Nta’tugwaqanminen (Our Story) by the Gespe’gewa’gi Mi’qmawei Mawiomi

Subtitled “Evolution of the Gespe’gewa’gi Mi’gmaq” (2016, Fernwood Publishing) this book is the product of years of research commissioned by the organization that represents the three communities of the Mi’gmaq that inhabit the northern part of the Gaspé Peninsula. It also involves the work of the community’s Elders (both oral and written stories), so it is a history written by Aboriginal peoples from an aboriginal perspective. It is also valuable for non-Aboriginals as well, for we learn of their history from their perspective, and come to see and understand their worldview and vision of life and their environment both before and after contact with Europeans. As stated by the authors in the introduction:

The purpose of this book is…to invite our non-Mi’gmaq neighbours into our world. We think that knowing leads to understanding.

Authoritative and Informative

Fernwood Publishing has a reputation for publishing books that “inform, enlighten and challenge”. Our Story, like another Fernwood title I recently reviewed (Viola Desmond’s Canada), certainly lives up to that reputation. Here is an authoritative, landmark publication that will no doubt be indispensable for Aboriginal research as well as those in the educational community. As for it being enlightening, I know that I certainly learned much from it, for example, the “rule of giving”: whatever the number of transactions, the spirit of the gift must come back, in whatever form, to its point of origin and come full circle. The Mi’gmaq were to come to understand that the rule of giving was not a fundamental aspect of the European way of life.

Other chapters cover Mi’gmaq territory in Prehistoric times, Mi’gmaq place names, their treaty relationships with the British Crown, and the Gespe’gewa’gi Mi’gmaq in contemporary times. There are also notes, an extensive bibliography as well as an index at the end of the book.

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As someone who loves to read and learn about history, and being unfamiliar with the history of the Mi’gmaq in Eastern Canada, I was drawn into the book quite early and certainly found it informative and eye-opening as to the plight (past and present) of a people I live and work among in the Miramichi area. Highly recommended for educators, and for students wishing to research this important area of Canadian-Aboriginal history.