Episode 10: Treaty Relations and Environmental Politics in Canada

What does it mean to be a treaty partner in Canada today? In this episode we speak with Dr. Sherry Pictou and Dr. Martha Stiegman about two documentary films they created together: In Defense of our Treaties, and We Story the Land. Through the conversation, we learn how the Mi’kmaq have worked to maintain treaty rights over their land and fisheries in the face of colonialism, neoliberalism, and what Sherry terms the "recolonization" of her people in the wake of Supreme Court of Canada decisions that affirm Indigenous rights. Sherry and Martha's work together bears witness to the resistance, and the cultural resurgence, that figure centrally in this work.


Three weeks after this interview was recorded, Sipekne’katik First Nation, a Mi’kmaq community roughly 2 hrs drive from L’sitkuk/Bear River, launched a moderate livelihood lobster fishery in Saint Mary’s Bay - under their own Mi’kmaq First Nation jurisdiction. The date was September 17th, the 21st anniversary of the Marshall Decision. Under the First Nation’s lobster management plan, five initial licences were issued in ceremony, with 50 traps each. 

To date, the response from non-Indigenous fishers in the region echoes the violent racist backlash of 1999 that greeted Mi’kmaq fishers when they took to the water, exercising their inherent rights to fish – rights enshrined in the Peace and Friendship Treaties, and affirmed by the Marshall Decision. In Defense of our Treaties, one of the films discussed in this podcast, details the remarkable conflict resolution and cross-cultural relationship building that took place between Mi’kmaq and non-Indigenous fisheries leaders in the area following Marshall. Unfortunately at this time, those relationships are not dominant. 

For more information about the launch of Sipekne’katik First Nation’s livelihood fishery, see:





Dr. Martha Stiegman
Filmmaker, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change, York University

Guest Bio


Dr. Sherry Pictou
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law and Management, Dalhousie University

Guest Bio


Peter Andrée
Professor, Department of Political Science, Carleton University

Guest Bio

Episode Audio & Video

Listen to the podcast on:


In Defense of our Treaties
We Story the Land

Please note this link is for Carleton and University of Ottawa student viewing purposes only.

Educational and institutional copies are available through
Vtape: distribution@vtape.org | www.vtape.org | 416 351-1317
roceeds are donated to the 7 Paddles Project, connecting people
in L'sitkuk with their ancestral lands and culture.

Mi'kmaq Rights Initiative - mikmaqrights.com

Additional Pedagogical Resources

Guest Bios

Dr. Martha Stiegman

Martha Stiegman is a filmmaker and Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change at York University. Her community-based research and collaborative video work examine Indigenous / settler treaty relations in their historic and contemporary manifestations, with particular attention to food sovereignty and justice; as well as participatory and visual research methodologies. Recent publications include Recognition by Assimilation: Mi’kmaq treaty rights, fisheries privatization and community resistance in Nova Scotia with Sherry Pictou; and Leashes and Lies: Navigating the colonial tensions of institutional ethics of research involving Indigenous people in Canada with Heather Castleten. Recent films include We Story the Land with Sherry Pictou, and By These Presents: “Purchasing” Toronto with Ange Loft.

Dr. Sherry Pictou

Dr. Sherry Pictou is a Mi’kmaw woman from L’sɨtkuk (water cuts through high rocks) known as Bear River First Nation, Nova Scotia. She is now an Assistant Professor in the Faculties of Law and Management at Dalhousie University focusing on Indigenous Governance. Dr. Pictou is also a former Chief for her community and the former Co-Chair of the World Forum of Fisher Peoples.  Her research interests include decolonizing treaty relations, Social Justice for Indigenous Women, Indigenous women’s role in food and lifeways, and Indigenous governance.