Located in northwestern Prince Edward Island (Epekwitk), in close proximity to the Lennox Island First Nation reserve, are a chain of islands known in the Mi’kmaq language as Pituamkek (Bee-doo-um-gek), which means ‘At the Long Sand Dune’, and in English as Hog Island and the Sandhills.
In 2006, representatives from the Mi’kmaq communities of PEI, Parks Canada and the Canadian Museum of History, conducted a foot survey of Hog Island. Two confirmed archaeological sites were discovered and the cultural and ecological importance of the area, already known to the local Mi’kmaq community, was brought to the attention of government officials.
The Epekwitk Assembly of Councils developed and submitted a proposal to the federal Minister of Environment and Minister Responsible for Parks Canada to create a cooperatively-managed national park reserve or other type of protected area in the Pituamkek area.
In 2009, a tripartite group made of representatives from the federal, provincial and Mi’kmaq governments began discussions to find mutually acceptable ways to protect the Pituamkek area. Dialogue involving the Epekwitk Assembly of Councils, the province of PEI and the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) identified shared conservation goals for the area. Around this time, the NCC began acquiring parcels of land in the area for conservation.
In 2010, the First Nations leadership wrote a second letter to the Minister of the Environment requesting Parks Canada support their proposal. After review of the proposal and meetings between the parties, Parks Canada recognized the Pituamkek region as being of national significance and meriting consideration for protected status.
Since then, multiple organizations have worked together to acquire lands for conservation and to build relationships and additional support for the Pituamkek national park reserve project. The Mi’kmaq of PEI, through L’nuey (the Mi’kmaq rights based initiative), the Nature Conservancy of Canada, Island Nature Trust and Parks Canada have each played significant roles in the development of the vision and continuation of the project.
In response to several years of advocacy from the Epekwitk Mi’kmaq, in August 2019, a historic tripartite announcement from the Province of Prince Edward Island, Epikwitk Mi’kmaq and Parks Canada formally launched the undertaking of a feasibility assessment for the proposed national park reserve in Pituamkek. The public consultation process was scheduled to begin in early 2020, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The health and safety of Canadians is of the utmost importance and Parks Canada is following the advice and guidance of public health officials.
The collaborative efforts in this establishment process by Parks Canada and L’nuey demonstrate the Government of Canada’s commitment to working with Indigenous communities to increase the Indigenous voice in all aspects of the establishment and management of Parks Canada administered places in collaboration with Indigenous partners.