What would it look like if the Mi’kmaq of P.E.I. were in the driver’s seat of their own destiny?
This is the question a new rights-based initiative of the Lennox Island and Abegweit First Nations has set out to try to answer.
The initiative, called L’nuey, held three visioning meetings in Charlottetown, Scotchfort and Lennox Island last week and is urging members of both nations to submit feedback electronically through its website, lnuey.ca.
The organization was officially launched in September during a gathering of both the Lennox Island First Nation and the Abegweit First Nation in September.
L’nuey means "belonging to or pertaining to the Mi’kmaq People as a whole" in the Mi’kmaq language. The organization is focused on the protection and implementation of Mi’kmaq Aboriginal and treaty rights in P.E.I.
Jenene Wooldridge, executive director of L’nuey, said the meetings are aimed at having the community set its own priorities.
"The input that is gathered there will shape the future direction and work of the P.E.I. Mi'kmaq rights initiative," she said.
“It's really visioning high level – like, future, future generations."
What is L'nuey?
- A rights-based initiative.
- Focused on negotiations, consultations, governance development.
- Distinct from Mi'kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I.
- Governed by Lennox Island, Abegweit First Nations.
- L'nuey roughly translates to "belonging to the people".
Wooldridge added that the aim is to address the inequality faced by Mi’kmaq Islanders. Wooldridge says she would like to see community members imagine what self-government would look like after the Indian Act, the increasingly unpopular legislation that continues to govern federal government and First Nations relations.
The L’nuey organization was developed following the January 2019 signing of a framework agreement between the two first nations and the federal and provincial governments. Wooldridge said this agreement set out, for the first time, a process of negotiation of specific claims between the Crown and the P.E.I. Mi’kmaq.
“It committed all parties to a process of how they would negotiate. And that wasn't in place before," Wooldridge said.
"We're very similar to Nova Scotia in that the Mi'kmaq nation are the only rights-holders in the province."
Wooldridge said the process in P.E.I. could parallel in many ways the umbrella agreement which has been a bedrock of negotiations since 2002 between Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq and both levels of government.
Wooldridge said the discussions about nationhood in P.E.I. are being deliberately kept high-level and open-ended.
"We haven't had a chance to sit down and discuss what the future of governance or nationhood for the Mi'kmaq in P.E.I. – what that would even look like,” she said.
“So before we get ahead of ourselves with regards to looking at what a land claim could potentially look like, we need to determine what self-determination would look like for ourselves.”
Wooldridge said a few themes have emerged from the visioning discussions so far. These have included language and culture revitalization efforts, protection of rights, a desire to be self-governing and determining who will be the beneficiaries of Mi’kmaq rights.
L’nuey is distinct from the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I., which is focused on programs and services. Although both groups are governed by the full councils of the Lennox Island and Abegweit First Nations, the work of L’nuey will involve specific negotiations, such as those related to the Hog Island specific claim.
All members of the Lennox Island and Abegweit First Nations can make submissions related to the visioning process online.