Flooding sustainable livelihoods of the Lake St Martin First Nation: The need to enhance the role of gender and language in Anishinaabe knowledge systems

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Ballard, Myrle
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Indigenous peoples have been the sole occupants of the vast lands now known as the continent of North America since time immemorial. The land base provided a full range of climatic zones and an abundance of aquatic, wildlife, and vegetation resources for diverse Indigenous peoples. In Lake St. Martin First Nation, Manitoba where the focus of the research is, the Indigenous peoples are known as Anishinabek. The Anishinabek were able to survive in this vast expanse of land by using their skills and knowledge, which are the Anishinaabe Knowledge Systems (AKS), while preserving ecological integrity. Anishinabek’s survival depended on a relationship with the environment through knowledge, which was passed on over thousands of years acquired by direct human contact with the environment. This relationship has been disrupted by colonization and artificial flooding over time and has resulted in the permanent displacement of the community in the summer of 2011. Environmental changes proved to have the most negative impact in terms of changes in all aspects of Anishinabek’s lives and livelihoods. In May 2011, the community of Lake St. Martin First Nation was fully evacuated due to the artificial flooding of Lake St. Martin. This research had to come to an end, but the end has not come yet for the evacuees as they are still housed in hotels across the province and in temporary housing in April of 2012. The land is still held sacred and is seen as the giver of all life and all opportunities for well-being, healthy living, and economic prosperity. Although Anishinabek cultures have changed with modern times, this ancient and sacred relationship to the land still remains close and important to the Anishinabek and continues to be the foundation for their nation building. In Anishinaabe societies, gender has been important in the transmission of knowledge. Language was also an important component and played an important role in AKS. This research explored the role of language and gender in Anishinaabe Knowledge Systems (AKS). This research had four main objectives: 1) the sustainability of livelihoods in Lake St. Martin over time; 2) the importance of language in IKS and Indigenous research; 3) the role of Anishinabek in sustainability; and 4) the integration of AKS, language and gender in planning the new settlement of Lake St. Martin First Nation after its displacement. This research explored the livelihoods of Anishinabek by doing a comparison of activities over a time period of 100 years. The research examined gender and language in AKS by exploring the historical changes brought about by policies, technology, and environmental changes. The changes were documented and compared against the policies that were enacted. The results show that policies, technology and environmental changes directly impacted the Anishinabek’s livelihoods.
Environmental, women, language, Anishinaabe, knowledge systems, Anishinaabe knowledge Systems, Lake St. Martin