Dr. Angela Robinson is a new faculty member at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, teaching courses in social, cultural anthropology, and Newfoundland culture and society focusing on aboriginal populations.
For the past 10 years she has conducted research among the Mi�kmaw people throughout Atlantic Canada, with a particular focus on Cape Breton. Her research concentrated on the ways in which different world views/life worlds formed the basis of Mi�kmaw religious beliefs and expressions. Her recent book, Ta�n Teli-ktlams�tasit (Ways of Believing), 2004, focuses on the complexity and diversity of Mi�kmaw belief systems, including Mi�kmaw Catholicism, Catholic-Traditionalism, and neo-Traditionalism.
�This research involves the collection of ethnographic materials including the oral histories of Mi�kmaw people who offer compelling, significant, and rather complex perspectives on the history of Newfoundland and Labrador,� she said.
Dr. Robinson was born and raised in Newfoundland and Labrador and completed three degrees at Memorial University (BA, MA, M.Phil.). In 2002 she received a PhD from McMaster University. Over the past five years she has taught at several universities in Atlantic Canada (St. Thomas, Mount Allison, Cape Breton and St. Francis Xavier).
�I feel privileged to be here in western Newfoundland where I am afforded the opportunity to conduct research and teach simultaneously � an enviable position for anyone who enjoys working in the field,� said Dr. Robinson. �I am excited at the many possibilities that working at Grenfell allows and look forward to conducting research profiling the contributions of Aboriginal Peoples to Newfoundland and Labrador history, society and culture.�
ANTH 2142, Summer 2017
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS for
Ta’n Teli-ktlamsitasit (Ways of Believing): Mi’kmaw Religion in Eskasoni, Nova Scotia
by Angela Robinson
• Everyone in the class is expected to read the entire ethnography. You will write about it in your Short Essay due June 13. There will be questions about it on the Midterm on June 20.
• Each group of two students will present one of the chapters in class on May 30. You will have 12-14 minutes for your presentation.
• You will have some time in class to work together as a group on your presentation on May 16 and 23, but your group will also want to do some work together outside class.
• The presentation should answer the questions below for the chapter being presented, but feel free to also discuss other questions raised by the material in the chapter.
• There is a glossary of important terms at the end of the book.
• On the day of your presentation each group should submit a hard copy and a digital version of its answers to the questions. These will be posted on Moodle for the rest of the class.
• These presentations will be used to calculate part of your participation grade for this course.
Chapter 1. INTRODUCTION
1. Describe the research methods used by Robinson to carry out this research project.
2. What are the similarities and differences between the three main religious groups in Eskasoni: Traditionalists, Catholics and Catholic-Traditionalists?
3. Why is the term religion problematic for ethnographers?
4. What is a salite and what is its significance in Mi’kmaw society?
5. What does Robinson mean by “the reciprocal nature of the exchange between Christian and Mi’qmaw religious beliefs”? (p. 4)
6. What is unexpected about how Robinson interprets the relationship between the Mi’kmaq and Catholicism?
7. Why do you think Robinson presents the beliefs of three people at the end of the chapter?
Chapter 2. THE MI’KMAQ: AN ETHNOHISTORICAL OVERVIEW
1. What have been the most significant changes in Mi’kmaw socio-economic organization since the beginning of European colonization?
2. Describe Mi’kmaw political organization and how it has changed through time.
3. What are the roles of the Saqamaw and Kji-saqamaw?
4. What was the centralization program and what effect did it have on Mi’kmaw society?
Chapter 3. TA’N NINEN TELO’ITIEK (“THE WAY WE ARE”): MI’KMAW LIFEWORLDS
1. What does Robinson mean by phenomenological approach? (also see Glossary, p. 143) Why did she decide to use this approach?
2. What are the various ways in which tradition is understood among the Mi’kmaq?
3. According to Mi’kmaq speakers presented in this chapter, what are the main differences between Mi’kmaq and English?
4. How does Mi’kmaw language influence the ways that key cosmological and ideological concepts are understood?
5. What are the main features of the two cosmologies discussed in this chapter?
6. Describe the complex relationships among religion, spirituality, and tradition within Mi’kmaw society.
Chapter 4. ALASUTMUO’KUOMK (“AT THE WIGWAM WHERE WE PRAY”): THE CHURCH
1. How did Robinson carry out the research presented in this chapter?
2. What is “popular,” or “vernacular,” religion? (see also pages 73-74)
3. What were the most important events in the history of the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Mi’kmaq?
4. What is the significance of Catholic writings in the Mi’kmaw language?
5. How did the Mi’kmaq practice Catholicism in the different stages of their history? How did they practice it at the time of Robinson’s fieldwork?
6. In what ways have the priests who worked in Eskasoni viewed the Mi’kmaq and Mi’kmaw Catholicism?
7. In what ways, and for what reasons, can Catholicism be considered a Mi’kmaw tradition?
8. What are the larger lessons from this chapter about the relationship between global religious institutions and local religious practice?
Chapter 5. SE’TTA’NEWIMK: THE MI’KMAW ANNUAL PILGRIMAGE TO POTLOTEK
1. Why is St. Anne so important to the Mi’kmaw? What does she symbolize?
2. What is a pilgrimage? What kind of a pilgrimage is Se’tta’newimk?
3. What happens during Se’tta’newimk?
4. Describe the various reasons that Mi’kmaw people go to Potlotek for this event.
5. How does Robinson interpret the importance of Se’tta’newimk and Potlotek?
Chapter 6. “WE ARE BORN TO DIE”: DEATH, ILLNESS, AND GRIEVING IN ESKASONI
1. What does it mean to say that the Mi’kmaq are collectively oriented? How is this reflected in Mi’kmaq practices around death?
2. Which group of people from the Eskasoni community provided Robinson with the information about death that is presented in this chapter?
3. Which Mi’kmaw funerary practices and beliefs are culturally specific expressions of grief, mourning, and bereavement?
4. Which of these practices can be considered to constitute rites of passage?
5. What is the significance of the salite and the funeral feast for the Mi’kmaq?
6. How do different groups of Mi’kmaw conceive of life and death, and the relationship between the living and the dead? How are these beliefs reflected in language?
Chapter 7. MI’KMAW RELIGION AND IDENTITY
1. According to Robinson, what is neo-Traditionalism?
2. What is the significance of the Eskasoni Mawio’mi, or powwow?
3. What does Robinson mean when she says “the practice of neo-Traditionalism… [is] a locus of dispute around which opposing discourses about Mi’kmaw identity are constructed, articulated, and openly challenged”? (p. 112)
4. Describe the range of views among members of the Eskasoni community about the powwow.
5. What reasons do neo-Traditionalists give for adopting this religious orientation?
6. Describe the conflicts between, and conflicting views of, Catholics and Traditionalists.
7. How are religion and Mi’kmaw identity related?
Chapter 8. CONCLUSIONS
1. What is Robinson’s central argument in this book?
2. How have your understandings of religion in aboriginal communities changed as a result of reading this book?
3. How have your understandings of aboriginal identity changed as a result of reading this book?
4. What do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of Robinson’s ethnographic research, analysis, and ethnography?
5. What have you learned about anthropological research on First Nations from reading this book?
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