Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology (PhD)
Possibilities and Challenges of Recognising and Implementing Indigenous Peoples' Rights to Land and Territory in Canada
Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.
In November 1980, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) chartered two trains from Vancouver to Ottawa, launching a movement dubbed the “Constitution Express.” At the time, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau promised to “patriate” the Constitution from the UK. It was a move touted as decolonial, yet it excluded any mention of Indigenous Peoples, their rights, or self-determination. So, they set out to thwart him. Over two years, the movement made many more journeys: to the United Nations; through Europe; and ultimately, to London. Each carried the same message: no patriation. At least not without the consent of the Indigenous nations on top of whose territories and terms the Canadian state tenuously sits. By the time of the Constitution Act, 1982, what they got was section 35, which “recognized and affirmed” existing Aboriginal and treaty rights, yet to be defined. For a movement so significant in breath, scale, and consequence, it has received stunningly little academic attention. This dissertation follows the movement’s journey. Each chapter is set in a new location where the movement made its case. It asks: In what ways did the movement confront Canada’s claims of exclusive jurisdiction in the patriation period? And what did it propose instead? To answer these questions, I undertook more than 18 months of research in partnership with the movement’s leaders, participants, and theoreticians. Their recollections and analyses drive the narrative, bolstered by archival material. As a settler anthropologist, they also taught me how bring my methods in line with the very topic at hand: Indigenous self-determination.I learned from those involved that this was not just a movement for Constitutional rights recognition. This dissertation focuses on a different imperative at the heart of the movement: jurisdiction. The Constitution Express reasserted Indigenous Peoples’ nationhood, territorial authority, and self-determination. It also reconstituted the Canadian state, drawing on resurgent Indigenous legal traditions to imagine a federalism stripped of Imperial domination, based on consent. Taking inspiration from Third World anti-colonialism, it revamped international law to seek decolonization, not patriation. Ultimately, I conclude it was a simultaneously local and transnational movement with deep resonance today.
This dissertation describes the results of ethnographic research on the wilderness tourist attraction known as the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. It investigates settler-colonial views of and experiences in a space that is claimed by the Canadian state and is also part of the traditional territories of indigenous peoples. The entanglement of wilderness tourism and settler-colonialism is analyzed in the contemporary Canadian context where, it is argued, Canadian nationalism and indigenous reconciliation are in conflict. Particular attention is paid to the complex ways a space is constructed as wilderness (and therefore a-cultural and a-historical) through both material and representational actions of the settler-colonial state. The trail is a 75 kilometre backcountry hiking trail managed as the West Coast Trail Unit of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. It is co-managed by Parks Canada and the Huu-ay-aht, Ditidaht and Pacheedaht First Nations. Fieldwork was conducted from 2013-2014, where the investigator based herself in the settler community of Bamfield and repeatedly hiked the length of the trail interacting with both visitors and locals. Qualitative data was collected through interviews and participant observation with both locals living on and near the trail and hikers recreating in the national park. This thesis posits that Canadian settler-colonialism venerates not only idealized images of a national landscape but also the active engagement with nature through recreation. It is contended that within this active, corporeal, and material engagement there is potential for challenges to static colonial narratives of wilderness that mask Indigenous territory.
Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.
Development in British Columbia has and continues to operate within an extractivist, colonial framework with little regard to environmental or community impacts. In 1952, the Cheslatta T’En were forcibly removed from their homelands for Alcan’s Kenney Dam. Because of the frequent flooding of Nechako Reservoir, the Cheslatta live in constant tension with a permanently changed landscape as the bones of their ancestors and memories of their way of life continues to wash ashore. The coordinated and intentional efforts of Alcan and the Department of Indian Affairs to remove all material traces of the Cheslatta from their lands had devastating impacts that reach into their ancestral past, continue in the present, and shape Cheslatta’s collective action for a more just future. The Cheslatta’s memories of their lands and forced displacement are the traces that Alcan and the settler state could not erase. Today, with approximately 140 band members resettled onto eleven different reserves, totaling 1,400 hectares and scattered over 170 miles apart, the Cheslatta navigate resettlement and efforts to reclaim their heritage in a land and space disconnected from what had been their homelands for thousands of years. Through an ethnohistorical and ethnographic analysis, I investigate the following: How are acts of resistance to displacement and dispossession informed by cultural meanings and memories of the land? What are the everyday experiences of dispossession and displacement? How do community members navigate “moving forward”? In this thesis, I analyze the individually narrated experiences of displacement; observations of reconciliation negotiations; community gatherings; Cheslatta community members’ interactions with the landscape; and, archival documents. My analysis coincides with theoretical frameworks of memory, space and place, and settler state reconciliation politics.
Non-profit social services targeting specific ‘vulnerable’ groups have become increasingly prevalent since the late 1970s. These services have flourished with the growth of neoliberal ideas that stress rolling back government services, using private institutions that operate on profit-driven models, and creating citizens who are self-sufficient, enterprising subjects. These organizations are an important element of Foucault’s ‘governmentality,’ the idea that independent institutions across society act in concert to regulate the population. This thesis questions the extent to which the goals of neoliberal governmentality are able to penetrate a non-profit organization that provides homeless shelters for women and children in the San Francisco Bay Area, and demonstrates how the organization acts as both a part of the system of neoliberal governmentality while simultaneously resisting its logic. This qualitative research project, which involved participant observation at the shelter site and 16 interviews with staff and clients of the organization, focuses on the ways in which shelter staff have become skilled at responding to the demands of neoliberal governmentality while using unique strategies to address client’s needs and create a home-like shelter environment. The organization employs service strategies that resist the construction of the neoliberal subject as consistently enterprising and rational. Harm-reduction and trauma-informed strategies acknowledge the personal and structural barriers to overcoming problems such as substance abuse and domestic violence, and stress that disciplinary institutional spaces often contribute to the stress and trauma that clients feel within the social services system. Staff members have used these official strategies, as well as their own personal understandings of how they would like the shelter to operate, to develop individual styles and challenge many of the rules within the shelter. This personal and compassionate approach stresses accommodation and is driven by a desire to make the shelter feel more like home.
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