UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Negotiated spaces : work, home and relationships in the Dene diamond economy Gibson, Virginia Valerie


This thesis examines Dene engagement with the diamond mining economy in Canada’s Northwest Territories. While historic treaties, policy and regulation create situations of powerlessness, the space for the negotiation of a bilateral relationship between Treaty mining companies and communities exists, formalized as Impact and Benefit Agreements. An initial emphasis on socio-cultural impacts and vulnerability of the communities in relation to the mines illuminated variable outcomes. This led to a central focus on how outcomes are negotiated, with the outcomes strongly related to forms of community and cultural resilience. Surprisingly, the ability to bounce back, or be resilient (not vulnerable), as defined by the Tåîchô and Yellowknives Dene communities is central to community response and well being in this new economy. The possibility of self determination and the potential to be in relationships of reciprocity are found to be fundamental drivers of community health and thus resilience. Study of the Tåîchô Cosmology surfaces the centrality of reciprocity to cultural resilience wherein the quality and nature of the relationships as inscribed in past and present agreements themselves are of defining importance. New relationships with mining companies are entered with the expectation of reciprocity by communities, so that the exchanges are economic, social, cultural, spiritual and symbolic. This thesis outlines this process as it plays out in the mining economy and as it is manifest in spaces of negotiation, each of which invokes social capital and reciprocity. These include negotiations between: diamond mining companies and the communities; government and communities; diamond mining companies and the workers, and miners and their families and communities. Each of these negotiations is vital in creating the possibility of employment and business. However, relationships with the settler government and with Treaty mining companies are constrained. Many of the limitations identified relate to the assumption by settler society of the universality of their particular values, practices and culture. The thesis argues that Treaty mining companies can shift approaches, both in the orientation to relationship and in the implementation of agreements through the lifecycle of the mine.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International