadian Community Newspaper Awards for Best Feature Series. A Nova Scotia native, who has called Antigonish home for the past decade, Lowthers has a strong passion in telling people’s stories in a creative, yet thought-provoking way. He graduated from the journalism program at Holland College in 2016, where he played varsity football with the Hurricanes. His simple pleasures in life include his two children, photography, live music and the local sports scene.