Presentations & Proceedings

Abstracts, transcripts or links for conference proceedings and presentations given regarding Aboriginal Mapping, including conferences the AMN has hosted. If you would like to submit information about a presentation, contact us.

Political Anthropology of TEK in the Canadian Subarctic

Roy C. Dudgeon, M. A.

Winnipeg, Manitoba

Submitted to Crossing Boundaries, the Seventh Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property, Vancouver, British Columbia. June 9-14, 1998.

This paper shall present the preliminary findings of my Ph. D. research in anthropology at the University of Manitoba. As a whole, this project is intended to describe and compare the worldviews, as systems of knowledge, of First Nations in the Canadian subarctic to that of public and private development planners, in order to better understand the ongoing disputes between the two. This preliminary paper, however, shall focus more narrowly upon the role which Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) has played in recent disputes over land use between First Nations peoples and development planners, and the manner in which they have deployed TEK in their presentations to various legal and political bodies. The methodological and theoretical approaches of the paper have been developed in my earlier writings, and are best understood through a description of the same. The methodology which the paper shall deploy was first developed in an earlier manuscript, Common Ground: Ecology & Native American Philosophy, which is currently being revised for resubmission at the request of a major Canadian academic press.

This work illustrates the many similarities linking Native American philosophies with recent ecological philosophies, and their common differences from the modern philosophy of the contemporary Western world. The methodology employed was to directly compare Western philosophical works to the literature, narratives and oratory of Native American peoples since first contact. Thus, rather than turning to ethnographic accounts of Aboriginal philosophies, as so much previous anthropology has done, it turned directly to their own literatures. This allowed for an equitable comparison of the various philosophies considered, since all were accessed in the same manner-through a comparison of primary sources.

The same methodology shall be deployed in the current paper, which shall turn to primary documents in order to reach an understanding of the role which TEK plays in land use disputes. The narratives considered shall include, though not be confined to: 1. recent presentations to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP), which were recorded at the RCAP's public hearings, and 2. the presentations of the Moose River/James Bay Coalition to the Environmental Assessment Board of Ontario concerning James Bay hydroelectric development. While the primary focus shall be upon the various Cree Nations of the Canadian subarctic, the views of other peoples may also be included. The theoretical framework which shall be deployed in the current paper was most fully developed in my M. A. Thesis, The Pattern Which Connects: Ecology, Anthropology & Postmodernity (York University, 1996). This work developed a theoretical orientation based upon the works of ecological anthropologist, Gregory Bateson, and discussed its significance for contemporary anthropology. Such an eco-holist approach, or postmodern science, is also closely linked to other recent schools of ecological philosophy-such as deep ecology, ecofeminism, and social ecology. Its basic insight is shared with the discipline of ecology itself-that all things are interconnected in living systems. Thus, while the current work shall focus upon the role of TEK in recent political and legal disputes and presentations, it shall not ignore the larger relationships between ideological, social and ecological systems, nor the political relationships between First Nations and development planners, and the implications of each view for ecological relationships and practices.

The objectives of the paper will be threefold, each of which builds upon the previous themes. Firstly, as noted, it shall attempt to illustrate the political role which TEK has played in recent land use disputes between development planners and First Nations peoples in the Canadian subarctic, through an examination of the public presentations made by various Aboriginal groups in order to represent their views to the larger Canadian population. This shall allow for the development of the second theme, which is a comparison of the different approaches to the "management" of common property resources on the part of the two parties. In other words, it shall allow for a comparison of the management approaches suggested by the TEK of Aboriginal groups, with the management approaches of the modern Western techno-economic view, as well as the ecological consequences which have tended to follow from the adoption and practice of each view. This section shall suggest that while TEK has more often than not lead to sustainable management of the commons, the techno-economic view has tended towards a short term, profit oriented approach, which erodes the resource base over a relatively short period of time.

Finally, with this comparison in hand, the paper shall conclude with a brief discussion and critique of "The Tragedy of the Commons," as described by Garrett Hardin. For if, as the case studies shall attempt to illustrate, we must admit both that: 1. Aboriginal and Western peoples have different worldviews which, when enacted in practice, suggest different methods of managing and interacting with the commons, and that, 2. the former practices have tended to be more sustainable, while only the latter have tended to embody the "tragedy" described by Hardin, then his arguments must be reassessed. Thus, the conclusion shall use the case studies outlined above to critique, once again, the short comings of Hardin's views, and to suggest that the tragedy in question might be more aptly dubbed "the tragedy of capitalism in a commons."

Getting to USE in Traditional Use Studies

Martin S. Weinstein
M.S. Weinstein Consulting Services
108 Croteau Road
Comox, British Columbia
Canada V9M 2P8

A paper presented to the Society for Applied Anthropology annual meeting: March 4-9, 1997 Seattle, Washington.

This paper was entitled, "Getting to Use in Traditional Use Studies", as a play on the word use. Presently, there are many undefined questions about Traditional Use Studies (TUS). The issue of use is one of the more significant. Data about aboriginal traditional use of land and resources are being documented so they can be used, in turn, within administrative programs. There are clearly two central questions here. First, what is the use that we are documenting in Traditional Use Studies? And second, how should the Traditional Use data be used? The answers to these questions are, of course, fundamentally linked. The objective is to create a database that can be used to protect traditional use.

The genre of Traditional Use Studies is an invented-in-British-Columbia, recent addition to Canadian aboriginal land use research. TUS developed from government regulatory needs following the Court of Appeal's ruling on the Delgamuukw case. The decision established that the provincial government has a fiduciary responsibility for aboriginal rights under its jurisdiction. To meet its obligation, the government of B.C. suddenly found itself with an administrative need for a body of data about First Nation land use and cultural geography. TUS was envisioned as a method to develop the database.1

Many B.C. First Nations are now involved in TUS research or contemplating it. However, there is a high degree of uncertainty about what TUS is, and about the appropriate methods to collect the necessary data. And, there is a high degree of anxiety about how to use the data to protect aboriginal rights and not to place them in further risk.

These critical questions presently have no clear answers. They need to be considered by all parties. Some of the broad-ranging discussion necessary to come up with suitable answers have already begun. For example, the TUS workshop hosted by the Sto:lo Nation in Chilliwack in November 1996, at which 40+ First Nations were represented, was an historical event in B.C. - if not the country - as a First Nation forum focused on land use research methods. In this paper I want to throw out some thoughts to further and perhaps focus some of the central questions in this important discussion.

TUS Data Use Models
To get to use, as mentioned in the title, two different questions need to be addressed: what is being protected and how are the data going to be used to protect traditional use? It is useful to start with the second question, the use of the data. There is a simple model, based on the avoidance of physical damage to specific, identified cultural sites. A logging plan, for example, can be evaluated for impacts if a cultural site database is available, and the plan altered to avoid damage to the identified sites. This is the commonly discussed model in conversations with government agency officials. Among First Nation representatives there is an apprehension that government officials have only gotten this far in thinking about the use of TUS data. The limitations in the model are obvious. Nonetheless, there is value in stating them. The simple site-avoidance model is a museum approach, rather than a solution to the use question that deals with the needs of and risks to distinctive, living cultures. Its focus is on the past, rather than on the requirements for the continuation of land and resource use in the modern world.

An appropriate model for the use of TUS data is complicated by the high diversity of First Nations in B.C. To start with there is the enormous linguistic and cultural diversity. Then there is a large range of culture and life/style change: from urban First Nations to isolated northern communities. The large diversity indicates the difficulty in coming up with a common method for documenting the geography of traditional use and for the use of the data to protect aboriginal rights. Having said this, it is important to appreciate that all B.C. First Nations have in common the use of fish and wildlife as the historic basis for their economic lives. That is a very important starting point. Much of the categories of traditional use have to do with the harvest of fish and wildlife, including seasonal residential sites and travel within territories.

The North as a starting point for developing the model
In thinking about these questions, my approach is to look to the north. Why start with the north? First, northern First Nations have seen less culture change than southern groups. Institutions and traditions still function relatively intact. For example, fish and wildlife persist as central economic resources, harvests come from traditional lands, and the organization of harvesting is based on social and cultural institutions.2

Second, northern First Nations within B.C. fall within the scope of the province's fiduciary obligations. Consequently, the appropriate TUS questions for these, and other groups which still rely on their lands and waters for food harvesting, must ask: What are the basic conditions required for continued traditional use? And what is the nature of the conflicts with the continuation of traditional use that may come from resource development?

Finally, and most important, the last twenty-five years have seen major progress in understanding the traditional land use of northern aboriginal communities in Canada and in Alaska. There is a well developed body of social science literature and the start of theory building. This body of work (much of it still in the so-called grey literature) is highly relevant to the issue of how to use TUS data in B.C.

Since the Supreme Court's Calder decision in the early 1970s, aboriginal land and resource use has been a very active field of research in the Canadian north (Brooke 1993; Weinstein 1993). Much of this research focused on resource developments and their impacts on aboriginal communities and, particularly, on the relationship of the communities with their traditional lands. Although TUS and impact assessment are different administrative tools, they have a common objective: identifying and addressing conflict. What has been learned from impact assessment has a great degree of relevance to questions of the use of TUS data.

Aboriginal land use, impact assessment, and models of social change
Aboriginal land use only recently became a field within impact assessment. It does not fit comfortably into the standard distinctions of environmental impact assessment or socio-economic impact assessment. For many present-day northern aboriginal communities there is an inextricable link between the environmental, social, and economic worlds. The connection that is most easily appreciated is the reliance of aboriginal communities on harvests of wildfood from traditional lands. The importance of sustenance or 'subsistence economies'3, as they are more commonly termed by the social scientists who study these socio-economic systems, means that for many aboriginal communities, environmental impacts may have broad socio-economic consequences.

In the past, the models used for assessing impacts to aboriginal communities from resource developments proceeded with a number of assumptions about the importance of land to native communities. The first was that the land was not significantly occupied or used. The key word, of course, is significantly. Hunting, fishing, and gathering were not considered economic activities unless production was geared to a market.

The second assumption was that land and resource harvesting would loose their importance as native societies modernized. In this view, as native communities modernized they would replace a culture based on resource harvesting with wage labour or business enterprise; and fishing and hunting would become recreational activities. The assumption tied attitudes about progress together with the notion of cultural replacement.

This model of social change is based on the European experience. Economies based on household production prior to the 19th century industrial revolution were largely replaced by wage labour and business enterprise. The model derives from historical change within agricultural societies. It does not take into account the difference between those societies and hunting/fishing cultures.

The research of the last twenty-five years, much of it resulting from aboriginal impact assessment, has shown this model of social change to be in error. Modern native experience has not conformed to the assumptions about replacement. Rather, in northern native communities, wage earners typically combine employment and resource harvesting through strategic land use and time management decisions.

To tell their own story, some aboriginal communities developed an alternative model of impact assessment (Usher 1993). Essentially, two models of impact assessment have operated for native communities facing resource development proposals (Usher and Weinstein 1991). The two models rely on different theories of social change. The assumptions discussed above are the rationale of what might be called the modernization/acculturation model. They imply an essential similarity between the impact assessment methods required for native and other Canadian communities. If the logic is followed to its completion, land use and resource harvesting conflicts need only to be addressed as recreational impacts. To this, special cultural and historical sites need to be added, to account for and protect the historical and cultural differences and values of the aboriginal communities. There are obvious parallels here to the site-protection use of TUS data.

The other model of social change, which for want of a more formal name can be called subsistence (or sustenance)/adaptation, assumes that continuing land and resource use on the traditional lands of the native group in question is a primary value for the society. The value is economic in part, but it goes beyond resource harvesting to meaning and satisfaction in life. The model also assumes that "modernization" for northern native groups includes the adaptation of food harvesting, as a socio-cultural system, to village life and wage employment.

The use of this model, obviously, goes far beyond impact assessment. The decades of research on northern aboriginal sustenance-based communities covers a broad spectrum of other purposes, from planning to health (e.g., Adelson 1992).

For TUS, and specifically for understanding the basics of traditional use, this research has great importance. What do we now understand about aboriginal land and resource use from the results of the northern subsistence studies? How does traditional use work? What are the conditions required for its operation and maintenance?

The adaptation model and the organization of traditional use
First, the results of the research on modern northern aboriginal communities says that important aspects of life for their inhabitants are organized differently than they are for most other Canadians. Most distinctive about these communities is the central role of hunting, fishing, and gathering. The cultures and their historical experience derive from an economic and spiritual relationship with animals and the environment which produces them.

Harvests of wild foods and materials represent an integration of the means and the ends in life. For the practitioners of this way-of life, sustenance harvesting connects individual activity with family and group welfare, and these in turn with a direct experience of the state of resource animal populations and of environmental quality. Resource harvesting acts as a connector between environment, communities, human history and individual and family life. It is the integrating role of sustenance harvesting that makes it so important to aboriginal communities. This has always been true, but the significance is enhanced in times of rapid social change.

The research shows that sustenance is typically organized at the household or super-household level. Both input (as labour for harvesting and distribution, and as cash for investment in equipment and for operating costs) and production (the results of the harvests) flow through linked households made up of multi-generation kinship groups. Households may have a mixture of people with regular wage labour commitments, others who are unemployed, and pensioned elders. Each contributes labour or cash. The harvest is shared as part of the household income. And some is shared with other family and friends who are outside of the household unit.

Harvesting generally occurs within a territory historically occupied by the aboriginal group. Most of the historic adaptations devised for life in northern ecosystems required dispersal on the land, seasonal movements, and gentle use. The few exceptions to dispersal were found in locations where rich and consistent fish production permitted a more settled village life-style. Hunting groups followed seasonal rounds of resource harvesting, travelling to different parts of the territory in order to have access to seasonally available resources.

The modern adaptation is based on village life. Most villages are of recent date, developed by government to provide educational and centralized services. From a sustenance point of view, the villages serve as a residential base from which harvesting groups travel to traditional land and water areas. An important consequence of the decisions to centralize aboriginal life in village communities was the removal of harvesters from their harvesting lands and a fundamental disruption of the systems of allocating and managing the resource that First Nations had devised over many generation of time.

In the past, formal or informal codes of tenure set the rules for access to resources. The formal rules of tenure used by some communities specified who could use a given territory and defined codes of behaviour for others to follow if they desired access for harvesting. In other communities the traditions specified that the land was open to all. In actual use, however, the behaviour of non-kin members indicates that there were areas of recognized kin-group interest. These codes, whether formal or informal, were fundamental to the sustainable and reasonably conflict-free use of resources.

Modern tenure and allocation arrangements are modifications of past structures. The way that communities organize territory access has gone through different changes during the middle part of the century but, for the most part, new patterns are based on the old, with some important modifications.

The creation of large common-use areas and altered rules for fur resources appear to be the most widespread changes. Following settlement in villages, areas equal to a day's travel from the village tended to become intensively used commons. Year-round residence in high-density village sites has created stress on customary access rules, which in some cases are in the process of being re-formulated.

Modern versions of tenure have often seen the development of two categories of lands: community commons within short travel distances of villages, and more distant lands on which, to varying degrees, the customary access codes and rules of tenure continue to operate.

Traditional-use decision making
Understanding the factors and process that operate in decision-making by sustenance harvesters is critical to being able to predict resource development conflicts. All of the elements discussed above play a part in decision-making.

In addition, harvest decisions have economic considerations. However, sustenance harvesting operates under different premises than commercial harvests. The objective is to supply the food and material needs of the kin group. Consequently, there is a limit to the needs, which is based on size of its distribution circle. In decision-making many factors are balanced. Need, cost, and probability of success are the most important elements.

The assessment of likely success is the realm of traditional knowledge. Harvest economies rely on a mixture of resources because the abundance of most animal and plant resources is cyclic. Three types of animal population cycles operate: seasonal, short-term, and long-term. The economies function within the complexities of these cycles and other, less predictable, changes.

Sustenance harvesters traditionally base their harvesting decision-making on an assessment of the likely catch-per-unit-effort which they expect to obtain from the available resources. This is a working area for traditional ecological knowledge. Generally, for a given resource to be of interest a certain level of abundance is required. The need for a high likelihood of success, the ability to switch from scare resources to more abundant ones, along with the awareness of the status of animal populations that constant monitoring of catch and effort provides are the main elements in the conservation formula as practised in aboriginal resource management.

The above discussion indicates that rather than being a random activity, sustenance has a high degree of complexity and sophistication. (Indeed, it is the complexity which is the basis for the fundamental integrative role of sustenance harvesting in aboriginal societies.) Rules of social organization govern resource allocation. Labour and capital are internally organized within kin harvesting groups, generally according to the norms of the cultural group and the modern experience of the particular kin group. In addition, a variety of rules influence decisions about which resources to seek. Resource abundance and the ability to harvest efficiently are key considerations.

Harvesting assessments also include considerations for food quality, and consequently of environmental quality. Sustenance harvesters routinely monitor the health of animals during butchering and processing. Fat content is an indicator both of food quality and of the general state of animal health. In some northern communities recent concerns about the health risks of consuming animals and plants contaminated with high concentrations of toxic substances (like mercury and other heavy metals, and organic contaminants) are influencing decisions about what and where to harvest (e. g. Usher et al. 1995).

Getting to theory: The requirements for sustenance harvesting
As a system, the particular shape that sustenance takes is not fixed. Where they have been studied, particular systems show high degrees of adaptability. Different hunting/fishing household economies adapt to environmental, technological, social and even to political changes. The core values and institutions persist.

The basic elements of the system consist of:

1. a natural resource base, which can be harvested and processed by people working in small groups using small-scale technology;
2. an institutional foundation, typically kin based and shaped around one or more households and influenced or guided by cultural traditions; and
3. the individuals who make the system operate, whose social and economic lives are tied to the system, and whose sense of satisfaction and meaning in life are ultimately derived from participation (Usher 1992).

All 3 of these elements are required for the continuation of sustenance as a system. Over time, change in the particular shape of these elements is possible and, in fact, expected.

"...Conditions are present for subsistence to continue as a social system" so long as:

1. the natural resource base continues to be sufficiently abundant and accessible,
2. kinship continues to be the organizing principle of production, distribution, and consumption, and
3. the material and non-material needs of its members continue to be met. (Usher 1992:5)

One further consideration is required. For the reproduction of sustenance harvesting, training in the organizational skills and environmental knowledge from one generation to the next is necessary.

Although sustenance systems have been shown to have a high degree of resilience to both social and environmental stresses, there are limits. The environment has to continue to provide fish and game abundance which is adequate for a group's particular economic strategy. If animals are not sufficiently abundant, not only will individuals not harvest, they will also not invest their time in teaching their children local knowledge and organizational skills that would enable the next generation to carry on the traditions. The same is true of animals or environment perceived to be contaminated. Sustenance harvesters expect high quality meat and water. Suspicions of contamination are generally met with abandonment of an area until the harvesters themselves see signs of recovery which are meaningful to them.

The use of TUS data
What does the above model say about the kind of information required to assess conflict with the enjoyment of an aboriginal right? First of all it is important to realize that TUS has antecedents. It is far from being in an infancy stage, as seen from the understandings discussed above that result from decades of research on northern communities. Although there are useful models of how to put this kind of data together to identify conflicts and assess impacts (e.g., Brody 1982, Usher and Weinstein 1991, Usher 1992, Weinstein 1992) there are no off-the-shelf solutions as yet. And there are many unresolved questions. With Traditional Use Studies the objective is a body of information useful for routine administrative purposes. At present, models of the cooperative administrative use of aboriginal land use data to manage conflict are lacking.

Usher (1993) draws a perceptive distinction between the political use and the technical use of aboriginal land use information. When northern aboriginal communities began doing their own impact assessment studies, they were struggling against the modernization/acculturation model of social change used in standard impact assessment. The communities undertook their research to tell their own version of the story. This is clearly a political use of data. The objective was empowerment: to have a version of the story which did not trivialize the concerns of aboriginal communities.

Getting to technical use
TUS data is intended for technical use: identify a problem and work out a technical solution. Unfortunately, we do not have a ready model for the technical use of aboriginal land use data. We have not yet gotten to the place where aboriginal communities can abandon their use of the data to tell their own version of the story to the people in power. The tensions over how the TUS data will be used feels very much like the conflict over models of impact assessment, which, in turn, came from different ideas about social change.

Three things are needed before TUS data can be used for its intended purpose: first, a fair and cooperative process; second, a model for the use of data to assess conflict; third, a method for managing identified conflicts.
Even though the full requirements for the technical use of TUS data do not presently exist, it is possible to sketch useful guidelines. The decades of learning allows us to comment about some of the fundamentals required for assessing conflict between the enjoyment of traditional use rights and resource development proposals.

First, traditional use and sustenance harvesting must be addressed as a system. It is not sufficient to present isolated facts. The data needs to fit into an explanation of how they connect to the life, culture, economics and history of the community involved. If traditional use is going to be considered as a living system, it is not enough to identify valued locations. Consideration of possible conflicts with the use of those locations is a necessary part of the assessment.

Second, assessments also need to take the past into account. Many aboriginal land use systems are under considerable stress due to a history of past conflicts and impacts. Many of these resulted from policy and local resource management decisions taken in the absence an understanding of federal and provincial fiduciary responsibility.

Third, the model for the enjoyment of land use rights sketched above says that three basic elements are required: productive natural resources, functioning institutions, and individual benefit. Although industrial resource development can effect all three, the most direct and obvious concern is to sustenance resources. Clearly, for First Nations still actively involved in sustenance as a way-of-life, a quantitative evaluation of the effects of habitat change to fish and wildlife populations and productivity is a necessary part of the technical use of TUS data. If, for example, a First Nation can specify the amount of deer or moose it needs or customarily harvests annually from traditional lands, a basic requirement in assessing the compatibility of a major habitat change event, such as a logging plan, should include an evaluation of whether the First Nation can continue their harvesting over the period of habitat regeneration.

And fourth, In addition to evaluation of habitat change on resource populations, an assessment needs to consider the details of how resources are harvested. Aboriginal harvesting is based on the use of traditional ecological knowledge. Harvesters can read a variety of signs that speak of animal presence and abundance. Techniques are based on knowledge of the details of animal behaviour and, in some instances, on knowledge of ecological associations. Harvesting operates according to cultural formulas and detailed local ecological knowledge. The accessibility of resources depends on the utility of traditional ecological knowledge and of cultural land use formulas.

Given the great diversity of First Nations in B.C., two models for the use of TUS data are needed. The simple site-specific, heritage site model is likely adequate for First Nations whose use of traditional lands for economic purposes is largely historic. For First Nations which still depend on their traditional lands for food harvesting, this model is clearly inadequate. Obviously, we need a much greater understanding of First Nation communities' present lives to tell which model is appropriate in each case. Consequently, the bare bones of cultural site mapping is not sufficient. We also need the flesh -- which tells the story about present day life and about current relations to traditional lands and how the communities got to where they are now.

With regard to the technical use of data, the site-specific model is simple enough. The site-specific model is simple because the sites come from past use patterns, and preservation is sufficient. What might be called the habitat/traditional ecological knowledge model is much more complex. Use is ongoing and the conditions of use must be understood, and then, if not supported, then at least not further stressed. In addition to the identification of sites, impacts on the productive habitat of traditional use resources need to be seen as conflicts with the enjoyment of the rights. This is a critical first step to getting to the use of Traditional Use Study data.


Adelson, N. 1992. "Being Alive Well": Indigenous Belief as Opposition among the Whapmagoostui Cree. Ph.D. Thesis. Department of Anthropology, McGill University, Montreal. 269 pp.

Brody, H. 1982. Maps and Dreams. New York: Pantheon Books. 297 pp.

Brooke, L. F. 1993. An Inventory of Mapping Projects in Connection with Aboriginal Land and Resource Use in Canada. A report prepared for the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, Ottawa.

Fall, James. 1990. The Division of Subsistence of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game: An Overview of its Research Program and Findings: 1980-1990. Arctic Anthropology 27:68-92.

Usher, P.J. 1992. Modelling Subsistence Systems for Social Impact Assessment. A report prepared for the Grand Council of the Crees (of Quebec) as an attachment to evidence presented by the social impacts panel at the public consultation on the scope of the Great Whale Project impact study, Environmental Assessment Review Panels and Committees, at Montreal 18 March 1992. P.J Usher Consulting Services, Ottawa. 9p. + 3 fig.

----------. 1993. Northern Development, Impact Assessment, and Social Change. pp. 98-130. in N. Dyck and J. B. Waldram (eds.) Anthropology, Public Policy, and Native Peoples in Canada. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press.

Usher, P.J. and M.S. Weinstein. 1991. Towards Assessing the Effects of Lake Winnipeg Regulation and Churchill River Diversion on Resource Harvesting in Native Communities in Northern Manitoba. Can. Tech. Report. Fish. Aquatic Sciences. No. 1794. 69 pp.

Usher, P.J., M. Baikie, M. Demmer, D. Nakashima, M.G. Stevenson, M. Stiles. 1995. Communicating about Contaminants in Country Food: The Experience in Aboriginal Communities. Ottawa: Inuit Tapirisat of Canada. 238 pp.

Weinstein, M. 1992. Just Like People Get Lost: A Retrospective Assessment of the Impacts of the Faro Mining Development on the Land Use of the Ross River Indian People. Ross River Dena Council: Ross River, Yukon. 193 pp.

-----------------. 1993. Aboriginal Land Use and Occupancy Studies in Canada. A paper prepared for the Workshop on Spatial Aspects of Social Forestry Systems, Chiang Mai, Thailand, 24-26 June 1993. Honolulu: Program on Environment, East-West Center. 35 pp.

Wolfe, R.J., J.J. Gross, S.J. Langdon, J.M. Wright, G.K. Sherrod, L.J. Ellanna, V. Sumida, and P.J. Usher. 1984. Subsistence-Based Economies in Coastal Communities of Southwest Alaska. Technical Paper Number 89. Division of Subsistence, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Juneau and Mineral Management Service, Alaska Region, U.S. Department of the Interior, Anchorage. 629 pp.

Wolfe, R. J. and R. J. Walker. 1987. Subsistence Economies in Alaska: Productivity, Geography and Development Impacts. Arctic Anthropology 24:56-81.


1. The only comparable example I can think of is the development of the State of Alaska's Division of Subsistence (under the Alaska Department of Fish and Game) research program. The shape of the research is different, as are the ethnicity of the rights. Nonetheless, large advances in understanding northern aboriginal communities, relevant to the considerations here, resulted from the 200+ research studies conducted by the Division of Subsistence over the past 15 years (cf. Wolfe et al. 1984; Wolfe and Walker 1987, Fall 1990).

2. This may equally be true for other B.C. First Nations. However, the critical questions have not yet been asked or the research done to establish the role of fish and wildlife harvests in contemporary societies or, more significantly, how these harvests are organized.

3. The term subsistence has had an uncomfortable history. It has a pejorative tone, implying no social benefits beyond economic survival. Subsistence also has a specific and legal use in neighbouring Alaska, where it been used to overcome any special native rights to animal harvesting. Nonetheless, the term has long and recognized use among social scientists studying northern native land and resource use.

The term sustenance appears to be the word of choice in B.C. In this paper we have conformed to B.C. practice. However, if sustenance is being used as a replacement for the way that subsistence has been used by social scientists it means much more than simply picking berries or shooting a moose. Properly speaking, if sustenance is going to replace subsistence as the word of choice, then sustenance should signify a system of land and resource use, including food production (through hunting, fishing, and plant gathering); fur production; the use of natural materials as tools, for structural purposes; and non-food resources; the distribution of the harvested resources; the consumption of the harvested foods; and the set of social relations, specific to native communities, through which the production, distribution, and consumption of these resources are organized.

Sharing Information or Captured Heritage: Access to community geographic knowledge and the state's responsibility to protect abo

Martin S. Weinstein
M.S. Weinstein Consulting Services
108 Croteau Road
Comox, British Columbia
Canada V9M 2P8

Prepared for Crossing Boundaries, the Seventh Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property, Vancouver, British Columbia. 9-14 June 1998.

1. Introduction:
Community knowledge plays a critical role in common property resource management regimes. Knowledge and information are obvious requirements for any type of resource management. Less obvious is the role that access to information plays in the ability to restrict access in otherwise open or shared-access common property resource (CPR) regimes. Indeed, in some informal (as opposed to de jure) CPR regimes, control of the flow of knowledge is the primary mechanism through which access to resources is restricted to outsiders.

Within British Columbia many aboriginal households engage in the non-commercial harvesting of fish, wildlife and wild plants. Since the Supreme Court of Canada's Sparrow decision (S.C.C. 1990), the rights of the communities to engage in these activities are recognized under Canadian law as having priority over other uses of the resources. In most of the province recreational, commercial, and aboriginal food harvesting uses take place in the same locations or on the same resource populations. With the exception of the salmon fisheries, the allocation between these sectors remains informal or is ignored by government management agencies.

The problems associated with open-access are moderated by the aboriginal users' control of their knowledge of the lands, waters, and resources. To date, the transmission of geographic knowledge has followed aboriginal traditions, passing within kin and task groups according to cultural rules.

The findings of the lower courts in the seminal Delgamuukw case (Supreme Court of B. C. 1991; Court of Appeal for B. C. 1993) placed a fiduciary duty on the provincial government to ensure that aboriginal rights are not "unjustifiably infringed upon by the resource development activities of the Crown, or its licensees" (B.C. Ministry Forests 1995). To honour this responsibility, the B.C. government began a major collaboration with aboriginal communities throughout the province. Provincial agencies, most notably, the Ministry of Forests, have been funding community-mapping programs, so-called Traditional Use Studies (TUS). Under the TUS program, aboriginal communities are mapping their own knowledge of cultural and resource geography.

Conflicts, however, have emerged over the sharing or use of the TUS data. The nature of these conflicts indicates that there are fundamentally different understandings about information and its role. The province proposes that TUS map data, without descriptions of their meaning or significance, be housed in a government database, directly accessible for agency planning and for a first stage review of development plans. Aboriginal parties, on the other hand, find the risk of allowing this information to leave their hands unacceptable. Instead of honouring a fiduciary duty, the sharing structure has given the TUS program an appearance of information capture, with a possible consequence of placing the rights it is intended to protect under greater risk.

2. The conflicts
Many aboriginal communities in British Columbia harvest common property resources - wildlife, fish and plants - from their traditional territories. These harvests have an economic consequence for aboriginal households. They provide quality foods and materials that would otherwise have to be purchased.1 Beyond their economic role, hunting, fishing and plant gathering have important social and cultural significance, being tied, among other things, to cultural reproduction - educating the next generation in skills, traditions and values - and to the enjoyment of a meaningful life according to cultural rules.

These harvests of wild resources generally take place on Crown Lands and Waters. Most of the lands and inland waters, and the upland resources fall under provincial jurisdiction. Coastal areas and resources are more complicated. Some resources and habitats are the responsibility of the federal government (anadromous and marine fishes, in particular) and others (e.g., clams and seaweed) are under provincial authority.

There has been a long conflict between these aboriginal activities and government decisions. Resource agencies historically have had a mandate for promoting economic development and the settlement of newcomers to B.C. Aboriginal household harvesting has not been viewed as an important part of their tasks. Rather, it was frequently viewed as conflicting with both the job at hand and the vision of the appropriate direction of the province's future.

Many types of conflict emerge from government management decisions, but they might be categorized into three broad areas: allocation; habitat and landscape change; and creating access for competitors (which is really a sub-set of allocation). Very briefly:

  • Some types of resource management decisions and management structures created de facto allocation priorities among different resource harvesting sectors. For example, as the last harvesters before the salmon spawning grounds, the interception-style of salmon fishing on the coast placed the conservation burden on aboriginal in-river food fishers. This effectively placed aboriginal food fishers below commercial fishers on the allocation ladder (S.C.C. 1990).
  • Planning for industrial forestry has ignored the consequences of habitat and landscape alteration on the ability of aboriginal hunters to use their traditional knowledge to harvest accustomed levels of wildlife from their historical territories (Elias and Weinstein 1992). Two issues are involved here. First, landscape change can destroy long established travel routes and produce changes in animal behaviour, rendering traditional hunting strategies useless. Secondly, habitat changes can affect the wildlife productivity of the local environment, altering the supply of food resources.
  • Furthermore, the roads constructed for logging (and other industrial resource development) provide access corridors into the hunting areas of aboriginal communities for competing hunters.

Solutions that should have been available from government resource management agencies have been absent. In fact, these have been non-issues for the agencies. This may be due, in part, to a lack of information about aboriginal harvesting practice. But, for most of this century the agencies' mandate focused on recreational and commercial harvesting of wildlife and fish, rather than caring for aboriginal interests.

3. The role of access to knowledge within common-property regimes
Aboriginal communities have not been passive to these threats. However, very few solutions from the standard common-property management lexicon were available for most of this century. Rather, government decisions went the other way, transforming the territorial, limited access CPR systems practised by many groups as an integral part of their culture (e.g., Weinstein 1994) into broad open-access for native and non-natives alike. Although legal rights to harvest fish and wildlife for food were recognized, the issue of allocation priority within the open-access system remained unsettled until the early 1990s.

Limiting access to resources is the dominant common-property problem.Clearly defined social and geographic boundaries stand as the firstdesign principle for long-enduring sustainable common-property resourceregimes (e.g., Becker and Ostrum 1995). Indeed, it could well be arguedthat limiting access is the necessary condition for all other aspectsof CPR management. If access is open, then all of the free-riderproblems that provoked Garett Hardin's (1969) pessimism about commonproperty resource self-management seem to be inevitable.

Each of the three types of conflict discussed above can be seen as an open-access problem. They certainly feel like open-access to First Nations. The simplest example is deer or moose hunting, key resources for many interior aboriginal communities. Hunting takes place on a traditional territory. The people who customarily use a territory may be the group as a whole, or use may be limited to an extended family. During the sports hunting season, however, the territories are open for the use of resident sports hunters, who may reside anywhere in the province. Non-resident sports hunters can also hunt, but they pay a larger fee. This is clearly open access.

Logging and other types of habitat altering activities are more difficult to appreciate as a form of open access. Certainly, the road building associated with industrial development makes the territory more accessible to outsiders. The roads cut a common playing field for people who lack the detailed local knowledge required for travel by foot or horseback. Beyond competition for the same resource, logging has population consequences on wildlife. Another group's ability to change the resource productivity of a territory is a form of open-access. Rather than operating on the resource level, this type of open-access is more ecological, working through the habitat and food-web pathways.

Limiting the flow of knowledge may be the earliest method for common-property resource management regimes. It is certainly the simplest. And it represents a system with very low dedicated institutional costs for resource management. Generally, the institutions perform other tasks as well. The institutional arrangements work through socialization. Children and people who marry into the group are brought into the system by training and experience and, perhaps, cultural initiation. Outsiders may be brought into the system as they gain trust and friendship.

As people are brought into the system, they are provided with geographic knowledge. They are taught about the location of travel routes, and how to use them strategically for harvesting. They are taught about the details of locating resources, including how the more predictable behaviours of mobile resources work out on the local land and seascape. Along with the geographic details, they are taught the CPR rules and environmental values. Among these are rules of appropriate behaviour toward the resources and toward other humans. The rules include a definition of people within the shared knowledge pool and those outside of it. McDonnell's (1975) description of how knowledge of seasonal grouse locations on side hills in south-eastern Yukon acted as a limiting condition for the year-round occupancy of Dene hunting groups is instructive about how the flow of knowledge limits access. Outside of the family, the knowledge was only passed to children's marriage partners.

A CPR solution
The above section describes the principal CPR management strategy of many B.C. aboriginal communities since government assumed the role of legal manager of provincial resources. The native people of B.C. include a large diversity of cultural and linguistic groups. Their traditional solutions to CPR problems are equally diverse, raging from the institutionally simple to complex, formal arrangements.

I think that it is fair to say that the confusion over issues of access to resources during the current century resulting from provincial authority pushed native communities into a common, simple solution. The punitive measures used by some coastal peoples for trespass were no longer appropriate. Government did not recognize the aboriginal boundaries or the native laws that controlled access to resources. As the use of the aboriginal regulatory systems assumed greater risk for practitioners because of conflicting provincial laws, even the people with more formal systems stepped back into the invisible. Limiting the distribution of knowledge was a method that remained untouched by government laws.

Staying hidden is a powerful technique that guided aboriginal response to resource management conflict through most of this century. Native communities felt that fish and wildlife managers operated for the benefit of settlers. It is difficult to argue otherwise. In some regions, the province's innovative Registered Trapline System displaced native communities in favour of settlers who were tied to the resource frontier agenda (e.g., Weinstein 1979, Brody 1982). Bag limit and seasonal hunting restrictions that followed recreational hunting traditions meant that at other times of year families hid meat when the game officer entered the reserve. Much aboriginal resource use within B.C. remains hidden (e.g., Brody 1982).2

This is the historical stage on which the CPR drama plays itself out. The principle characters have a different experience and understanding of the drama, its goals and its meaning. A major difference centres on trust. The indicators that aboriginal communities use for evaluating if it is time to change strategies are whether aboriginal interests are being given the priority the courts recognized.

4. The legal changes
The aboriginal rights landscape in British Columbia has changed greatly over the last 10 or so years. Successive decisions at the highest level, the Supreme Court of Canada, enabled a gradual unfolding of legal understanding of aboriginal rights, much of it focused on resource management issues. Since the Supreme Court of Canada's Sparrow decision (S.C.C. 1990), harvesting for food has had a powerful legal recognition. The rights are entrenched within the Canadian constitution. Sparrow also recognized the aboriginal right to fish for food as having priority over recreational and commercial fishing. Other courts interpreted these rights as being equally applicable to hunting.3

The latest of these Supreme Court decisions, Delgamuukw v. British Columbia, was handed down in December 1997 (S.C.C. 1997). This ruling established a broad new stage for the aboriginal rights drama. It defined a variety of tests for the proof of aboriginal title to land (and presumably water). It accepted aboriginal oral tradition as having equivalent weight to western-style written argument and analysis. However, this paper is not about the Supreme Court's decision. The consequences of the decision are still being actively elaborated. Many critical questions remain and will likely continue so for years.

Rather, this paper deals with a common-property question and the TUS program that emerged from the provincial government's response to the lower courts' Delgamuukw rulings (Supreme Court of British Columbia 1991; Court of Appeal for British Columbia. 1993). In these decisions, although the courts rejected the aboriginal title of the Gitksan and Wet'suwet'en peoples, they recognized rights to harvest resources on traditional territories for household purposes. This finding combined with the earlier Supreme Court of Canada decisions, particularly Sparrow, implied that the provincial government had a fiduciary responsibility for aboriginal rights within its areas of jurisdiction.4

Although the court established allocation priorities in the Sparrow decision, a major area of conflict remained unresolved, namely the effects of conflicting development on Crown Land. The lower courts' Delgamuukw decisions charged the provincial government with an obligation to ensure that its decisions are reviewed for potential conflicts with these rights. The rights may be legally over-ridden for other significant social objectives, but there is an obligation to understand and minimize the effects of conflicting activities and to consult with the potentially affected aboriginal group.

5. The state's response: The Traditional Use Studies Program
The provincial government established the Traditional Use Study Program in response to the Lower Courts' Delgamuukw mandate to protect aboriginal rights. To protect the rights requires an ability to evaluate the effects of government's resource management and development decisions (as well as those of its licensees). The early ethnographers who collected so much detailed information about Northwest Coast groups during the early part of the century largely ignored mapping. What maps they did produce, such as Boas' atlas of Kwakiutl place names (Boas 1934), lack the detail required to locate the places on the landscape. And most significantly, their maps largely ignored resource harvesting. In other words, the available maps, whether native or non-native, are almost blank about aboriginal land use, history and culture.

The TUS program funds research to map the cultural and resource geography of aboriginal communities. The climate of resource relations with First Nations was described above. The lack of a trust relationship meant that provincial employees or contractors could not do the required research. Instead, the TUS program funded First Nations to collect the information from its membership and to collate the results.

The program has gone through numerous changes, particularly as a result of interactions and disagreements with First Nations. The provincial TUS administrators acknowledge the difficulty balancing First Nations' and government's needs (Gelean 1997).

As of March 1997, the program was described as:

  • "Provid[ing] funding to and [sic] develop partnerships with First Nations to collect, store, maintain, and map traditional use site information;
  • Provid[ing] standards for the recording and storage of traditional use site data;
  • Develop[ing] agreements with First Nations for the sharing of TUS data to assist provincial land use planning decisions at the strategic and operational levels;
  • Produc[ing] TUS data for storage in the Provincial Heritage Registry Database (PHRD) which is held in the Archaeology Branch of the Ministry of Small Business, Tourism and Culture." (Gelean 1997:4)

Sites or areas
One of the areas of confusion is what is actually being mapped. Interview design is left to the communities. Mapping resource use has high priority for many First Nations because of the on-going problems with resource use conflicts. Table 1 (see below) is an outline of the basic cultural and resource categories used for several First Nation Traditional Use Studies. Resource use was a major topic of these mapping programs. In actual use, the resource section of the table was greatly expanded with scores of wildlife, fish and plant resource species. Clearly, mixtures of points, lines and areas or polygons are what would be expected from mapping the categories within the table.

On the other hand, the wording of some documents (e.g., Gelean 1997:4 -quoted above; Deloitte and Touche 1997), as well as discussions with program officers, indicates that government expects an identification of sites, as opposed to geographic areas. At other places within the same documents there are mentions of a mixture of points, lines and polygons.

The issue of points or areas is fundamental to the conflict over TUS. If the use of the mapped data is limited to identifying cultural heritage or historical sites that may be damaged by government resource development permits, then points would be expected. The emphasis on sites invites the feeling that when government established the program they viewed aboriginal land uses as past activities. Certainly, it is a critical part of government's responsibility to ensure that cultural and historical sites are not unduly damaged by resource development plans. But, it is not sufficient. It was obvious from the court and from the government's own reading of the mandate that a large part of identifying rights at risk involves resource harvesting. Some types of fishing can be mapped as sites, but all other resource harvesting involves significant geographic areas.

The origin of the wording that emphasizes sites is unclear. The Heritage Resources Branch was charged with the initial organization of the program.5 The notion of sites certainly fits well with the traditions of heritage identification. The emphasis on sites raises doubts among aboriginal parties about the seriousness of government's intention. Sites are easily circumscribed. They can be treated in the same way as eagle nests, left in the middle of clear cuts.

In this paper we are suggesting that significant clarity can be gained by looking at these conflicts as CPR problems. This perspective seems to be absent within government circles, although there are indications that the courts take a broad view of allocation (e.g., S.C.C. 1990). The TUS design has the feel of a struggle by government to honour a basic set of legal obligations while avoiding the core conflict. The ambiguity within the word site (in which the word can also represent an area) may represent an inner struggle and a compromise.

6. Information sharing
One of the most contentious issues of the TUS program is its information sharing requirements. Ultimately, so-called information sharing is tied to the question of how the mapped data will be used.

However, accountability comes before data use. The provincial government has spent a large amount of money on the TUS projects. Sums in excess of $100,000 are not uncommon. As of July 1997, the total spent in grants to First Nations exceeded $5 million (Deloitte & Touche 1997). Because the collaboration often is adversarial and lacking in trust, the relationship is kept at arms' length. Accountability is a problem for the funding agencies. Beyond standard fiscal accounting, are they getting a reasonable return for their money? Within the government there those who feel that money they spent should buy government something. They feel that a return for a monetary contribution is only reasonable. In this view, TUS contracts are similar to contracts with a research consultant.

A rather convoluted arrangement for sharing information was created and incorporated into the funding contracts. First, agreement is required on an interim information sharing process in which access is provided to TUS data prior to the completion of the project. Second, deliverables include final project maps at 1: 50 000 or more detailed scale showing point, line and area data. And third, the deliverables also include adding the database created for the final maps to PHRD, the Provincial Heritage Resource Database (Gelean 1997:4).

To honour confidentiality government proposed that the data entered into the PHRD be limited to site locations and a contact name. By not requiring the identification of the type of activity, program administrators felt they were "meet[ing] the needs of First Nations and government while retaining confidentiality" (Gelean 1997:4).

Government's idea for the use of the data was to incorporate it into the planning process, regionally and locally. Having a set of detailed spatial records would allow resource development planning to account for aboriginal geography. Certainly, the transfer of mapped information into a government database implies a capability for review independent of consultation with First Nations.

The program has many critics. Inside government there are officials who feel that value for the money spent is wasted. Outside, many of the First Nations who accepted funding struggle with the administrative requirements. The contractual information sharing agreements are the most contentious. Several First Nations have by-passed the government program and funded TUS studies independently. The concerns of these groups extend beyond the contracts. They are concerned about the possibility that accepting public funding may mean that the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act requires the data be made available to the general public. Indeed, there are opinions from government officials that suggest these concerns are well founded. Even though there are provisions under the Act which cover confidentiality, using these provisions is at the discretion of government managers. Committing themselves to the TUS program as designed by the provincial government imposes a very high degree of trust on aboriginal parties, but it also places a great obligation on the government. It might even be argued that government has assumed a much more onerous care-taking role by implementing the TUS program than it had before.

Sharing conflict
From the point of view of First Nations, there are many difficulties with the information sharing process devised by the provincial government. The most obvious one is that it requires trusting the very agencies with which there has been a long record of conflict. In the lengthy history of powerlessness with government resource agencies, aboriginal communities frequently relied on the uniqueness of their knowledge for empowerment. For people with this history, the significance of transfer of knowledge outside of the oral traditional should not be taken lightly, let alone depositing it within the databanks of the other camp.

This paper, however, deals with CPR issues. From an exclusively CPR perspective, the question is more limited. What are the potential risks for First Nation resource management strategies in making the information available? If aboriginal communities did not have to deal with open access, if they did not have to worry about outside harvesters, the risks from competitors would likely be minimal. If First Nations had exclusive rights to their harvesting areas and could control the access of outsiders, making information available to potential competitors could be offset by other methods. As discussed above, control of the flow of information has acted as the primary method for limiting access in an otherwise open-access CRP situation. The provincial government's confidentiality strategy of unlinking categories and text from mapped information is unconvincing. Indeed, it feels as though there is a fundamental lack of understanding of these issues. Lines on maps following stream courses up slope can only represent hunting trails. Polygons drawn in deep water areas probably signify halibut fishing spots. And so on. The scale of mapping specified in the contract requires that original interview data be placed in the government databanks.

The aboriginal perspective on risk to aboriginal rights is very much ecological in its approach. Risks involve potential changes to the size of harvestable animal populations, changes to the usefulness of traditional ecological, changes to disturbance, and changes to access for competing harvesters. In potentially placing an existing system at risk, the possible benefits are evaluated. Government is dealing with a new-found responsibility. First Nations have been experiencing these problems for a long time. The First Nation perspective is that government's view of the problems is too limited to account for native concerns. At the point that the two views of the problem coincide there will likely be greater willingness to share information.

Getting to solutions
Shared information is not a solution to the problem. Sharing is an inappropriate characterization, in any event. The way this aspect of the program was conceived has the appearance of a one sided capture of information. There is no equivalent information exchange or equivalent risk from the government side. Rather, the structure of this part of the program has the appearance of an exchange of research money for information. Sharing is not the correct word to use in such a situation.

Rather than information, it is the resources or the resource habitat that are being shared. This notion follows from the recent Supreme Court of Canada Delgamuukw decision. If a First Nation can establish that it has aboriginal title to its traditional territory, a complex relationship obviously exists. Federal and provincial governments still have jurisdiction over the territory's resources. Within all First Nation territories, government has historically allocated land and resources to third parties, and continues to make common property resources available for commercial and recreational harvesting. The best characterization of such a complex situation is sharing. Information about First Nation's use and cultural values is clearly vital to straightening out the inevitable conflicts.

However, the provincial government's shared information is not an appropriate method. It is not clear how it was arrived at. It has a unilateral feel. At best, consultation was inadequate, or perhaps inappropriate. The system of use for the data was devised at the earliest stage of the project. The conflicts began to emerge as aboriginal organizations conducting the studies assumed the role of counter-parts to the provincial government agencies.

First Nations have organized two provincial-scale aboriginal conferences on TUS. The first, organized by the Sto:lo, took place in December 1996 in Chiliwack. The second, hosted by the Williams Lake First Nation, took place in October 1997. In my experience, these were unique events in Canada. They were well attended by B.C. First Nations from the coast to the far-eastern interior, from the north to the urban south. Discussions at both conferences were wide-ranging, from funding to electronic data storage. Where the primary focus of the first workshop was aboriginal land use research methodology, the major issue at the second conference was the provincial government's information sharing requirements. All groups had similar concerns.

7. Conclusions
The provincial government took the lead in this important area. They began discussions on how to resolve conflicting land and resource use. They correctly recognised the first step, identifying the conflicts. And they provided a rare source of funding to map aboriginal traditional use. The program they devised produced many spin-off benefits for First Nations. It created employment. It trained people in relevant skills. It facilitated communication between elders and younger people. It got the communities and leadership thinking broadly about many of the issues discussed above. Even though government was acting under an interpretation of court instructions, they deserve appreciation. At the Williams Lake workshop, the provincial TUS program administrator announced that as of the new fiscal year (1998/9), funding for new TUS research was uncertain. The response from the conference floor was that by initiating the program government had opened a tap that was going to be hard to shut. For all of the TUS program's irregularities and conflict and methodological uncertainties, First Nations well appreciate the critical importance of the information.

Difficult questions remain. Among these are:

    • Who owns the information - the researchers, the First Nation's political body, the knowledge holders as a body, or the interviewees?
    • What is the sensitivity of the information?
    • How should confidentiality be maintained?
    • What research standards are appropriate for these data?
    • How should quality control of the results be ensured?
    • What kind of conflicts can be identified with the information and which cannot?
    • How can the information be used to help resolve the conflicts?
    • Who should be involved in the resolution efforts - government representatives from both sides, researchers and consultants, and/or the holders of the traditional knowledge?
    • What is the appropriate role of the holders of TEK? (There is a useful rule from the academics who think about how to bridge traditional and western environmental knowledge. Within the western science tradition data is rarely used without the appropriate expertise to interpret it. It seems presumptuous to assume that traditional knowledge can be used without equivalent expertise.)
    • There are also important questions about funding beyond data collection. If First Nations are expected to respond to government permit referrals, there are costs involved. There are also considerable costs involved in the maintenance and use of TUS databanks.6

These are not questions that can be unilaterally answered by government agencies. Some of these fall within individual First Nation's realm. Even there, however, guidance from a broad examination of principles would be helpful. Given the relevance of these issues and the ways that TUS links with critical First Nation issues and with government activities, it may be useful to create an organization to look at these issues and others such as basic methodology, broadly. Government took the lead on this, out of its own needs. But it is clear that the decisions were not adequately informed about aboriginal concerns and needs. TUS has been a strange kind of partnership. Crossing boundaries was attempted, but there was never a full discussion of the hard issues, from data collection methodology to data ownership to data use and conflict resolution.



Becker, C. Dustin and Elinor Ostrum. 1995. Human ecology and resource sustainability: The importance of institutional diversity. Ann. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 1995. 26:113-33.

Boas, Franz. 1934. Geographical Names of the Kwakiutl Indians. Columbia University Contributions to Anthropology 20. New York.

British Columbia Ministry Forests 1995. Ministry Policy, Resource Management, 15.1: Protection of Aboriginal Rights. Victoria: Min of Forests.

Brody, Hugh. 1982. Maps and Dreams; Indians and the British Columbia Frontier. New York: Pantheon Books. 297 pp

Court of Appeal for British Columbia. 1993. Reasons for judgement in Delgamuukw v. R. Canadian Native Law Review 1993 (5):1.

Deloitte & Touche. 1997. Evaluation of the Traditional Use Study Program. Vancouver: Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu International. 45 pp + appendices.

Elias, Peter Douglas and Martin S. Weinstein. 1992.Development and the Indian People of Fort Ware: Predicting and Managing Consequences: A study for the Kaska Dena Council and the community of Fort Ware. Lethbridge: University of Lethbridge, Faculty of Management. 36 pp. + Technical Volume.

Gelean, Shannon. 1997. Traditional Use Study Program of British Columbia, Canada. Paper prepared for Plenary Session on Traditional Use Studies: Applying Anthropology to Aboriginal Rights and Title Issues. Society for Applied Anthropology. Seattle, Washington. 7 pp.

Hardin, Garrett. 1969.The Tragedy of the Commons. Science 162:1243-1248

McDonnell, Roger F. 1975. Kasini Society: Some Aspects of the Social Organization of an Athapaskan Culture Between 1890 - 1950. Ph.D. Dissertation, UBC Department of Anthropology. 386 pp.

Supreme Court of British Columbia. 1991. Reasons for judgement in Delgamuukw et al. v. The Queen. Canadian Native Law Review 1991 (5):1.

Supreme Court of Canada. 1985. Reasons for judgement in Guerin v. The Queen. Canadian Native Law Review 1985 (1):120.

-----------------------------------. 1990. Reasons for judgement in R. v. Sparrow. Canadian Native Law Review 1990 (3):160-188.

-----------------------------------. 1997. Reasons for judgement in Delgamuukw v. British Columbia. Canadian Native Law Review 1998 (1):14-97.

Weinstein, Martin S. 1979. Indian Land Use and Occupancy in the Peace River Country of Northeastern British Columbia. Vancouver: Union of B. C. Indian Chiefs. 151 pp.

-----------------------.1994. The Role of Tenure and the Potlatch in Fisheries Management By Northwest Pacific Coast Aboriginal Societies. A paper prepared for American Fisheries Society Northwest International Chapter, First Nations Fisheries Workshop. Vancouver 17-18 January 1994. 15 pp.


Table 1. Basic Topics for Traditional Use Mapping.
Note: The list of resource locations becomes greatly expanded with the addition of the scores of fish, bird, mammal and plant species that form the resource complex of an aboriginal economy.


· village locations (winter, summer, year-round)
· camp locations (resource harvesting, travelling, etc.)
· life-cycle residences (birthing, puberty, menstrual, etc.)
· cache locations (food, equipment, ceremonial objects, etc.)
· other

· place names
· boat and canoe routes (marine, lakes and rivers, portages)
· wagon routes
· horse trails
· walking trails
· navigation or travel land-landmarks
· weather landmarks

· ceremonial locations
· burial grounds
· therapeutic/healing locations
· other

· archaeological site
· gathering places (tribal, inter-tribal, Euro-Canadian)
· battle/conflict locations
· event leading to transfer of rights or prerogatives
· personal or family member life event locations
· other

· supernatural places
· origin story locations
· other legendary events locations
· other


· food

    • fish
    • wildlife
    • plants

· materials

    • plant
    • mineral

· medicines

· food
· materials

· habitat during different parts of life history
· reproduction
· behaviour (includes migration routes)




1. Researchers in the Canadian North generally characterize these activities as the household harvesting or subsistence sector of an economy with mixed sources of income. Within British Columbia the pejorative tone of subsistence is more powerful than its descriptive value. Government officials and some courts use the more neutral term sustenance. Aboriginal communities simply refer to the activities: hunting, fishing, berry picking, etc.

2. Some uses, such as the fishing stations that, in places, line the Fraser River, are highly visible. But, even there, the critical management and organization methods are community processes, closed to the government regulators in order to limit intrusion. One of the most contentious resource management issues in the province took place on the salmon fishing grounds. For many years there was an annual battle over harvest numbers. The regulators required Indian food catch numbers to fit into their quantitative management formulas. Indians perennially refused to comply. Brody (1982) powerfully describes how the numbers game has historically acted as a catch-22 for native peoples. If harvest numbers are high, Indians were accused of having no concern about conservation and, consequently, require the intervention of state regulators. Low harvest levels were taken as a lack of need or interest, with the resources available for allocation to others. It has only been after the courts recognized how fish and wildlife management was often loaded against aboriginal interests that the numbers issue became more relaxed.

Nonetheless, barriers to cooperation and openness are still powerful. There is a very poor understanding of the aboriginal experience among government regulators. Very few government officials understand that the type of regulations they enforce were historically part of the chiefs' resource management role. Setting the timing for fishing, in particular, -telling people when and where to fish - and making decisions about closures for conservation were important chiefly prerogatives. When these come down from government officials there is a feeling that the officials, and the government, have put on the chief's blanket.

3. To my knowledge, legal decisions about aboriginal rights to harvests plants are presently absent, but there is no reason why the logic should not be transferable to plants as well as wildlife.

4. The Supreme Court of Canada had earlier found that the Government of Canada had a care-taking or fiduciary responsibility for areas within federal responsibility (e.g., S. C. C. 1985)

5. Heritage Resources is a branch of the Ministry of Small Business, Tourism and Culture. The administration of the program has since been transferred to the Aboriginal Affairs Branch of the Ministry of Forests, which "delivers the program on behalf of all other provincial agencies" (Gelean 1997:3).

6. Much money has already been spent on TUS research. But compared to the need, and the economic interests involved, in reality, it is quite limited. The TUS program was intended to gather information for a new, major government administration program. Getting administration programs up and fully running takes time, considerable money, and considerable trial and error course corrections.

Nation-Building and the Treaty Process

Remarks by Stephen Cornell1

British Columbia Treaty Commission Forum
Vancouver, British Columbia
March 1, 2001