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Reclaiming Mountain Lake: Environmental repossession in Biigtigong Nishnaabeg, Ontario

Authors: Elana Nightingale*, University of Western Ontario, Juanita Starr, Biigtigong Nishnaabeg
Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Qualitative Research
Keywords: Indigenous geographies, Community-based research, Land reclamation
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The concept of environmental repossession (ER) responds to a global movement by Indigenous peoples to reclaim their ancestral territories and ways of life. As Indigenous health and well being are intimately tied to relationships to land, processes of ER can be understood as a means to revitalize the social identities, environmental knowledges, cultural skills and spiritual practices of Indigenous peoples and communities. This paper contributes to the growing empirical base of studies on the concept of environmental repossession with the Anishinaabe community of Biigtigong Nishnaabeg in Ontario, Canada. Drawing from ongoing community-based collaborative research, the paper presents the qualitative results of a case study to document and understand local perspectives about Biigtigong’s reclamation of Mountain Lake. Due to historic and ongoing forces of dispossession, Biigtigong’s members have had limited access to Mountain Lake and the Indigenous knowledge and practices that it has historically supported. In July 2019, Biigtigong hosted a week-long camp to bring together community Elders, youth and band staff along the shores of the lake to reconnect to both the land and each other. The paper explores the multiple meanings that the camp at Mountain Lake holds for Biigtigong’s members as a local process of ER, and suggests that ER may provide a means to understand the place-based connections between access to land, Indigenous Knowledge and social relationships that lie at the foundation of strong and healthy Indigenous communities.

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