Landscape of Left-Overs

Changing Conceptions of Place & Environment
among Mi'kmaq Indians of Eastern Canada

By Anne-Christine Hornborg
December 2001
Almqvist & Wiksell
ISBN: 91-22-01942-1
331 pages, 5 3/4" x 8 1/2"
$61.00 Paper Original

This dissertation seeks to explore historical changes in the lifeworld of the Mi'kmaq Indians of Eastern Canada. The Mi'kmaq culture hero Kluskap here serves as a key persona in discussing issues such as traditions, changing conceptions of land, and human-environmental relations. In order not to depict Mi'kmaq culture as timeless, two important periods its history are examined.

The first study reviews historical evidence of the ontology, epistemology, and ethics - jointly labeled animism - that stem from a premodern Mi'kmaq hunting subsistence. This evidence dates from the period between 1850 and 1930, which is also the period when the Mi'kmaq were gradually being forced to settle in the reserves. The second study situates the culture hero in the modern world of the 1990s, when allusions to Mi'kmaq tradition and to Kluskap played an important role in the struggle against a planned superquarry on Cape Breton.

This study discusses the ecocosmology that has been formulated by modern reserve inhabitants and that could be labeled a "sacred ecology". If the premodern ecocosmologies have been favorably treated by Westerners, the modern Natives' attempt to create a "sacred ecology" has been received with ambivalence. It has been welcomed by some as an alternative to Western ways of treating nature, which threaten our global survival. But it has also been criticized as a modern construction designed by Natives to gain benefits from Canadian society.

In the example of the Mi'kmaq struggle against the superquarry, this critique is discussed, with a focus on how the Mi'kmaq are rebuilding their traditions and environmental relations in interaction with modern society. In this process, environmental groups, pan-Indianism and education plan an important role, but so does reserve life. By anchoring their engagement in reserve life the Mi'maq traditionalists have to a large extent been able to confront both external and internal doubts about their authenticity.

History; Religion

Return to Coronet Books main page