Indigenous Land Rights in Canada and New Zealand: Sustainable Protected Areas in Rural and Mountain Environments

Indigenous Land Rights in Canada and New Zealand: Sustainable Protected Areas in Rural and Mountain Environments

Principal Investigator: Courtney Mason (Thompson Rivers University)

Opportunity: Natural resource development, climate change and rural depopulation are affecting many communities in isolated rural mountainous regions of the planet. Investing in tourism infrastructure around the creation of parks are strategies that communities are increasingly adopting to address rural challenges and initiate economic development in a more sustainable manner. However, the histories of Indigenous experiences globally in parks and tourism industries have been fraught with exploitation, displacement and cultural loss (Cruikshank, 2005; Mason, 2014; Rangarajan, 1996; Neumann, 1998; Keller & Turek 1999). This leaves many Indigenous communities across the country and around the globe at a difficult crossroads.

Objectives: Understand how the creation of parks and protected areas have historically impacted, or are impacting, Indigenous communities in mountain regions of rural Canada and New Zealand; Examine the various levels of co-management of parks that government agencies, Indigenous communities and global collaborators are currently establishing in mountain regions of rural Canada and New Zealand; Assess the risks, benefits, and viabilities of parks and related tourism industries in mountain and rural Indigenous communities. Interpret the policies and legal frameworks on land use, tourism, and economic development that are shaping the livelihoods of rural Indigenous peoples who live near mountain regions of Canada and New Zealand.

Research Plan: To foster a research process that is collaborative in orientation and that holds Indigenous perspectives at its core throughout the entirety of the research project, Indigenous Methodologies (IM) will guide this project. IM highlights inequitable power relationships (Tuhiwai Smith, 2012) and helps ensure that communities’ interests are recognized and access to sensitive material is appropriately guarded (Bishop, 2005; Battiste and Henderson, 2000). Oral history interviews with knowledgeable land users and sharing circles with Elders will be the primary methods of data collection. We will build strong researcher-community relationships by spending extended time in communities, listening and learning firsthand about local perspectives.

Key Outcomes & Impact: It is the intention of this research project to unravel some of the complexities of past and current Indigenous participation in tourism industries and assess how they are linked to contemporary conceptions of park development, land-use, and Indigenous rights in mountainous and rural regions. Findings will produce comprehensive understandings of how Indigenous experiences of being displaced and denied access to parklands inform contemporary decisions on the viabilities of tourism and parks as productive strategies. Results will help rural Indigenous peoples in Canada, and internationally, to develop their lands in ways that minimize risks to local ecosystems, increase economic opportunities, while supporting cultural continuities. This research will influence policy decisions concerning the development of Indigenous lands and resources.

February 2020 Presentation: Indigenous Land Rights in Canada and New Zealand

Other Team Members:
William Snow (Stoney Tribal Administration), Lois Philipp (Deh Gáh Elementary & Secondary School), Anna Carr (University of Otago)