Tlilnuo'lti'k - Weji-sqalia'timk - How we will be Mi'kmaq on our land: Working together with Pictou Landing First Nation to redefine a healthy community.
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For decades Pictou Landing First Nation (PLFN), a small Mi’kmaq community on the northern shore of Nova Scotia, has been told that the health of their community has not been impacted by a pulp and paper mill dumping 85 million litres of effluent per day into a lagoon that was once a culturally significant body of water, known as A’se’k, which borders their community. Yet, based on lived experience, the community believes otherwise. Despite countless government and industry-sponsored studies, their concerns have not gone away. In 2010, the Pictou Landing Native Women’s Group committed to find out whether their health was being affected by the Boat Harbour Effluent Treatment Facility (BHETF). This dissertation is a result of those efforts. I employ biopolitical theory and biopower to explore the role of the state in maintaining a narrative that diminished the concerns raised by the community. I then use environmental and social justice theory to determine whether the (in)action of the state constitutes an environmental and social injustice. I use a Piktukowaq environmental health theoretical framework to explore the intimate and sacred connection of the Piktukowaq to A’se’k. Guided by Etuaptmumk (Two-Eyed Seeing), which brings together the strengths of western and Indigenous knowledge systems, I employ a community-based participatory research methodology to gather culturally appropriate health data, and use a Piktukowaq environmental health research methodology to guide the interpretation of oral histories coming from the Knowledge Holders in PLFN. Through this approach I was able to determine that the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health of PLFN has been impacted by the BHETF, which has been compounded by structural determinants of health reflective of the colonial relationship of the state to Indigenous peoples in Canada, which has put the community at risk. The findings reveal that not only does methodology matter, but that a new approach to environmental health risk assessment is appropriate in instances where Indigenous communities may be impacted by land displacement and environmental dispossession.