Relational governance and Ethical Space in Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas

Authors: Justine Townsend*, University of Guelph
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Human-Environment Geography, Indigenous Peoples
Keywords: Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas, reconciliation, governance, Ethical Space, conservation, Canada
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 46
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In the context of environmental governance, reconciliation requires invigorating the spaces we co-inhabit, and that sustain us, with relational approaches that shift how communities and peoples relate to one another, as well as how we relate to the natural world. Crown governments in Canada struggle to balance commitments towards reconciliation and biodiversity conservation with an economic growth paradigm that is slow to adapt to the environmental realities of a rapidly changing planet, one that is finite. Indigenous knowledge systems tend to encourage environmental stewardship aligned with an animistic view of human and non-human interdependence within a living system. An expanded understanding of reconciliation to include our relationships with the natural world is part of a needed reorientation to biocultural forms of environmental governance and conservation. This opportunity requires a reconciling of Western governance frameworks that are state-driven or decentralized, managerial and rooted in Western science and norms with Indigenous knowledge and legal systems that emphasize relationality and reciprocity. In practice, it can be difficult to grasp concepts of Indigenous governance when approaching them from a Western framework that seeks to translate Indigenous concepts into known categories delineated by the English language. This paper engages the framework of Ethical Space to explore the ontological pluralism required to reconcile Western and Indigenous approaches to environmental and conservation governance. This is consistent with an approach to Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas as potential processes of reconciliation that model respectful government-to-government relationships and relationships with the natural world.

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