Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Religious Studies


Dr. Ellen Badone




The residents of Eskasoni make up the largest Mi'kmaw community in eastern Canada, the majority of whom claim Roman Catholicism as a primary religious affiliation. However, to describe the Mi'kmaq of Eskasoni as Roman Catholics belies the diversity and complexity of religious belief and expression practiced in the community. This ethnography contributes to the growing body of literature that includes Native views on the role of religion in Aboriginal societies. Drawing upon fieldwork conducted in a number of Mi'kmaw communities in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, this ethnography is concerned with three specific aspects of Mi'kmaw Catholicism. First, I elucidate the reciprocal nature of the exchange between Roman Catholicism and "traditional" Mi'kmaw beliefs and values, and the multiplicity of religious orientations that emerge from this exchange. Second, I address claims to authenticity by neo-Traditionalists, Mi'kmaw Catholics and Catholic-Traditionalists, paying particular attention to the various cultural markers, especially religious or spiritual motifs, beliefs and values that individuals may either invoke or subvert in the process of constructing positive Mi'kmaw personal and social identities. Third, I look at the role that religion and spirituality plays in the day-to-day lives of the Mi'kmaw people. Taken together, these three aspects of religion and spirituality highlight the distinctive local quality and significance of Roman Catholicism among the Mi'kmaq.

McMaster University Library

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