Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries

, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 629–647 | Cite as

Remobilizing netukulimk: indigenous cultural and spiritual connections with resource stewardship and fisheries management in Atlantic Canada



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 ecosystems. The Mi’kmaw, a nation of Indigenous peoples in Atlantic Canada, work to recapture and express ancient holistic understandings through their contemporary natural resource management aspirations and practices. In this paper we review key colonial events that have impacted Indigenous relations with settlers and resulted in historical marginalization of the Mi’kmaw from fishery policy and management processes. We provide an overview and discussion of recent developments wherein the Mi’kmaw are working to revitalize the place of netukulimk, a concept that embraces cultural and spiritual connections with resource stewardship, in the exercise of treaty-based rights, particularly within self-governing fisheries management initiatives. We conclude with the core attributes of Two-Eyed Seeing, a methodological framework for collaborative, decolonizing research practices and Indigenous knowledge mobilization strategies. The Mi’kmaw experiences provide insights regarding the challenges and requirements for achieving respect for Indigenous traditional practices and point a way forward for more effective and inclusive stewardship of natural aquatic resources into the future.


Fisheries Aboriginal and treaty rights Indigenous peoples Mi’kmaw Donald Marshall 



We thank David Crook, Michael Douglas, Stephen Schnierer, Alison King and the Joint Congress of the Australian Society for Fish Biology and the Australian Society for Limnology for their incredible support for our participation at the 2014 meeting in Darwin. To Damein Bell, Denis Rose and Anthony Davis, many thanks for their generous insights and guidance in our collaborations. To all of the Mi’kmaw participants in our research, and with special remembrance of Donald Marshall and all that he has given, welalioq.


  1. Adney E, Chappelle H (2007) Bark canoes and skin boats of North America. Sky Horse Publishing, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  2. Asch M (1984) Home and native land: aboriginal rights and the Canadian constitution. Methuen, AgincourtGoogle Scholar
  3. Asch M (2014) On being here to stay: treaties and aboriginal rights in Canada. University of Toronto Press, Toronto, CanadaGoogle Scholar
  4. Barsh R (2002) Netukulimk past and present: Mi’kmaw ethics and the Atlantic fishery. J Canadian Stud 37(1):15–42 (Spring) Google Scholar
  5. Bartlett C (2011) Integrative science/Toqwa’tu’kl Kjijitaqnn: the story of our journey in bringing together indigenous scientific knowledges.
  6. Bartlett C, Marshall M, Marshall A (2012) Two-eyed seeing and other lessons learned within a co-learning journey of bringing together indigenous and mainstream knowledges and ways of knowing. J Environ Stud Sci 2(4):1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Borrows J (2010) Canada’s indigenous constitution. University of Toronto Press, TorontoGoogle Scholar
  8. Butler C (2006) Historicizing indigenous knowledge: practical and political issues. In: Menzies CR (ed) Traditional ecological knowledge and natural resource management. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, pp 107–126Google Scholar
  9. Chute J (1999) Frank speck: contributions to the Understanding of Mi’kmaw land use, leadership, and land management. Ethnohistory 46:481–540Google Scholar
  10. Coates K (2000) The Marshall decision and native rights. McGill-Queen’s University Press, MontrealGoogle Scholar
  11. Cornell S (1988) The return of the native: American Indian political resurgence. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  12. Coulthard G (2014) From wards of the state to subjects of recognition? Marx, indigenous peoples, and the politics of dispossession in denendeh. In: Simpson A, Smith A (eds) Theorizing native studies. Duke University Press, Durham, pp 56–98Google Scholar
  13. Cruikshank J (1998) The social life of stories: narratives and knowledge in the yukon territory. University of Nebraska Press, LincolnGoogle Scholar
  14. Cruikshank J (2005) Do glaciers listen? Local knowledge, colonial encounters and social imagination. University of British Columbia Press, VancouverGoogle Scholar
  15. Davis S (1997) Peoples of the maritimes: Mi’kmaw. Nimbus, HalifaxGoogle Scholar
  16. Davis A, Jentoft S (2001) The challenge and the promise of indigenous peoples’ fishing rights—from dependency to agency. Mar Policy 25:223–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Davis A, Wagner J, Prosper K, Paulette M (2004) The Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw and Ka’t (American Eel): a case study of cultural relations, meanings and prospects. Can J Nativ Stud. XXIV(2):359–390Google Scholar
  18. Denys N (1908) The description and natural history of the coasts of North America (Acadia). The Champlain Society, TorontoCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) (2012) First nations participation in commercial fisheries following the Marshall decision.
  20. Giles A, Fanning L, Denny S, Paul T (2016) Improving the American eel fishery through the incorporation of indigenous knowledge into policy level decision making in Canada. Hum Ecol 44(2):167–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Harris D, Millerd P (2010) Food fish, commercial fish, and fish to support a moderate livelihood: characterizing aboriginal and treaty rights to Canadian fisheries. Arct Rev Law Politics 1(1):82–107Google Scholar
  22. Hatcher A, Bartlett C (2009) Two-eyed seeing in the classroom environment: concepts, approaches, and challenges. Can J Sci Math Technol Educ 9(3):141–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Henderson S (1997) The Mi’kmaw concordant. Fernwood Publishing, HalifaxGoogle Scholar
  24. Hickman A, Poitras L, Evans G (1989) Royal commission on the Donald Marshall, Jr. prosecution—digest of findings and recommendations. Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data, Nova Scotia, HalifaxGoogle Scholar
  25. Hoffman B (1955) The historical ethnography of the Micmac of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. University of California, Berkeley, PhD DissertationGoogle Scholar
  26. Huntington HP (2000) Using traditional ecological knowledge in science: methods and applications. Ecol Appl 10(5):1270–1274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Isaac T (2004) Aboriginal law: commentary, cases and materials, 3rd edn. Purich Press, SaskatoonGoogle Scholar
  28. Jackson SEM, Douglas M, Kennard MJ, Pusey BJ, Huddleston J, Harney B, Liddy L, Liddy M, Liddy R, Sullivan L, Huddleston B, Banderson M, McMah A, Allsop Q (2014) ”We like to listen to stories about fish”: integrating indigenous ecological and scientific knowledge to inform environmental flow assessments. Ecol Soc 19(1):43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. King S (2014) Fishing in contested waters: place and community in Burnt Church/Esgenoopetitj. University of Toronto Press, TorontoGoogle Scholar
  30. Ladner K (2005) Up the creek: fishing for a new constitutional order. Can J Polit Sci 38(4):923–953CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Martin D (2012) Two-eyed seeing: a framework for understanding indigenous and non-indigenous approaches to indigenous health research. Can J Nurs Res 44(2):20–42PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. McMillan LJ (2012) Mu kisi Maqumawkik Pasik Kataq: we can’t only eat eels: Mi’kmaw contested histories and uncontested silences. The Can J Nativ Stud 12(1):119–142Google Scholar
  33. McMillan LJ, Davis A (2010) What does this tell us about us? Social research and indigenous peoples—the case of the Paq’tnkek Mi’kmaw. In: Ruddle Ken (ed) Traditional marine resource management and knowledge information bulletin, 27. Noumea, South Pacific Community, New Caledonia, pp 3–16Google Scholar
  34. McMillan LJ, Prosper K, Stiegman M (2012) videographer Seeking Netukulimk: Mi’kmaw knowledge, culture, capacity and empowerment.
  35. McMillan LJ, Prosper K, Davis A, Moffitt M (2016) Netukulimk narratives: pathways to rebuilding sustainable indigenous nations. Sustainability planning and collaboration in rural Canada. University of Alberta Press, EdmontonGoogle Scholar
  36. Menzies C (2006) editor. Traditional ecological knowledge and natural resource management. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, USAGoogle Scholar
  37. Menzies C, Butler C (2007) Returning to selective fishing through indigenous fisheries knowledge: the example of K’moda. Gitxaala T Am Indian Q 33(3):441–464CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Metallic F (2008) Strengthening our Relations in Gespe’gewa’gi, the seventh district of Mi’gma’gi. In: Simpson L (ed) Lighting the eighth fire: the liberation, resurgence, and protection of indigenous nations. Arbeiter Ring Publishing, WinnipegGoogle Scholar
  39. Miller V (1976) Aboriginal Micmac population: a review of the evidence. Ethnohistory 23:117–127CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Miller JR (1989) Skyscrappers hide the heavens: a history of indian-white relations in Canada. University of Toronto Press, TorontoGoogle Scholar
  41. Miller V (2004) The Mi’kmaw: a maritime woodland group. In: Morrison B, Wilson R (eds) Native peoples the Canadian experience. Oxford University Press, Don Mills, pp 248–267Google Scholar
  42. Miller M, Casselman J (2014) The American eel: a fish of mystery and sustenance for humans. In: Tsukamoto K, Kuroki M (eds) Eels and humans. Springer, Japan, pp 155–169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Morrison B, Wilson R (eds) (2004) Native peoples: the Canadian experience. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  44. Muller S (2012) ‘Two Ways’: Bringing Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Knowledges Together. In Jessica Weir, editor. Country, native title and ecology. ANU E Press and Aboriginal History Incorporated.
  45. Natcher D, Felt L, Procter A (eds) (2012) Settlement, subsistence, and change among the labrador inuit: the nunatsiavummiut experience. University of Manitoba Press, WinnipegGoogle Scholar
  46. Native Council of Nova Scotia (1993) Mi’kmaw fisheries netukulimk: toward a better understanding. Native Council of Nova Scotia, TruroGoogle Scholar
  47. Parks Canada (2014) Debert Palaeo-Indian site national historic Site of Canada.
  48. Paul D (2006) First nations history: we were not the savages, 3rd edn. Fernwood, HalifaxGoogle Scholar
  49. Prosper K, Paulette M (2002) The Mi’kmaq relationship with Kat (American Eel). Social Research for Sustainable Fisheries. Paqtnkek Fish and Wildlife Commission.
  50. Prosper K, McMillan LJ, Davis A, Moffitt M (2011) Returning to netukulimk: Mi’kmaw cultural and spiritual connections with resource stewardship and self-governance. International Indigenous Policy Journal 2(4):1–17 (MS #1307) CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Rand S (1971) Legends of the Micmacs. New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1894—Johnson Reprint CorporationGoogle Scholar
  52. Sable T, Francis B (2014) The language of this land, Mi’kma’ki. Cape Breton University Press, SydneyGoogle Scholar
  53. Scott J (2012) A policy ‘rags-to-riches’ story that’s good news for Aboriginals and for Canada. MacDonald-Laurier Institute.
  54. Tjukurpa Katutja Ngarantja (2010) Uluru—Kata tjuta national park management plan. Australian Government, Director of National Parks, Canberra ACT, Commonwealth of AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  55. Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources (UINR) (2009) Netukulimk.
  56. Upton LFS (1979) Micmacs and colonists: Indian-white relations in the maritimes, 1713-1867. University of British Columbia Press, VancouverGoogle Scholar
  57. Upton J (2015) Ancient sea rise tale told accurately for 10,000 years. Scientific American.
  58. Wallis W, Wallis R (1955) The Micmac Indians of Eastern Canada. University of Minnesota Press, MinneapolisGoogle Scholar
  59. Whitehead R (1988) Stories from the six worlds: Micmac legends. Nimbus, Halifax, p 1988Google Scholar
  60. Whitehead R (1991) The old man told us: excerpts from Micmac history 1500-1950. Nimbus, HalifaxGoogle Scholar
  61. Wicken W (2002) Mi’kmaw treaties on trial: history, land, and Donald Marshall junior. University of Toronto Press, TorontoGoogle Scholar
  62. Wicken W (2012) The colonization of Mi’kmaw memory and history, 1794-1928. University of Toronto Press, TorontoGoogle Scholar
  63. Wildsmith B (1995) The Mi’kmaq and the fishery: beyond food requirements. Dalhou Law J 18(1):116–140Google Scholar
  64. Williams J (2006) Resource management and Maori attitudes to water in southern New Zealand. NZ Geogr 62(1):73–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Cases cited

  1. R. v Denny (1990), 9 W.C.B. (2nd) 438, Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, March 5, 1990Google Scholar
  2. R. v. Marshall [1999] 3 S.C.R 456Google Scholar
  3. R. v. Simon [1985] 2 S.C.R. 387Google Scholar
  4. R. v. Sparrow [1990] 1 S.C.R. 1075Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Canada Research Chair of Indigenous Peoples and Sustainable Communities, Department of AnthropologySt. Francis Xavier UniversityAntigonishCanada
  2. 2.Paqtnkek Mi’kmaw CommunityAfton StationCanada

Personalised recommendations