Parks Canada and the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia are collaborating on archaeological projects as a means of recognizing that the management of cultural resources is a shared responsibility.
One such project is the current cleanup effort at Kejimkujik National Park Seaside, which sees Parks staff and members of the Kwilmu’kw Maw-klusuaqn Negotiation Office (KMKNO) clearing debris from Hurricane Dorian and re-making a trail.
“It’s a collaborative archaeology model, a new way that we are working together to ensure cultural resources are protected in a co-managed way,” explained Rebecca Dunham, an archaeologist with Parks Canada. “It’s a new way of looking at potential impacts, or opportunities at the very early stage of the project planning process.”
Currently, both groups are working alongside contractor Boreas Heritage Consulting at Kejimkujik Seaside where reclamation work from Hurricane Dorian is being completed. A lot of the efforts have to do with reworking the 8.7 kilometre Port Joli Head Trail that was severely damaged during the storm and suffered extensive erosion near the coastal area.
Work is being done to move the trail in certain places to make it safer for people and also to make it more climate resistant by moving part of it inland.
KMKNO archaeologist Kait MacLean said that this is a step in the right direction.
“It’s great to work with Parks Canada and have collaboration at the beginning of projects. Quite often we are consulted a little further into projects,” she said. “Hopefully this way of thinking can also work into other groups not just Parks Canada. We are very excited to do this.”
She said Kejimkujik has always played a big part of the Mi’kmaw history and culture, and with the Mi'kmaq being involved from the beginning they may be able to find historical locations where others may not have thought to look.
According to Dunham, a working group began about five years ago when it was realized a lot of infrastructure work would be needed at Kejimkujik. She said they developed an archaeology testing standard and established a technique that would be applied to all projects to ensure sites are fully explored before work gets started.
Meetings and conversations occur with Mi’kmaw knowledge holders and community members discussing the cultural elements at the site prior to doing a site visit.
“What do we understand about this place? What can we learn? Are there areas where we should be looking where we may not have looked before,” she said. “At the same time, we’re looking at the landscape level. How has the landscape changed over time?”
Dunham said there’s been a close working relationship between Parks Canada and the Mi’kmaq with the collaboration allowing them to potentially go beyond specific archaeological projects and further into the cultural heritage side of things.
“We have been on a journey with the Mi’kmaq. Every journey has a few bumps, but you learn from these and they are opportunities for growth,” said Dunham. “We’re growing and improving and we’re very proud of this approach to things.”
Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin