Nova Scotia

Mi'kmaq expert shares Indigenous knowledge at workshop in Africa

A Cape Breton man has just returned from a working visit to Ghana, where he shared the history of the Mi'kmaq people and the concept of 'two-eyed seeing,' blending Indigenous and Western ways of managing nature.

Clifford Paul shares concept of 'two-eyed seeing,' blending traditional and Western approaches

Clifford Paul, right, wears a traditional Ghanaian smock called a batakari, a gift from his friend, Dr. Stephen Ameyaw. (Submitted by Clifford Paul)

A Cape Breton man has just returned from a working visit to Ghana, where he shared the history of the Mi'kmaq people and the concept of blending Indigenous and Western ways of managing nature.

Clifford Paul is the moose management co-ordinator at the Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources, an organization that bills itself as Cape Breton's Mi'kmaq voice on natural resources and the environment.

In Ghana, Paul presented at a workshop about Indigenous knowledge that drew people from all over Africa.

Clifford Paul says attendees were especially interested in learning about the relationship between Canadian and First Nations governments. (Submitted by Clifford Paul)

He says all modern Indigenous cultures employ the practices of what the Mi'kmaq call "two-eyed seeing," even if their language has no words for it.

'Find the common ground'

"I usually describe how you take the tenets of modern, Western science and you also take the tenets of traditional knowledge — Mi'kmaq traditional knowledge or Aboriginal traditional knowledge or traditional knowledge of the people —and you blend them," said Paul.

"You find the common ground and from there, you can go forward with your work."

He said all of the attendees, including himself, shared a history of resilience.

The workshop attracted attendees from across Africa. (Submitted by Clifford Paul)

"The Mi'kmaq have been pretty resilient people because we have strong treaties," said Paul.

"And in their countries, they've had pretty well the same onslaught of colonialism and some of them have to fight for their independence."

Working with different government levels

People at the workshop were especially interested in the relationship between Canadian and First Nations governments, Paul said, as well as how a Mi'kmaq person leads the moose management plan in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

"I'm able to work with the provincial and federal governments, the Mi'kmaq government, the community and co-manage a resource that is very precious to Canada," he said.

"So, I guess when a Mi'kmaq person or an Indigenous person comes to a workshop such as that, it gives participants and the younger people they work with hope and confidence."

Clifford Paul and other delegates were taken on tours to a number of traditional sacred sites by Ghanaian elders. (Submitted by Clifford Paul)

He said the delegation from South Africa was interested in working with the Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources in the future.

While in Ghana, Paul visited several villages with other workshop attendees, and elders led them on tours of a number of traditional sacred sites.

Paul was invited to appear at the workshop after an official in Africa saw him give a presentation at St. FX's Coady International Institute.

With files from Information Morning Cape Breton

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