Stored in the Bones

Safeguarding Indigenous Living Heritages


A new tool for preserving Indigenous cultural heritages

Intangible cultural heritage (ICH) refers to community-based practices, traditions, and customs that are inherited and passed down through generations. 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 records the 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. ICH recognition also played an important role in Pawłowska-Mainville's 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

"In Stored in the Bones, Pawlowska-Mainville mixes the rich stories of her Indigenous guides—including Anishinaabe/Ojibwe medicine man Richard Morrison, Poplar River trapper Abel Bruce, and Inninu trapper Noah Massan—with the practical aspects of preserving intangible cultural heritage. Their oral storytelling is an example of cultural heritage preservation, as all three men passed away before the book was published."

Shari Narine, Windspeaker

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.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Living Heritage

Chapter 2: Intangible Heritage

Chapter 3: “The last one to know”

Chapter 4: “‘Clean energy,’ they say”

Chapter 5: “The land will stand for you”


Appendix 1 Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventorying Card

Appendix 2 Inventory Guidelines

Appendix 3 Useful Resources


Glossary of Anishinaabemowin and Inninumowin Terms