Apaji-wla’matulinej Working Toward Land Rematriation

The East Hub and Women of First Light are supporting rematriation of the land in Mi’kma’ki

A billboard banner by the Sogorea Te Land Trust that reads "Rematriate the Land"

Apaji-wla’matulinej (Righting Relations’ East Hub) and Women of First Light (WoFL) have been working with the Clan Mothers in Mi’kma’ki and the United Church to facilitate rematriation of the lands around the Tatamagouche Centre and working to capture and share their learnings from this experience for others who are interested in understanding how to take part in rematriation or other practical approaches to returning stolen land. We hired Erika Gideon Marchand in partnership with the Tatamagouche Centre to assist the Clan Mothers with this process. Erika is a Mi’kmaw woman from Listujui First Nations, and we are so excited to have her!

On February 29th, we welcomed folks from the Centre for Ethical Land Transition to a webinar sharing stories on their experience facilitating land transfers, both when it went well and when it didn’t. You can watch the full recording on the Women of First Light YouTube Channel or check out the Centre for Ethical Land Transition for more information about their work. One of the recommendations that came out of this webinar was to put together a transition team to help build good relationships and see the process through in a good way, and we’re happy to say that the head of the United Church of Canada for the region, Faith, has confirmed that she is putting together a UCC Transition Team as suggested.

This month, we met with the property committee for the United Church for this region. Coming out of this meeting, we all felt that there should be no issue in transferring the land over: both Women of First Light and the United Church are charities, and the land is currently held in trust and Women of First Light intend to set up a land trust. The team also had a Zoom meeting with Ulnooweg Education Centre, which created a land trust for the former Windhorse Farm, now Asitu’lisk Indigenous Learning Centre. They gave us great advice about getting an assessment of buildings before taking it over, as we will not be grandfathered in, and repairs will need to be done. They also suggested we raise the money needed before taking it over.

On March 20th, we had a meeting with members of the Tatamagouche Centre Board and staff. It was good, as staff have some fears and questions, and the Board could easily feel out of the loop. We discussed planning it out in phases, how to get UCC on Board, what will happen with existing Tatamagouche Centre programs in the future, and how this might impact other groups for whom the Centre has been a safe and welcoming space.

None of us knows what it will all look like, but we reassured people that the Indigenous Clan Mothers and others have said they do not want to kick anyone else out as they know how important it is for many people to have a place that is safe, where people belong and can be themselves. Nanci Lee from the Tatamagouche Centre has been working for months to obtain funding from McConnell Foundation to support this process, including engagement with other groups for which the Centre has been a safe place, like the Muslim community, African Nova Scotians, the 2SLGBTQ+ community, and others.

Throughout this process, we have wondered if we would have to pay land taxes, but we recently learned that charities do not pay land taxes in Colchester County! We have also researched how the “Land Back” movement emerged from the Black Civil Rights movement in the United States. Understanding this history is important, and it highlights that this work is all about land justice for all of us.

We are planning a second webinar with Indigenous folks across the country who are also working on land Trusts, and we look forward to sharing more about that event soon. We want to thank everyone involved for all of their love and support!