British Journal of Canadian Studies

Aboriginal Peoples and the Land: Ownership, Understanding and Development

British Journal of Canadian Studies (2008), 21, (1), 105–128.

Abstract

This case study investigating differences between conventional conceptions of wilderness and Aboriginal understanding of the land and its 'wild spirit places' in British Columbia demonstrates the importance of incorporating an element of this understanding when balancing proposals for conservation. Discourse incorporating the concept of wilderness legitimised the dispossession of Aboriginal peoples in the province during colonisation while taking no account of Aboriginal understanding; recent policies, on the contrary, have fostered movement towards negotiations and partnerships in land management. Historical studies of land use by indigenous peoples raise questions about how apt it is to call them 'conservationists'; indeed, traditional patterns of land ownership in British Columbia have included competition and conflict between First Nations. However, the article argues that traditional environmental knowledge, despite methodological and political reservations, has a role in land claims and resource management. Finally, the Squamish First Nation's land-use plan is examined to illustrate the complexity of the needs of protection, restoration and management of resources.

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Todd, Roy