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Hunters and bureaucrats: Power, knowledge, and the restructuring of Aboriginal -state relations in the southwest Yukon, Canada

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Nadasdy, Paul Eric





Given the increasing politicization of indigenous peoples and today's climate of “enlightened” race relations, many states are seeking to restructure their relationship with the aboriginal populations within their borders. In Canada, efforts are underway to develop processes that more fully and fairly incorporate aboriginal people into the Canadian state. These efforts are intended to empower First Nation people by granting them a significant role in the governance of their own lands and people. On the face of it, this seems a vast improvement over many of the racist and assimilationist policies of the past. In this dissertation, however, I argue that for First Nation people in Canada, this new relationship with the state is something of a mixed blessing. Two of the most important aspects of the new relationship between northern First Nation people and the state in Canada are land claim negotiations and the cooperative management (co-management) of local wildlife populations. It is widely believed that incorporating First Nation people's knowledge of the land and animals into existing processes of resource management and land claims will both improve these processes and empower aboriginal people. I argue, however, that this approach is biased against First Nation people because it takes for granted (and so helps to reproduce) existing power relations. First Nation people's participation in land claim negotiations and co-management—as conceived by the state—has made it necessary for them to develop bureaucratic infrastructures in their communities. They have essentially had to become bureaucrats themselves, learning to speak and act in uncharacteristic ways. This has helped undermine the very way of life that land claims and co-management are supposed to protect in the first place. This dissertation is based on 32 months of participant observation in Burwash Landing, a village in the southwest corner of Canada's Yukon Territory. The village has a population of 70 people, most of whom are status Indians and members of the Kluane First Nation. In this dissertation, I focus on how land claims and co-management—as aspects of a new and evolving relationship between Kluane First Nation and the state—are affecting Kluane people and their way of life.

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