Stored in the Bones

Safeguarding Indigenous Living Heritages

Agnieszka Pawłowska-Mainville (Author)

Intangible cultural heritage (ICH) refers to community-based practices, knowledges, and customs that are inherited and passed down through generations. While ICH has always existed, a legal framework for its protection only emerged in 2003 with the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. In Stored in the Bones, Agnieszka Pawłowska-Mainville details her work with Anishinaabeg and Inninuwag harvesters, showcasing their cultural heritage and providing a new discourse for the promotion and transmission of Indigenous knowledge.

The book focuses on lived experiences of the akiwenziyag and kitayatisuk, “men of the land” in Anishinaabemowin/Ojibwe and Inninumowin/Cree, respectively. These men shared their dibaajimowinan and achimowinak (life stories)—from putting down tobacco to tending traplines—with Pawłowska-Mainville during her fifteen years of research in Manitoba and northwestern Ontario. By performing their living heritage, the akiwenziyag and kitayatisuk are, in the words of Richard Morrison, doing what they need to do to “energize and strengthen their bones as they walk this Earth.” Illustrating the importance of ICH recognition, Pawłowska- Mainville also explores her experiences with the Manitoba Clean Environment Commission regarding the impacts of hydro development and the Pimachiowin Aki UNESCO World Heritage Site nomination.

Stored in the Bones enriches discussions of treaty rights, land claims, and environmental and cultural policy. Presenting practical ways to safeguard ICH and an international framework meant to advance community interests in dealings with provincial or federal governments, the study offers a pathway for Indigenous peoples to document knowledge that is “stored in the bones.”


Pawłowska-Mainville’s study is a robust contribution to understanding sovereignty as a vital well-spring for action today. More importantly, this text properly contextualizes that sovereignty outside of colonial legal framings, and carefully establishes it within the continuous practice of ‘peoplehood’.

– Wendy Russell, Huron University College at Western University

This book contributes to ongoing discussions of Indigenous-settler relations in Canada around reconciliation, UNDRIP, and TRC. The environmental assessment context is intriguing and executed productively.

– Thomas (Tad) McIlwraith, University of Guelph

About the Author

Agnieszka Pawłowska-Mainville is UNESCO Chair in Living Heritage and Sustainable Livelihoods and associate professor in Global and International Studies at the University of Northern British Columbia.

Book Details

Stored in the Bones cover

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    This forthcoming title will ship in October 2023.

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