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SRES Change Makers: Anastasia Papadopoulos, Master of Environmental Studies
The Faculty of Graduate Studies has changed its thesis formatting regulations university-wide to include a land acknowledgement. All graduate thesis title pages at Dalhousie will now read “Dalhousie is located on Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq. We are all treaty people.”
This change happened with prompting from School for Resource and Environmental Studies student Anastasia Papadopoulos. When she submitted her thesis, Anastasia included “Mi’kma’ki” in the university address. When it was first not accepted, Anastasia pushed back, her thesis was then accepted, instead including a land acknowledgement. The same land acknowledgement will now also be presented at the start of each PhD thesis defence by the defence chair.
Anastasia says questioning norms and pushing for this change was important to her as a means of recognizing how colonial institutions have contributed to the erasure of the Indigenous people whose lands, we currently live, work and study on.
“I view the push to include a land acknowledgement as one very small step in acknowledging this history,” she says. “Hopefully it will push those who are doing research in Mi'kma'ki, reading someone's thesis, or are simply part of the broader Dalhousie community to reflect on what the implications of being a treaty person means.” She adds that she hopes that might go beyond reflection to “initiate action in response.”
Anastasia will graduate with a Master of Environmental Studies in the Fall of 2021, having successfully defended her thesis earlier this summer. Her thesis work was done in partnership with the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq (CMM) and the Unama’ki Institute of Natural Resources (UINR) and was supported by the Conservation through Reconciliation Partnership.
With the aid of Lisa Young, Trish Nash (UINR) and Allie Rivers (CMM), the project was developed to support the ongoing work in advancing Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas, “We co-created the project to research opportunities and challenges related to advancing Mi’kmaw governance of Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas in a Nova Scotia–Mi’kma’ki context,” says Anastasia.
Dr. Melanie Zurba, SRES graduate coordinator and Anastasia’s thesis supervisor says, “Anastasia maintained a very positive relationship with Mi’kmaw partner organizations and produced a very high-quality thesis, which will be valuable for Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas planning in the future,” on her thesis work.
Echoing Anastasia, Melanie also says including the land acknowledgement in thesis title pages “is a big win as it is important to acknowledge whose land we are on.”
Anastasia’s thesis “Exploring governance mechanisms and Mi'kmaw values and aspirations for Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs) in Nova Scotia” can be found on Dalhousie’s thesis website.
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