Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq

At the heart of the mission of the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq (CMM) is a principle for sustainability called “Netukulimk” - recognizing human responsibility for protecting the environment.

And to help achieve that, the Nova Scotia-based tribal council has hired several interns to work in areas such as forest restoration and improving the aquatic health of the Bay of Fundy’s watershed. In the past few years, five college and university graduates were hired through ECO Canada as part of the Science Horizons Youth Internship Program funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Angeline Gillis, director of CMM’s department of environment and natural resources, explains that Netukulimk means taking what you need and leaving behind what’s needed for the future. “We have been taught to protect the health and prosperity of children seven generations after us as our ancestors did for us,” she says. “Every living thing has a key role to play.”

Jillian Arany making a new friend. Photo Credit: Jillian Arany

The tribal council was established in 1986 to provide community programs and advisory services to First Nations communities in Nova Scotia. One of the programs it administers, The Mi’kmaw Conservation Group (MCG), was formed to deal with aquatic issues affecting the Bay of Fundy’s watershed.

Gillis, a Dalhousie University-educated lawyer, is a member of the Eskasoni First Nation from Nova Scotia. She joined CMM in 2011, became director of its environment program two years later, and broadened the program’s mandate to include issues such as climate change, solid waste, and forest restoration.

Environment program staff grew from three to 25 in a few short years. All the interns who have worked for CMM have been offered or will be offered permanent jobs. One who worked at the council for a few years is now a fisheries policy analyst at the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs Secretariat in Dartmouth, N.S.

The internship program has worked well for CMM because additional funding meant the council was able to attract good candidates for their postings, including applicants with masters’ degrees. The interns came from Nova Scotia, Québec, and Ontario. Their studies have included marine biology, environmental sciences, environmental assessment, forest technology and conservation enforcement. Some are indigenous; some are not.

Interns are encouraged to bring new conservation ideas forward. Gillis says that “because of their educational backgrounds, they are able to incorporate western science with indigenous knowledge.” CMM’s permanent staff helps develop proposals and advise the interns on issues such as budgets and timelines.

“We are almost like a training group,” says Gillis. The interns are given a lot of responsibility right away. They learn skills such as project management, identifying deliverables, budget planning and working with government bodies, tribal councils and academia.

Connor Howard, from Milton, Ontario, studied at Acadia University and the Maritime College of Forest Technology in Fredericton, N.B. and is co-ordinating a black ash recovery program. Much treasured by the Mi’kmaq people for crafts, the tree has been devastated by the Emerald Ash Borer and deer that eat its bark.

Howard travelled across Nova Scotia doing site assessments to determine where black ash grew naturally and to collect seed. His group has established experimental plantations on reserve lands throughout the province.

“The internship has provided me with the opportunity for a career in a field that I’m passionate about,” says Howard.

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