Making First Nations Reserves ‘Investment Worthy’: Transparency as Economic Device.

Authors: Kyle Willmott*, Simon Fraser University
Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Economic Geography, Political Geography
Keywords: transparency, Indigenous territory, Indigenous governance, settler colonialism, fiscal politics
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 4:30 PM / 6:10 PM
Room: Truman, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In 2013 the Canadian federal government passed the First Nations Financial Transparency Act into law. It required First Nations band governments to publicly post audited financial statements, and remuneration schedules of politicians. First Nations governments and Indigenous activists argued forcefully that the bill was a racist and colonialist imposition and met the bill with significant resistance. While the bill’s enforcement was putatively suspended, the logics underlying it remain. This paper examines some of the epistemic foundations of the bill, tying together settler tactics of spatial enclosure, with state imperatives of fiscal warfare (Pasternak 2016). I show how specific financial disclosures and information are used as methods of settler colonial land privatization, and the paper theorizes how settler economic strategies have come to depend on the production of self-management expertise. Through interviews with bureaucrats and document analysis I show how transparency was imagined by the Canadian government as a positive economic device that would (1) expose specific truths about Indigenous peoples and governance; (2) produce market-oriented politics and knowledges in First Nations governments; and (3) make reserve spaces ‘investment-worthy’ for businesses and resource extraction industries.

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