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Stevenson, Marc G.






Hunters and Bureaucrats is actually one book and a journal article. The "book" deals with the issue of Aboriginal-state relations in co-management and how the Kluane people have been forced into accepting the language and institutions of "wildlife management" to protect their rights to and interests in animals, only to discover that such processes undermine their relationships with animals, while concentrating control over their lives in the hands of the state. Nadasdy is at his best when he discusses the integration/transformation processes to which Kluane peoples must subject their knowledge in order to participate in co-management. The focus on co-management accounts for some 80% of the volume's content, and alone would have made a significant contribution to the literature on Aboriginal-state relations in northern Canada. The "journal article" addresses basically the same process, but in the context of land claims and property rights. To engage in land-claim discourses, the Kluane people have also had to adopt very different ways of thinking and speaking. Moreover, they have "had to create and operate within bureaucratic structures that mirror those" of the state (p. 261). Yet, these institutions, which are built on very different assumptions about how humans should relate to the world, have helped to undermine the very way of life that land-claim agreements are supposed to preserve. Our traditional ecological knowledge is too often taken out of context, misinterpreted, or misused. What wildlife managers, biologists, and bureaucrats understand ... is interpreted within their own knowledge and value systems, not ours. In the process, our special ways of knowing and doing things ... are crushed by scientific knowledge and the state management model. ... With various culturally inappropriate or irrelevant concepts such as "wildlife management", "stock",... " harvest", ... "total allowable catches" [and] "quotas", the state management system is a form of intrusion that threatens to crush the "tried and true", the dynamic, evolving and effective systems of local management and the ... knowledge that informs those systems. (Kuptana, 1996) Throughout Hunters and Bureaucrats, Nadasdy takes special pains, using concepts such as "respect," "balance," and "reciprocity," to flesh out the appropriate relationships between Kluane people and the animals (i.e., sentient non-human beings with power) upon which they depend. This is why his uncritical application and extension of the concept of "wildlife management" to Kluane people seems so curious, and runs counter to much of what is said in Hunters and Bureaucrats. While we are told that it is inappropriate to conceive of humans as controlling the hunt, the concept of "managing animals" is not subjected to the same scrutiny. Many Aboriginal elders that I know would simply think it absurd that humans could manage animals. While I am sure that this is just an oversight on the author's part, this omission underscores just how embedded western European cultural constructions have become in the thought and speech of even the most critical social scientists. If Nadasdy, culturally sensitized as he is, can fall into this trap, what hope is there for the rest of us? In recent essays (e.g., Stevenson, 1998,1999,2000; Stevenson and Webb, 2003), I have asked researchers working with Aboriginal peoples to be far more critical of the implications of imposing their cultural conventions and constructions on the Aboriginal peoples in contexts of traditional knowledge integration and co-management. It is vital for researchers who are "cultured" in the western scientific tradition, and who work with peoples of different cultures, to critically examine the cultural biases, values, and assumptions inherent within their own knowledge claims and institutions, and how these may disarm Aboriginal knowledge and management systems and their related institutions and practices. Because of their uncritical acceptance of their own "truths," researchers frequently and unwittingly become agents of cultural change and assimilation for the authoritative knowledge systems and institutional structures in power (Stevenson and Webb, 2003).

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