Mitchell Maracle

Getting to the Core of Things: Mitchell Maracle Explore Geology and How Mining Can Respect the Earth

 “It is inspiring to be an Indigenous person representing our communities in the geology field. I think there is a shared connection between geologists and Indigenous peoples and their stories and how we can learn from each other,” Mitchell Maracle beams. He is a Mohawk of the Bay of Quinte student from Tyendinaga studying geology at Acadia University. As a student, he sees how Indigenous oral history passed down for thousands of years has helped guide geologists and paleontologists. These stories have helped them find mammoth and mastodon parts and scientific evidence of the Bay of Fundy flooding. 

In his personal history, Maracle grew up in Prince Edward County in southern Ontario, often visiting his grandparents in their home community. Before he went to university, he worked in the Yukon in mineral exploration with a Nacho Nyak Dun First Nation mineral placement company and a few others. Flying and then helicoptering in, he worked in remote locations where food and supplies had to be delivered. 

He liaised between the geology industry and the First Nations communities, staking exploration claims, sampling soil, gold panning and running a sluice box. Some of his work was as a core technician, looking at drilled cores and modelling possible mineral locations. Amidst all this, he had to avoid the bears and being eaten by wildlife.

Outside the Yukon, he worked with the Nova Scotia Geological Survey as a student, doing mineral exploration work and looking for lithium deposits. He’s helped map glacial disbursement trains, illustrating the formation and disappearance of glaciers and coastal erosion. Using a drone, he maps the shore and creates a 3d model, comparing annual changes in the land. It’s work he loves and hopes to keep doing.

Before geology, Maracle studied Geography at Carleton University, graduating at 20. He wasn’t sure what to do with his life and travelled through Australia and Europe, doing odd jobs. Maracle eventually admitted he needed a career and passion to pursue. Geology seemed like a good fit, combining his love of science and travel. A geologist working in Yukon once told him there was no such thing as a native geologist and inspired him to become one himself. 

Returning to school for a second degree as a mature student had challenges and advantages. He had a clear sense of purpose and a desire to improve himself. His first time at school, he hoped inspiration would fall in his lap, where now he approaches things more intentionally. Evacuated by helicopter with an injured knee was a challenge, but he recovered within weeks. Mental barriers took more time. 

There was a philosophical challenge he had to overcome, too. “Geologists can be the antithesis of being Indigenous to some extent because it is kind of destroying the land to extract minerals. In the world we live in, we need those minerals; it's going to happen no matter what. I think that is an issue for Indigenous communities to look at,” he explains.

“We need to have Indigenous geologists representing traditional territory because we can't just have industries going in and more or less saying, ‘hey, we'll give this committee a million dollars.’ But really, if a geologist was there to communicate for both parties, then maybe [they would find] the community deserves a lot more and shouldn't let this happen,” he continues. 

Illustration by Shaikara David

Mining and mineral extraction is something he sees as inevitable but better to happen in an environmentally-regulated country instead of a legally vulnerable one overseas. Communication in the industry and communities is something he considers to be paramount, and he has hope for his more environmentally sensitive generation of geologists.

While he worries older geologists don’t care as much and will extract and keep going, he feels his younger peers value protecting and rehabilitating the land to its original condition as much as possible. The greed that drives the industry saddens him. He sees Indigenous representation as a way to balance those destructive forces.  

If he could share a message to his younger self it would be, “Don't always take the easy route. Challenge yourself.” He often looked for the easiest courses, limiting his growth as a person. At this point in his life, he’s improving his communication skills to explain Indigenous and geological perspectives and practices. 

To maintain his mental wellness and help him think more clearly, Maracle loves to run and eat healthy as part of his routine and to spend time in nature. He’s inspired to keep going because he enjoys science and learning. While it feels like he’s been in school forever, he is having fun. He is looking for less repetitive, more challenging work and loves hiking and exploring the land he learns from. 

His advice for young people leaving home to do things like study geology is to prepare for anything. He moved to Nova Scotia in the early days of the pandemic and had to quarantine for fourteen days when he couldn’t afford a hotel. Fortunately, he brought his camping gear and camped on Crown land. He also suggests putting yourself out there, finding new friends and avoiding isolation. Another tip he shares is if you can do something in five minutes just do it, whether it’s cleaning up or something else. Maracle believes this practice keeps little things from weighing on you over time. 

Inspired as an Indigenous person representing communities in geology, Mitchell Maracle is digging in to create space for more Indigenous professionals. Exploring the shared connection between geology and Indigenous oral history, he’s extracting goodwill and mutual respect in a field that has not always respected the lands or its original people. Geology and Indigenous communities both see value in the land. In learning from each other, they are drilling into the core of those beliefs to find treasures of cooperation and care.  

Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.

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Key Parts

  • Career
  • Identity
    First Nations
  • Province/Territory
    Prince Edward Island
  • Date
    April 18, 2024
  • Post Secondary Institutions
    No PSI found.
  • Discussion Guide
    create to learn discuss

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