Mi’kmaq Economic Benefits Office of Nova Scotia

The new Mi’kmaq Economic Benefits Office of Nova Scotia is a unique project providing training and work experience in the shipbuilding industry, the spin-off economy, and other growth sectors.

The new website (and accompanying Facebook, Twitter, and email newsletter) is their answer to the question:

“How do we communicate in a timely manner with 13 First Nation communities that are spread out from one end of the province to the other, from Acadia to Membertou, from Bear River to Indian Brook, more than 20,000 Mi’kmaq across Nova Scotia,” says Owen Fitzgerald, executive director of NSAEP and Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office in Membertou.

The Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office (UEBO) was established in 2007 in Membertou. It negotiated a Tar Ponds set-aside agreement worth $19 million, and has since helped create 200 full time jobs and $72 million of dollars in contracts. The process has evolved into a unique First Nations model for economic development, delivering valuable experience, building capacity, expertise and confidence for local Aboriginal businesses and individuals.

Bras d’Or CEPI

The Bras d’Or CEPI (Collaborative Environmental Planning Initiative) arose in 2003 in response to the First Nation Chiefs in Cape Breton requesting the development of an overall management plan for the Bras d’Or Lake and watershed lands, to addresses the key environmental issues of forestry, water, land use, invasive marine species, and declining fish stocks.

A fundamental part of CEPI’s process is the concept of ‘Two-Eyed Seeing’, the practice of approaching from Indigenous and Western Scientific perspectives without privileging one over the other.

Indigenous Science emphasizes reciprocity and relationship, reverence and ritual, responsibility and respect (and apparently alliteration). The Western Scientific Method is about making and testing hypotheses, collecting and analyzing data, and constructing explanatory and predictive models and theories.

A defining difference between the two world views is that Aboriginal peoples believe their ancestors were right on most things (hence an emphasis on tradition), whereas Westerners believe their ancestors were either mostly wrong or their ideas can always be improved upon (hence an emphasis on testing and falsifiability). But the point of ‘Two-Eyed Seeing’ seems to be that practitioners themselves benefit by weaving the two perspectives together (a distinctly Indigenous concept) rather than that one perspective is improved by incorporating elements from the other (which would constitute a Eurocentric privileging of “progress” over tradition).

While there are obvious differences in the two belief systems — such as whether land and knowledge is held in trust for future generations or can be owned and exploited for personal gain — there are equally obvious points of consensus. Both knowledge systems start with observations of the natural world (pattern recognition) and are expressed in the stories we tell about our interactions with and within that world. (More on ‘Two-Eyed Seeing’, including a presentation by Albert Marshall of the Eskasoni Mi’kmaq First Nation and Dr. Cheryl Bartlett of CBU)

Beaton Institute Music

Cape Breton’s four distinct musical traditions – Acadian, Mi’kmaq, Gaelic and songs of the coal mining tradition – are featured in a new website launched yesterday by the Beaton Institute at Cape Breton University.

MUSIC: Cape Breton’s Diversity in Unity features over 100 songs, more than 20 videos, and more than 175 photos from the Beaton’s archives. The digitization of the materials ensures their preservation while increasing accessibility to the public. The Internet is made for projects like this.

Each page includes info about the song, a short bio of the artist and/or performer, lyrics, translations, transcripts in the case of videos, and educators’ resource guides that teachers can download and use in their classroom.

For various reasons, they couldn’t use a content management system, so the site is pure old-fashioned HTML, hand-coded, from scratch, by me.

It was a pleasure to work with the project’s team which included the Beaton’s staff. The songs were selected and re-mastered by Allister MacGillivray. Music consultants were John Alick MacPherson; Janice Tulk; Dan Doucet; and Jack O’Donnell of the Men of the Deeps. Educational consultant was Eric Favaro. Christie MacNeil did pretty much everything else.