Québec is home to over 5,000 Mi’kmaq, which are split into three groups. On the Gaspé Peninsula, the community of Listuguj is located at the mouth of Rivière Restigouche, while the community of Gesgapegiag is at the mouth of Rivière Cascapedia, near the municipality of Maria. Some 510 Mi’kmaq belong to the Gespeg band, who do not have a reserve and live mainly in Gaspé and Montréal.
The Mi’kmaw language is taught at school and is spoken by many members of the Listuguj and Gesgapegiag communities. English is the second language. The Mi’kmaq of Gespeg mostly speak French, and more and more young members know both French and English.
One of the characteristics of Mi’kmaw culture is its adaptation to activities related to off-shore fishing. In particular, the Mi’kmaq developed the art of building boats for this style of fishing. At the end of the 18th century, following major socioeconomic changes in Gaspésie, many Mi’kmaq became lumberjacks, labourers and construction workers. However, fishing is still part of Mi’kmaw social and economic life.
In 2001, the three Mi’kmaw communities joined forces to form a political and administrative organization, the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat, so as to offer shared services and forge ties with non-Indigenous partners, particularly in the fishing and forestry sectors.
Thanks to deep-sea fishing, the Mi’kmaq derive part of their livelihood from marine products. Salmon fishing has always been a part of their way of life. Since 1982, the community of Listuguj has benefited from an agreement related to practising salmon fishing. For their part, the Mi’kmaq of Gesgapegiag, alongside non-Indigenous partners, oversees the Society of the Cascapedia Salmon Fisheries. This partnership provides some 30 jobs related to salmon fishing activities on the world-famous river.
For many generations, ash and sweetgrass basketry have been the specialty of the Mi’kmaq. The community of Gesgapegiag has a craft cooperative whose products are sold in Canada and the United States. The members of the Mi’kmaq Nation of Gespeg are active on several levels. They have developed a community centre in Pointe-Navarre and have built a Mi’kmaq cultural interpretation centre. In 2001, the three Mi’kmaq communities formed the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Secretariat, a political and administrative body. Its mandate is to:
Plan the delivery of shared services
Develop partnerships with non-Indigenous people, particularly in the fishing and forestry sectors
Coordinate the negotiation of agreements on behalf of the nation