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Resistance: Traditional Knowledge and Environmental Assessment among the Esketemc Canadian First Nation Community.

BEDARD, BETH (2013) Resistance: Traditional Knowledge and Environmental Assessment among the Esketemc Canadian First Nation Community. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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A recurring theme in Canadian social and political history concerns the fight for the recognition of Aboriginal rights including cultural rights within a context of development. It has been stated that there is a lack of dialogue between these two discourses. There are few specific and engaged studies about these conflicts. This thesis provides an engaged examination of a Canadian First Nation from British Columbia, the Esketemc, and its struggle against a proposed mega development, the Prosperity gold and copper mine.

The study focusses on the use of power, control and the discourse of development through the lens of the environmental assessment process. It examines whether the Esketemc voice is heard through the dominant discourse, or whether the environmental assessment process obstructs it through the manipulation of people, space and resources. The analysis of the environmental assessment process identified and described opportunities and obstacles for dialogue between the Esketemc, the federal and provincial governments, the federal government selected Panel, and the mine developer. The community hearings that formed a part of the environmental assessment process provided an opportunity for many community members to tell about their deep relationships with the land, their family connections to the land, their spiritual connections to the land, and the knowledge gained from these cultural practices to determine what the impacts of this project will be on the community. The positioning of this Esketemc traditional knowledge within this assessment demonstrates how it was viewed and valued by the government and the developer and how it was used to formulate the Panel recommendations for the federal Minister of the Environment. The analysis of the environmental assessment process also illustrates the strategies of power and resistance used by the Esketemc to oppose and respond to the unequal power dynamics.

The imposition of power on First Nations within the historical colonial period endures in current encounters with government agencies such as the environmental assessment agency through environmental assessments. This unequal power permits those with control to decide what is valid, true and while dismissing that which does not conform to the prevailing paradigms. The study identified the structural processes within the Prosperity Mine environmental assessment process that served to validate some of the Esketemc concerns, while excluding others. The types of knowledge that the environmental assessment panel validated were those rooted in government processes such as a commercial venture, the Esketemc Community Forest and lands to be included in a final settlement within the British Columbia Treaty Process. The types of knowledge that were not recognized by the Panel were those that dealt with the project’s negative impacts on traditional hunting, plant and medicine harvesting, family areas and spiritual values. The result is a positioning of Esketemc traditional knowledge and cultural values as marginalized in contrast to the discourse of western science and development.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Esketemc, First Nations, Traditional knowledge, resistance, mining, megaprojects, development, environmental assessment, Michel Foucault, cultural loss, indigenous language loss, indigenous, Canadian environmental assessment process, Cariboo, Secwepemc
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Anthropology, Department of
Thesis Date:2013
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:07 May 2014 11:42

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