Nova Scotia

$4.8M Cape Breton facility to preserve knowledge of Mi'kmaw elders

Funding will be spent on the construction of a net-zero carbon facility in Eskasoni First Nation.

Project is in design phase with completion not expected for a few years

Eskasoni Elder Ernest Johnson teaches about the trees of Unama'ki, or Cape Breton. (Submitted by Annie Johnson)

An infrastructure project will help Cape Breton's five Indigenous communities collect and preserve traditional Mi'kmaw knowledge.

The $4.8-million building will be constructed along Crane Cove in Eskasoni, N.S., with funding from the federal government and the Eskasoni and Membertou First Nations. 

The building will house both the Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources and the Mi'kmaq Environmental Learning Centre.

Jaime Battiste, MP for Sydney-Victoria, said both entities are important to preserving the knowledge of Mi'kmaw elders.

"Environmental issues are at the forefront of people's minds in Cape Breton and around the country — and this new facility will help them take their work to the next level," Battiste said in a news release.

"I am so pleased to see this long-dreamed about project become a reality."

The Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources is the voice for Cape Breton's five Mi'kmaw communities on natural resources issues. It conducts environmental monitoring for a better understanding of the island's ecosystem.

The Mi'kmaq Environmental Learning Centre aims to preserve knowledge, traditions and values of Mi'kmaw elders on environmental sustainability.

A woman wearing glasses and a white T-shirt smiles at the camera. Green leaves of an apple tree are seen behind her.
Lisa Young is the executive director of the Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources. (UINR)

"It's [going to be] a very beautiful building," said Lisa Young, the institute's executive director.

Federal support

Ottawa is spending $4.4 million on the project, while more than $427,000 will be provided by Eskasoni and Membertou First Nations.

Young said the net-zero carbon facility will host community gatherings and deliver outreach programming, and will offer needed space for their growing workforce.

"We've grown quite a bit with programming," Young said. "We're close to, with summer students now, 35 staff. We have staff within [our current] building and we rent space in various buildings throughout the community."

Institute staff say the project is in the design phase with completion not expected for another few years.


Erin Pottie


Erin Pottie is a CBC reporter based in Sydney. She has been covering local news in Cape Breton for 17 years. Story ideas welcome at

With files from Information Morning Cape Breton