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Ha Kus téeyi (“Our Way”): Transforming water governance and climate justice through Indigenous legal orders

Authors: Nicole Wilson*, University of British Columbia
Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Water Resources and Hydrology, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: Indigenous Water Governance, Environmental Change, Indigenous Law, Yukon, Canada, British Columbia, Canada, Transformation
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Water governance is a priority for Indigenous peoples around the world who have been governing the waters and lands within their territories since time immemorial. Despite being among those who have contributed to the least to the root causes of climate change, climatic impacts are dramatically affecting Indigenous peoples and their complex relationships to water.
Therefore, climate justice is critical to decolonizing or transforming water governance. In this paper, I seek to enhance the theory and practice of Indigenous water governance through conceptualizing climate justice in hydrosocial systems. To achieve this, I present a case study based on community-based research with Carcross/Tagish First Nation in Northern Canada, where climate change is driving dramatic changes in the hydrosocial system including the cascading impacts of glacial recession and permafrost thaw. First, we describe the approaches C/TFN is developing to implement their modern treaties, based on the inherent water rights and responsibilities to water articulated through their Tagish and Tlingit Indigenous legal order or Ha Kus téeyi (“Our Way”). Second, we examine the limitations of such water governance approaches given that the drivers of environmental changes are located beyond the geographic scale of their traditional territory. Finally, we end with a discussion of how Indigenous legal orders are fundamental to advancing understandings of climate justice and transformation in water governance.

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