Conservation as Resistance

Authors: Megan Youdelis*,
Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Canada, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: Conservation, Indigenous peoples, Tribal parks, decolonization, post-capitalist, alternative sustainabilities
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


Conservation in Canada has long been, and continues to be, a tool of colonial-capitalist accumulation (Binnema and Niemi, 2006: Youdelis, 2016). Through violent enclosures akin to processes of primitive accumulation, conservation legitimized the removal of First Nations from their lands so that these would remain open for capital accumulation for the newly forming Canadian state and settler population. Although Parks Canada has made progress in facilitating greater inclusion of First Nations in the management of certain parks, including co-management arrangements, these interventions remain trapped within the colonial politics of “recognition” (Coulthard, 2014). In the Canadian park system, Indigenous peoples must continue to look to their oppressors for recognition and rights, and decision-making authority ultimately rests with the Crown. Traditional livelihoods remain vilified in many parks while capitalist relationships with non-human worlds are celebrated as progressive and sustainable. This paper queries the use of conservation as resistance by exploring the potential for the nascent Tribal Park movement in Canada to forge anti-colonial and post-capitalist alternatives to the conventional colonial-capitalist models. I analyze the ways in which Tribal Parks might surmount the colonial politics of “recognition” and secure Indigenous sovereignty, as well as offer the potential for alternative relationships between people, markets, property, and ecosystems. I argue that emerging Indigenous-led conservation initiatives can help us begin to sketch out the material and discursive conditions necessary for an emancipatory, decolonized conservation.

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