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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Somewhere beyond the barricade : explaining Indigenous protest in Canada Repin, Nadya


Forms of Indigenous contentious action, including blockades, marches, demonstrations, building occupations and fish- and log-ins are commonplace in Canada, but understudied. The likelihood of more of these events is high given the glacial pace at which grievances are being acknowledged. This paper asks what accounts for the variation in mobilization of Indigenous groups in unconventional forms of protest - non-routine and non-institutional - often “illegal” contentious action events in advanced, industrial, settler democracies? The applicability of three social movement theories, deprivation, Resource Management Theory (RMT) and New Social Movement (NSM) theory, are examined in providing explanatory leverage on Indigenous mobilization in contentious action in Canada. An examination of two cases will outline the explanatory usefulness of these theories: the blockades at Kanehsatake in 1990 (commonly referred to as the Oka Crisis) and the conflict at Burnt Church from 1999 to 2002. It determines that deprivation, NSM, and sometimes RMT are able to provide valuable insights into specific cases and also illustrate the fact that Indigenous contentious action across Canada is not the same, they are not always driven by the same processes, goals, or identities. These theories can be useful analytical tools, but have little to offer in terms of predictive power and must be used carefully as explanatory tools. As opposed to being separate explanatory fields, they are most helpful used cooperatively rather than competitively. All of these theories must be able to take into consideration the impacts of colonialism, on resources, on deprivation and on identity, in order to retain explanatory value in the case of Indigenous peoples. Furthermore, the relationship that land has to identity formation for Indigenous peoples must be accounted for, and can be done so within NSM theory.

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