Understanding settler responses to Indigenous authority: First Nation governance of the wild mushroom industry on Nadleh, Stellat'en and Nak'azdli Whut'en Territories, British Columbia

Authors: Carley-Jane Stanton*, University of Oxford
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Canada, Political Geography
Keywords: Settler colonialism; political ecology; british columbia; canada, mushroom industry, sustainability, mycology, affect, emotional geographies, morel mushrooms, wildfire, Indigenous sovereignty
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 36
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The assertion of Indigenous sovereignty over land, resources, and industrial activity is often met with settler antagonism, as has been the case throughout the history of so-called Canada. These conflicts are often understood in the context of fossil-fuel industries or infrastructure projects of “national significance”. In these narratives, conflicts emerge when Indigenous peoples assert their authority to protect land and water from large-scale, state-supported, environmentally damaging projects. Settlers often respond to Indigenous jurisdiction in these cases by defending federal and provincial environmental assessment processes and arguing that refusals for development occur at the expense of economic prosperity and good jobs.

This empirical paper contributes to a growing body of discourse in academic and political spheres which complicates explanations of settler aversion to Indigenous authority by shifting focus to small scale and “sustainable” industries. Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork among settler workers in the informal, low-wage, “ecologically sustainable” British Columbian wild mushroom industry, I discuss how settler aversion to Indigenous jurisdiction emerges in cases beyond state-supported industrial projects. I identify the emotional and affective underpinnings of harvesters’ responses to the introduction of Indigenous regulation in the mushroom industry and suggest settler responses to Indigenous jurisdiction result from the challenge to settlers’ understandings of crown land, terra nullius, and the frontier— in other words, their “settler common sense”. I discuss the need to explicitly address these understandings to improve settler compliance with Indigenous governance, and provide examples of strategy from the Nadleh, Stellat’en and Nak’azdli Whut’en First Nations’ 2019 morel mushroom permitting program.

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