A list of Papers and Journal Articles related to Aboriginal Mapping. Please contact us if you know of, or would like to submit, a paper.

PLEASE NOTE: The Aboriginal Mapping Network is not promoting any of the following authors or their work.The intent of this page is to provide an overview of some of the available written materials.

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The Role of Geographic Information Systems in American Indian Land and Water Rights Litigation

Bryan A. Marozas
GIS Coordinator, Bureau of Indian Affairs

The following commentary was written to supply researchers, attorneys, tribal officials, and others involved in American Indian rights protection with information about a tool they can use to their advantage in securing these rights. The commentary promotes the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology to help resolve American Indian water and land rights litigation.

In a majority of water and land rights litigation cases, the conveyance of jurisdiction hinges upon the delineation and measurement of various spatial features (i.e. trust lands, allotted land parcels, reacquired lands, timber stands, practicably irrigable acreage and arable land). Since such litigation depends on geographic or spatial data, a tool that manages, analyzes, and displays spatial data would clearly be of value. The commentary will discuss how GIS technology is well suited to provide litigation support. In addition, examples will be provided that portray how a GIS can be and has been used to resolve legal conflicts over rights to land and water.


For more information, please contact:

Bryan A. Marozas
Bureau of Indian Affairs
Albuquerque Area Office
Branch of Natural Resources
615 First St., N.W.
P.O. Box 26567
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87125
Phone: (505)766-3754 FAX: (505)766-1964


What's Good for the Goose?: The Political Ecology of Waterfowl Co-Management in Western Alaska

Joseph Spaeder
Graduate Group in Ecology Dept. of Anthropology - UC Davis

Resolving conflicts over scarce renewable resources is among the greatest challenges facing wildlife and protected area managers in high latitude regions. At the same time, protecting access to traditional lands and resources upon which their cultural and economic well being rests is a chief concern for native peoples around the world. Over the last decade, cooperative management has emerged as the dominant strategy in Northern regions for resolving resource conflicts and building partnerships in conservation and management between local users and government agencies. Since 1984, Yup'ik Eskimo hunters and government managers in Western Alaska have established regimes for the joint management of waterfowl, grizzly bear, caribou and salmon. This paper examines the evolution, structure and operation of one of these regimes, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Goose Management Plan (Y-K Delta GMP hereafter), utilizing the literature and framework of political ecology as a guide.

In the past, researchers have tended to assess the institutional performance of cooperative management regimes on the basis of negotiated agreements and other policy documents. However, co-management regimes are more than policy outcomes, more than sets of rules devised to reduce conflict. Co-management institutions increasingly play a pivotal role in the struggle between native users and government agencies over the defense of customary use rights and the authority to manage wildlife. In order to adequately understand the nature of social relations in the region under study, I embed an analysis of this waterfowl co-management regime within: 1) a history of social conflict; 2) divergent perceptions of ecology; and 3) completing claims to wild lands and wildlife. Without reducing the importance of institutional analysis, the political ecology framework directs analytic attention beyond the particulars of specific co-management agreements to the ways in which comanagement institutions function as effective mediating institutions and alter power relations between local communities and governmental management institutions.

The paper draws on interviews conducted in 1996 and 1997 with native hunters and leaders in three coastal villages in Western Alaska: Chevak, Scammon Bay and Hooper Bay. These villages are located adjacent to most of the government biological research camps in the region. Extensive interviews were also conducted with biologists, managers and native technicians with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Political Ecology and Resource Conflicts

Political ecology focuses on linkages between the local patterns of resource utilization and the larger economic and political institutions and forces that significantly shape those patterns. With roots in critical theory, political ecology has been used to analyze the social causes of environmental degradation and resource conflicts in the developing world. Four aspects distinguish the political ecology framework:

1) A fine-grained analyses of resource use patterns and social relations of land users. Of special interest are cultural linkages between producers and the land, especially tenural arrangements and the social organization of labor.

2) An evaluation of political-economic and ecological dimensions of environmental resource use at different spatial scales of analysis from the village, regional, national and international levels.

3) Attention to the cultural construction of natural resources by social actors at each level of analysis.

4) An emphasis on historical analysis to understand the process of encapsulation of resource-dependent communities within regional and national political economies.

Social Conflict and the Emergence of Waterfowl Co-Management

Established in 1984, the Y-K Delta GMP is the second longest running co-management regime in Alaska. Local access and management rights over waterfowl changed significantly as Native Alaskan villages became encapsulated within the political economy of the United States. Subsistence resources that were once under the control of village-based institutions and land tenure arrangements have increasingly come under the management of governmental resource agencies. Spring waterfowl hunting was outlawed early in the century, and continues today only under an informal allowance by the USFWS. By 1980, much of the traditional subsistence lands of coastal villages were formally designated as public lands and placed under the management of the USFWS.

Conflict emerged in the region between local hunters and government managers in the early 1980's in response to the decline of four species of waterfowl: white fronted geese, emperor geese, cackling Canada geese and Pacific black brant. The USFWS reacted by banning harvest and restricting bag limits for these species. Law enforcement efforts were also intensified. Native hunters resisted these measures through stealth in harvesting and avoidance of agency personnel, while village leaders vocally opposed these governmental actions.

In an effort to mediate the conflict, village leaders and the USFWS developed the Y-K Delta GMP, a co-management agreement for the goose populations of the region. Though seen as a model by outside observers, local responses to waterfowl conservation programs in the region, including the Y-K Delta GMP, have been highly variable. On the one hand, villagers and agency biologists support conservation goals and generally agree about the population status of these geese species. Also, aspects of USFWS education programs have been well accepted. On the other hand continued avoidance and opposition to other aspects of waterfowl management reveals a sense of ambiguity regarding local involvement in governmental resource management. For example, several villages in the region categorically refuse any involvement with the USFWS. The Y-K Delta GMP has been unsuccessful in redressing long standing village concerns regarding biological research on waterfowl in the region. Finally, miscommunication and a lack of coordination between coastal villages and the multiple governmental entities which implement research and management programs in the region also spawn conflict.

This case study of waterfowl co-management illustrates the way in which common property resource conflicts have their roots in divergent perceptions of ecological relations and divergent perceptions of property relations and management authority. This paper also advocates an expanded role for a political ecology approach to wildlife conservation in Northern regions, with attention to such issues as competing claims to authority over land and animals, contested meanings of conservation and management, and the micropolitics of resource conflicts.


Co-management of Aboriginal Resources

by Tracy Campbell
Professional Associate, Arctic Institute of North America

[from Information North, Vol 22, no.1 (March 1996), Arctic Institute of North America.]


The Use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) by First Nations

by Benjamin D. Johnson
School of Community and Regional Planning, University of British Columbia
© 1997


First Nations are taking an increasingly active stance in the governance and management of their traditional territories. The Canadian aboriginal population is articulating a desire to re-acquire lands amounting to over half of the national territorial base through formal land claims processes, while bands, communities and nations are taking steps to manage resources on their traditional lands. The development of First Nations governments as self-sustaining political institutions is heavily dependent on the resolution of these two issues: land claims settlement and management of local resources (Makokis and Buckley, 1991). Land claims and resource management planning are activities involving the acquisition, manipulation and analysis of data that has a fundamental spatial component. For example, land claims are predicated on the formal identification of places of traditional occupancy and use by those undertaking the claim.

Geographic information systems (GIS) are a computerized means to consolidate and analyse spatially-referenced data. What separates GIS from a traditional digital database is this geographical component wherein all data are explicitly assigned a real-world location, allowing the integration of diverse data types and complex topological analyses (buffering, overlays). GIS is a powerful planning tool for helping resolve problems with a strong spatial component.

First Nations have applied GIS technology extensively to planning applications and are proving to be one of the fastest-growing new user groups of GIS. The intention of this paper is to explore the secondary sources concerning First Nations present use of GIS. It will begin with a brief introduction to GIS technology, followed by a discussion of the relevance of GIS to the First Nations context. Problems in reconciling traditional spatial knowledge with a digital information system predicated on European cartographic concepts will be discussed, followed by a look at real-life applications of GIS, exploring the nature of projects undertaken throughout North America. Finally, the complexities of implementing a GIS in the unique First Nations context will be discussed.