The recent attacks on Indigenous fisheries in Nova Scotia are devastating, and a case of history repeating itself. A new series coming to APTN in February about Indigenous fisheries will drive that point home.
GESPE’GEWA’GI: The Last Land, a 13-part half-hour doc series about Mi’kmaq fishers of Listuguj in Quebec started shooting in 2018. Their perspective on commercial fishing feels more urgent today, arriving on the heels of the conflict between non-indigenous commercial fishers and the Sipekne’katik First Nation in Nova Scotia, which made headlines across the country last fall.
The dispute over treaty rights and “moderate livelihood” lobster fishing during the off-season cumulated in attacks on Mi’kmaw fishers and their properties. On October 13, a mob of 200 non-Indigenous fishers and their supporters attacked Mi’kmaw fishers at a lobster storage facility. That same facility was burned down days later. Indigenous leaders across the country criticized the Nova Scotia RCMP for standing idly by and allowing these attacks to take place. (RCMP later arrested 21 people.)
The recent violence towards Indigenous fisheries immediately recalls the raids in Listuguj in 1981. Quebec provincial police seized nets from the Mi’kmaq community to enforce salmon fishing restrictions on Restigouche River. There were numerous complaints of police brutality and misconduct. That standoff was covered in Alanis Obomsawin’s documentary Incident At Restigouche. It also hangs over Jeff Barnaby’s zombie thriller, Blood Quantum, which is also set in Listuguj.
Those stories are in the rear view in GESPE’GEWA’GI: The Last Land, which is co-directed by Ernest Webb and Greg Lawrence. The series is far more upbeat, following individuals and families who, from their homes and their shipping vessels, tell the story of what happened after the clash with police: the self-determination of the Mi’kmaq community’s fishing industry, harvesting crab, salmon and shrimp.
Today, the Mi’kmaq fishing industry in Listuguj is a multi-million-dollar economic and cultural driver.
The series will air on APTN in both Mi’kmaq and English languages. In Toronto, the Mi’kmaq version premieres on Feb 11 at 7 am on APTN East. The English-language version premieres February 13 at 7 pm. Episodes will stream on APTN Lumi soon after their premiere dates.
A second season of GESPE’GEWA’GI: The Last Land is already in development.