This summer, the Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies has partnered with the Louisbourg Institute and the Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources to hire a student researcher who will prepare a report on the historic significance and continued cultural relevance of Malagawatch. This document will be given to the five Unama'ki bands to use if they choose to proceed with an application to designate the area as a historic site.
Obviously, those of us working at the Purdy Crawford Chair are very supportive of initiatives related to heritage and culture even though our focus is on business and economic development. Given the unique situation in Malagawatch, which is co-managed by the five bands in Unama'ki, we see value in documenting how the communities have come together to care for the site. On this shared reserve land, the five communities engage in collaborative conservation.
Malagawatch, located on the Bras d'Or Lake, is the site of a Mi'kmaw cemetery and was once home to a mission church. Some Mi'kmaq still live in Malagawatch year round, while others visit seasonally. In recent years, however, this site of archaeological significance has been threatened by erosion. Using emergency funding from AANDC, it has been stabilized with armour rock, but there are concerns that this isn't a permanent or comprehensive solution.
Despite the cold and rain, we toured the site with our guide Annie Johnson. She described the damage that occured due to several severe storms and just how close they came to losing the altar and cross. In the picture below, you can see the grass line in front of the newly planted shrubs — that is the line of erosion. A little too close for comfort!
We're very much looking forward to working with our partners on this project and preparing a case study on Malagawatch that could be used in post-secondary courses. And hopefully we'll all return to Mala on a bright sunny day later this summer!