Negotiating the Political Ecology of Aboriginal Resource Management: How Mi'kmaq Manage Their Moose and Lobster Harvest in Unama'ki, Nova Scotia, Canada
Since the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed the fishing and hunting rights of the Mi'kmaq nation in 1985 and 1990, the government has failed to accommodate these in appropriate and effective resource management frameworks. In Unama'ki/Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, the subsistence harvest of lobster and moose by Mi'kmaq has therefore caused cross-cultural conflict and ecological concerns. Since 2006, the Lobster Management Plan (Unama'kik Jakejue'ka'timk) and the Moose Management Plan are being developed under Mi'kmaq leadership to manage the Mi'kmaq harvest communally. These innovative management initiatives will serve as case studies for this thesis to explore how Mi'kmaq negotiate the political ecology of co-management in Nova Scotia and effectively assert Mi'kmaq rights to resource harvest and selfgovernance. Most notably, the management plans employ cultural principles of sustainability and pro-active approaches to cross-cultural communication. This research shows how Mi'kmaq communities have developed resource management capacities and frameworks that can also inspire the self-government aspirations of other aboriginal nations in Canada. Mi'kmaq strategies and experience suggests that aboriginal leadership and cultural principles are integral to the meaningful implementation of aboriginal resource rights. Semi-structured interviews with Mi'kmaq and governmental resource managers illustrated diverse discourses of aboriginal resource rights, ecological knowledge and sustainability. Aiming to represent research insights appropriately, this thesis follows the decolonization agenda of aboriginal methodologies and features reflective discussions of the author's positionality within the Mi'kmaq research community. This also allows for a review of how the author came to terms with conflicting discourses and aboriginal ontologies of ecological knowledge, as well as the requirements for decolonizing research. Supporting reflective insights, a framework of anthropological political ecology and poststructuralist arguments for ontological diversity explain the validity of aboriginal perspectives on ecological knowledge and resource rights, which is the premise of decolonization paradigms. A review of engaging with aboriginal culture both in theory and practice concludes that the practical experience is essential for an appreciation of aboriginal perspectives and thus integral to cross-cultural communication and co-management relationships.