Truth and Reconciliation

At ISANS, as we work to settle newcomers to Nova Scotia, we honour and respect the Indigenous peoples of this land. Throughout the year, ISANS shares resources on Mi’kmaq culture and heritage that are helpful for both immigrants and long-established Nova Scotians. These resources are accompanied by the beautiful artwork of Mi’kmaq artists. We are all treaty people.

Who are the Mi'kmaq, and what is Mi'kma'ki?

Mi’kmaq people have been living in what we call Nova Scotia for thousands of years. Mi’kma’ki, the traditional territory of the Mi’kmaq, is made up of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, large areas of New Brunswick, Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula, and parts of Newfoundland.

How does your identity interact with this land?

The graphic is of an acrylic on canvas by Chelsea Brooks Native Art representing Turtle Island and the Eight Pointed Star. “The four colours for the Mi’kmaq people represent harmony and unity between the four races of people. The eight pointed stars represent all eight districts of Mi’kmaq people. It’s also used as a cultural symbol and design emblem. For hundreds of years, the Mi’kmaq have been using the eight pointed star as a symbol of our nation.” -Chelsea Brooks


What are the treaties, and why are they important for everyone?

We are all Treaty People. Treaties are legally binding agreements that set out the rights, responsibilities, and relationships of Indigenous Nations and the Crown. Treaties were meant to prevent war and arrange trades between the two while maintaining a peaceful relationship. However, it is not just the government and Indigenous Nations that are responsible for upholding the treaties. By living here, the treaties apply to all of us.

In Nova Scotia (Mi’kma’ki), we live, work, and go about our daily routines on unceded Mi’kmaq territory. Unceded means that this land was never surrendered, relinquished, or handed over in any way. Mi’kmaq are the only ones who can welcome settlers.

Knowing this, what does being a treaty person mean to you?

The first graphic is of an acrylic on canvas by Chelsea Brooks Native Art

What happened to the treaties?

The Peace and Friendship Treaties include Indigenous Peoples’ rights to the land, subsistence resources and activities, the right to self-determination and self-government, and the right to practice their own culture and customs including language and religion.

With the influx of Loyalists in the 1780s, the relationship between settlers and Mi’kmaq people shifted. Settler governments were less inclined to honour the terms of the Peace and Friendship Treaties. Loyalist migrations and the establishment of reserves pushed Indigenous peoples onto a much smaller land than their traditional territories. As access to and availability of these resources declined, major lifestyle, livelihood, and diet changes occurred that affected the health and well-being of Indigenous peoples.

The first graphic is of an acrylic on canvas by Chelsea Brooks Native Art

Ways to move forward

The lasting consequences of treaty denial continue to influence reconciliation efforts today. Even though many settlers may feel that they personally have not harmed Indigenous peoples, we all continue to benefit from treaties and periods of treaty denial. We must all be aware of the privilege we’ve gained through the colonial system that marginalizes the groups that we seek to ally with.

The first graphic is of an acrylic on canvas by Chelsea Brooks Native Art. In The Seven Sacred Teachings, each animal symbolizes a different meaning. Here is what Chelsea shared with us:

Eagle-love: always show love to mother earth and all people
Buffalo-respect: respect all living beings and nature here on earth
Bear-courage: it takes courage to do what is right
Sabe (Bigfoot)-honesty: be honest with yourself and others
Beaver-wisdom: show wisdom by using our gifts to make a better and more beautiful world
Wolf-humility: being thankful and thinking of others
Truth-turtle: living our truth is embracing all of the seven teachings