Reconnecting to Asi Keyi: Evaluating a collaborative attempt to heal colonial conservation practices

Authors: Roberta Nakoochee*, University of Guelph
Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: Conservation, Protected areas, Parks Canada, Indigenous knowledge systems, Indigenous-State relations, Settler-colonialism
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Astor Ballroom III, Astor, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

National Parks, in Canada and elsewhere, have come under criticism for their role in the historic and ongoing displacement of Indigenous peoples from their traditional territories. In 1943, what is now Kluane National Park and Reserve was designated a game sanctuary and the Southern Tutchone people were barred from entering their traditional hunting, trapping and fishing grounds, resulting in longstanding conflict with Parks Canada and an erosion of traditional land practices. One attempt to reconcile this was Healing Broken Connections, a project aimed at reintegrating First Nations people with their land within the park and finding a way to include their traditional knowledge in park management and decision making. While highly regarded, there has been no analysis of how well the project met its objectives or what its impact was.
The purpose of this study is to understand the meaning of reconnection to land from a local First Nation perspective and the degree to which Healing Broken Connections fulfilled that understanding. I conducted participant observation and semi-structured interviews with project organizers, former participants, and community members of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations and Kluane First Nation during the spring and summer of 2017. These interviews and observations, alongside discourse analysis, point to emerging themes involving a renewed relationship between Parks Canada and both First Nation communities, strategies for collaborating more effectively with community members to improve ecological integrity, and challenges in integrating Indigenous Knowledge systems in established state conservation and natural resource management agencies.

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