New Mi'kmaw-led land trust aims to protect culturally significant lands

·2 min read
Cape Dauphin is where Kluskap Cave is located. (Nicole MacLennan/CBC - image credit)
Cape Dauphin is where Kluskap Cave is located. (Nicole MacLennan/CBC - image credit)

First Nations in Nova Scotia have a new way to protect and conserve lands.

The Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaw Chiefs recently announced a new land trust to protect lands for ecological and cultural reasons. The Mi'kmaw-led initiative is called Sespite'tmnej Kmitkinu Conservancy.

Sespite'tmnej Kmitknu means "let us protect our territory/homeland."

"It's being supported by the Mi'kmaq for the Mi'kmaq," said Megan Pagniello, land trust co-ordinator with the Sespite'tmnej Kmitkinu Conservancy.

Pagniello said the trust will look at lands that are culturally significant, need restoration, have species at risk or have archeological importance.

It's part of an ongoing effort to create Indigenous protected areas across the province.

According to Trish Nash, the Indigenous protected and conserved areas program manager for the Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources, the land trust will help with that effort by holding private lands to add to these areas and collect land and monetary donations.

"The land trust will hold those lands in perpetuity for the Mi'kmaq, so for future generations," Nash told Information Morning Cape Breton's Steve Sutherland.

The addition of private land donations will help increase the size and scope of Indigenous protected and conserved areas. The program is currently working to designate several such areas in Nova Scotia.

The areas could be used for a variety of purposes, such as conservation, tourism, Mi'kmaw-led forestry and fishing, among others.

In Cape Breton, one such area is the Kluskap Cave in Cape Dauphin, also known as the Fairy Hole. The program is working to turn a 5,000-hectare area around the cave into a protected and conserved area.

Cape Dauphin in Cape Breton.
Cape Dauphin in Cape Breton.(Nicole MacLennan/CBC)

Nash said the area would include crown land, provincial protected land, land donations, and other zones. It would then be designated an Indigenous protected and conserved area and managed by the Mi'kmaq in Unama'ki.

"We want to restore respect," said Nash.

The land trust is already in talks with local landowners to add to the designated area around Kluskap Cave. Nash said the hope is to have people to watch over the cave, which has been subject to vandalism.

Funding to create the land trust is coming from Environment and Climate Change Canada's Nature Fund with support from the Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Climate Change.

The land trust is in its early stages and is establishing a board of directors but the move is being supported by the Kwilmu'kw Maw-klusuaqn Negotiation Office, Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq, and Eskasoni Fish and Wildlife Commission.

"It's super exciting," said Nash.

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