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The Role of Ethical Space in Processes of Decolonization

Authors: Danika Littlechild*, Carleton University
Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Cultural and Political Ecology, Canada
Keywords: Indigenous, Decolonization, Conservation
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Decolonizing conservation requires dynamic and flexible relationship building that elevates Indigenous systems (i.e. language and culture, knowledge, decision-making, stewardship, etc.), respects their integrity and enables their functionality. How can we co-create decolonized conservation-focused relationship(s) that ensure meaningful recognition of and appropriate deference to Indigenous Peoples? What is the right approach to accomplish this task? A relatively new approach called Ethical Space (Ermine 2007, Crowshoe 2007-2019, Indigenous Circle of Experts 2018) attempts to create a strengthened role for Indigenous Peoples, the implementation of emergent standards /rules of engagement between non-Indigenous and Indigenous Peoples; and encourage the advancement of reconciliation.

Using the example of the Indigenous Circle of Experts, Ethical Space will be described in terms of process and content, providing an understanding of how to engage with Indigenous systems without intervening in their functionality. Ethical space is framed by emergent standards like the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action, as well as established standards like the Canadian Constitution, jurisprudence, treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements. While the framing of Ethical Space remains fairly static (in terms of existing and emergent standards of relationship), what happens within Ethical Space is determined by the parties engaged, their respective systems and their commitment to realizing the collaborative operationalization of Ethical Space.

Ethical space has the potential to facilitate a transformative shift in the way Indigenous Peoples are engaged in conservation moving forward.

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