Portrait of traditional activities


Traditional activities Portrait

The second section of the Atlas contains maps created primarily using data derived from the ecological knowledge documented by MMAFMA in various studies it has conducted with participants from its three member communities. Traditional Aboriginal knowledge documentation is an essential tool for the collaborative and sustainable management of natural resources and helps add more clarity and depth to the understanding of ecosystems within a given territory. This knowledge is dynamic and evolves over time in keeping with socio-economic and environmental changes. Aboriginal ecological knowledge, sometimes called ecological knowledge or traditional knowledge, is here defined as being a set of knowledge a group holds about their cultural, physical and biological landscape. This knowledge is generally obtained through observation of a territory or species and is transmitted from one generation to the next by oral tradition or shared by those who use a resource (Menzies et Butler, 2006). Ecological knowledge is at once science and philosophy, and is more explicitly defined by Berkes (1999) as being “a cumulative body of knowledge, practice and belief evolving by adaptive processes and handed down through generations by cultural transmission, about the relationship of living beings (including humans) with one another and with their environment.”


Data collection and mapping of traditional activities of marine St. Lawrence Mi'gmaq and Maliseet sites and their uses by Gesgapegiag, Gespeg and Wahsipekuk (Viger) communities

The maps presented in the portrait of traditional activities section were produced from different data sources. First, part of the data comes from a survey conducted in the winter of 2019 among members user of the marine territory of the three communities. The information was collected from community members through a survey that focused on traditional activities (past and present) of marine and coastal environments. The questionnaire developed as part of this survey was organized around four main themes: a) recreational fishing, b) gathering, c) hunting and d) human site features. A consent form was also produced prior to the convocation of the members.

A selection of members, using the territory, was made through the band councils, directors and fisheries coordinators of the 3 communities and employees of the MMAFMA. A total of 32 members who responded to the convocation were available to participate in these surveys, consisting of 15 members of the Nation Micmac de Gespeg, 14 members of the Micmacs of Gesgapegiag and 3 members of the Wolastoqiyik Wahsipekuk (Maliseet of Viger) First Nation . For the Nation Micmac de Gespeg and the Micmacs of Gesgapegiag, interviews were conducted in groups of 2 to 5 participants per session, while members of the Wolastoqiyik Wahsipekuk (Maliseet of Viger) First Nation were interviewed exclusively.

The investigations were conducted in the form of a semi-structured interview lasting an average of 2 hours. Before starting each interview, participants read and signed the consent form. Each session was recorded except for cases where participants did not give their consent. Paper maps illustrating the studied territories were available for consultation during the interviews, as well as posters illustrating the photos and names of the targeted species, in order to distinguish them clearly.

It is important to point out that the results of this study provide only a glimpse of the knowledge held by members of the Gesgapegiag, Gespeg and Wahsipekuk (Viger) first nations and cannot be considered comprehensive documentation of these nations’ knowledge.

As a result of the interviews, the data was compiled into a geodatabase and the sites and uses were digitized in ArcGIS 10.6 (ESRI). Sites and their uses have been mapped to illustrated areas, rather than point locations. The maps were produced in order to group and illustrate the species, sites and uses according to the same themes as those presented in the questionnaire, namely a) recreational fishing, b) gathering, c) hunting and d) human site features.

Data collection and mapping of ecological knowledge of species at risk

The series of maps presented in the striped bass, recreational fishing and American bank chapters, illustrate ecological knowledge data concerning the following fish species at risk: Atlantic salmon; American eel; American plaice, Atlantic sturgeon and Deepwater redfish; Atlantic cod; and Striped bass. These data come from a survey conducted in 2014 which involved consulting 29 members of three communities. The results of this survey are presented in a report entitled: Mi’gmaq and Maliseet Ecological Knowledge of Species at Risk in the St. Lawrence (Jerome et al., 2016). For this study, the authors examined gaps in the knowledge of each of the 14 species at risk studied by the project and they then drew up a questionnaire featuring 16 questions per species. Participants were selected with the assistance of the managers and fisheries directors of the three communities; then, interviews, lasting 30 minutes on average, were conducted with each of 29 participants. Each interview was filmed and recorded, except in cases where the participant did not consent. Participants were shown maps of the watersheds in their communities and a comprehensive map of the entire Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence so they could add their observations about each species. Often, they indicated the place where they had caught a specific species in the past or recently. Sometimes, they identified places where a specific species had been observed in the present or in the past.

For the Micmac of Gesgapegiag Nation, 15 senior(s) and fish harvester(s) took part in the study; for the Nation Micmac de Gespeg, ten senior(s) and fish harvester(s) were interviewed. As for the Wolastoqiyik Wahsipekuk (Maliseet of Viger) First Nation, two of the Nation’s fish harvesters and one senior participated in the study. Once the interviews had been completed, the recordings were transcribed and verified by the interviewer. In addition, using ArcGIS 10.2 geographic information software (ESRI), the geographical data collected during the interviews were geo-referenced to create maps for each of the species targeted by the project. A preliminary report and the maps were presented to each of the communities at validation workshops which the participants were invited to attend. All the resulting maps were reworked for this Atlas in the interest of uniformity. In some cases, the geographical data for some species, low in number and observed at disparate scales of time, were combined to reduce the number of maps.

It is important to point out that the results of this study provide only a glimpse of the knowledge held by members of the Gesgapegiag, Gespeg and Wahsipekuk (Viger) first nations and cannot be considered comprehensive documentation of these nations’ knowledge.

As for maps, which illustrate ecological knowledge concerning the American eel and the Striped bass, data from sampling done for a study conducted by MMAFMA dealing with the presence and/or absence of juvenile Striped bass along the southern shore of the Gaspe Peninsula, were added. Using a beach seine, two field teams sampled sites along the coast from Escuminac to Forillon National Park between July 25 and September 30, 2016. Fish caught during the sampling operation were identified, counted and in some cases, measured. Since these data were geo-referenced, the sites where Striped bass and American eel were caught were included on the respective maps for each of these two species. Because MMAFMA had these recent data about these two species at risk, it was pertinent to add them to the ecological knowledge section.

Information about the rivers surveyed by the Wolastoqiyik Wahsipekuk ( Maliseet of Viger) First Nation (MVFN) rounds out Maps dealing with ecological knowledge of the American eel. The information mapped comes from a study conducted by MVFN in 2012-2013 that involved identifying obstacles hindering the return of the American eel upstream in the watersheds of the four identified rivers. Geographical data about the locations of the fishway installed in 2016 were also provided by MVFN.

Data collection and mapping of the communal subsistence fishery

Data on the communal subsistence fishery – also sometimes referred to as the fishery for food, social or ceremonial purposes. They do not come from the ecological knowledge survey. However, they do round out the information on the Atlantic salmon presented previously. As for the Wolastoqiyik Wahsipekuk (Maliseet of Viger) First Nation, the data concerning salmon catches for the period from 2012 to 2016 and on the agreement between the Nation and the Government of Québec, were obtained primarily via personal communication with Jérôme Doucet, a biologist with the Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs (MFFP) in Rimouski. Also, information about this agreement and geographical data concerning the fishways were provided by Amélie Larouche, Wahsipekuk (Viger) Band Council head counsellor.

As for the data concerning the Nation Micmac de Gespeg, Terry Shaw, a Band Counsellor, provided the end-of-season summaries for the fishing activities conducted by the community and individual members, which were used to calculate the total catches. Terry Shaw also provided geographical data concerning the gillnets used in some fishing seasons. For the purpose of this Atlas, it was decided to map entire sections of the rivers fished instead of specific points, since the locations of gillnetting sites varied from one season to the next and over the course of a single season as well.

Data collection and mapping of ecological knowledge concerning the use of the American Bank Area of Interest (ABAOI)

Maps showed in the American bank chapter of this Atlas was created using collected and documented information about how the American Bank sector is used. To round out the scientific studies conducted in preparation to the creation of the American Bank Marine Protected Area (located between Percé and Gaspe), which DFO has identified as an area of interest, MMAFMA documented Mi’gmaq Aboriginal knowledge of the traditional and contemporary use of this fishing grounds and its vicinity in 2015. This information is presented in a report entitled Documentation of Mi’gmaq Ecological Knowledge of the Proposed American Bank Marine Protected Area (Arsenault et al., 2016)), which aims to help guide the preparation of management measures for this future marine protected area. To collect all this knowledge, a questionnaire was prepared by the MMAFMA to explore the following four major themes: A) trips to and use of the American Bank; B) knowledge of the American Bank; C) the cultural, spiritual, economic and personal importance of the study area to the participants; and D) the participants’ recommendations with respect to the management and conservation of the area that is to be protected. Potential participants were selected with the assistance of Gespeg and Gesgapegiag fisheries managers, the MMAFMA team’s knowledge and input from the three band councils.

A series of ten semi-directed interviews were conducted with eight participants from Gespeg and two participants from Gesgapegiag. Each interview lasted from 20 to 60 minutes. They were all filmed and recorded, except in cases where the participant did not consent. At the beginning of the interview, participants were shown two maps provided by DFO indicating the boundaries of the marine protected area as well as of the two proposed management areas. The participants were then invited to mark the maps to show the sectors that they visited. Once the interviews had been completed, a paper version was then sent to the ten study participants for verification. The data were archived in accordance with the MMAFMA protocol used to document traditional knowledge. The geographical data collected during these interviews were also pooled and geo-referenced to create a map using ArcGIS 10.2 geographical information software (ESRI). This map was reworked for the purpose of this Atlas. It is important to point out that the boundaries of the American Bank area of interest were defined and provided by DFO. The results of this study, shown on Map 31, provide only a glimpse of the knowledge held by members of the Gesgapegiag, Gespeg and Wahsipekuk (Viger) first nations and cannot be considered comprehensive documentation of these nations’ knowledge.

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