"Imposing Territory: First Nation Land Claims and the Transformation of Human–Animal–Land Relations in the Yukon"


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Presenter:  A/Prof. Paul Nadasdy, Cornell University, USA

Date: Jun 16, 2016

Time: 12:00pm to 1:00pm

Contact person:  Kamaljit K Sangha
T: 8946 7581
E: Kamaljit.Sangha@cdu.edu.au

Location:  Yellow 1.1.39, Casuarina Campus, CDU

Abstract: The Canadian government has concluded a series of land claim and self-government agreements with many indigenous peoples in the Yukon Territory. These modern treaties create First Nations as a “third order of government” in the Yukon and grant them significant powers to govern their own people and lands. Framed as they are in the idiom of sovereignty, however, the agreements also compel First Nation people to accept – in practice if not in theory – a host of Euro-American assumptions about the nature of power and governance that are implicit in such a framing. In this talk, I focus on one of the central premises of the sovereignty concept: territorial jurisdiction. The Yukon agreements carve the Yukon into fourteen distinct First Nation “traditional territories.” Although many assume that these territories reflect “traditional” patterns of land-use and occupancy, indigenous society in the Yukon was not in fact composed of distinct political entities each with jurisdiction over its own territory. Thus, the agreements do not simply formalize jurisdictional boundaries among pre-existing First Nation polities, as many assume; rather, they are mechanisms for creating the legal and administrative systems that bring those polities into being. Indeed, the powers conferred upon First Nations by the Yukon agreements come in the peculiarly territorial currency of the modern state, and the processes of territorialization they engender are transforming Yukon First Nation society in radical and often unintended ways. Among the most significant of these are changes in how First Nation people can relate to the land and animals -- and to one another with respect to land and animals. 

Biosketch: A/Prof. Nadasdy has been conducting ethnographic research in Canada’s Yukon Territory since 1995, principally with the people of Kluane First Nation, the indigenous inhabitants of the southwest Yukon. His research has focused on the politics surrounding the production and use of environmental knowledge in wildlife management, land claim negotiations, and other political arenas. Currently, he is conducting a sociocultural analysis of land claim negotiations among the governments of Canada, the Yukon Territory, and the Kluane First Nation. By examining the different cultural assumptions that various participants bring to the negotiating table, the resulting cross-cultural interactions, and how these articulate with the broader political, historical and legal contexts in which the negotiations are embedded, A/Prof. Nadasdy hopes to understand and describe the micro-level mechanisms through which unequal power relations are realized, reinforced, and at times subverted.