Metallic,F., (2010) Ta’n Teli’gji’tegen 'Nnu’igtug aq Ta’n Goqwei Wejgu’aqamulti’gw, unpublished dissertation, York University, Toronto Ont
This dissertation explores the tension between indigenous and western understandings and conceptualization of rights and responsibilities to the territory, environment, and relations. The author explores the critical role that language plays in the transmission, understanding, recording, and expression of rights and responsibilities.
During a period of five years, the author interviewed and held numerous conversations with Mi'gmaq Elders from the district of Gespe'gewa'gi, Mi'gma'gi. The interviews, which often took place in the Elders' homes, were structured around key critical questions about participants' understandings of the past, their life histories, and their views about Mi'gmaq rights and responsibilities.
In keeping with Mi'gmaq ethical guidelines and principles, the research was explained to all participants (prior to the interview), and consent was obtained orally. Almost all the interviews were conducted in the Mi'gmaq language, and a few were held in English. As well, the author recorded most of the interviews and conversations (either audio or video).
In addition to the oral testimonies, the author participated in numerous community events, such as gatherings, community presentations, Mi'gmaq language focus groups, and ceremonies.
In telling their life stories, the Elders spoke about their relationship to the land, the waters, the animals, and the plants; many spoke about the newcomers who arrived, the treaties that were signed, and the laws, which existed and protected Mi'gmaq ways of knowing and being. Some of the Elders spoke about songs, ceremonies, and the importance of family and staying connected with 'all relations.' Speaking primarily in Mi'gmaq, Elders articulated a distinct understanding and conceptualization of rights and responsibilities to the territory.
The Mi'gmaq language is verb-based; therefore, a conversation about rights and responsibilities in the language (Mi'gmaq) requires that we consider the relationships among things/beings. With an emphasis on relationships, the discourse about rights and responsibilities shifts beyond an individual (or object) and instead focuses on the collective. With a focus on the collectivity, it is possible to resolve the tensions that exist between the different ways of knowing and understanding, in particular about rights and responsibilities to the territory. Telling their stories, strengthening their languages, the author argues that Indigenous Peoples may reclaim their past - in their own voice, ways, and traditions.