UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Oral narratives, customary laws and indigenous water rights in Canada Sam, Marlowe Gregory


Prior to the European discovery and colonization of North America the Indigenous peoples managed their natural environment through a management regime that was guided by traditional governance systems that were based within the oral tradition. Since the assertion of European authority the water rights of indigenous peoples were subsequently diminished and infringed upon by colonial policies that derived from the doctrine of discovery. In the contemporary era the Supreme Court of Canada has determined that the priority water rights of Canada's aboriginal peoples must be proven under the premise of European concepts of land ownership and entitlement. It is my intent to use the oral narratives of the Syilx (Okanagan) to provide evidence of the ancient customary laws and practices that guided the management practices over this natural resource. To substantiate the existence of the customary laws of indigenous peoples I use primary research gathered from Syilx (Okanagan) and Secwepemc (Shuswap) informants. Previously published and unpublished oral narratives that were recorded and transcribed during the twenty-first century will also be used in this inquiry. Prior to the arrival of Europeans a phenomenon of globalization greatly influenced the development of colonial policies and laws that in turn impacted modern day Supreme Court decisions in both the United States and Canada. An analysis of the manner in which the Supreme Court decisions infringed upon the human and aboriginal right to water will be used to determine both the weaknesses and strengths of the priority rights of water that have been held in perpetuity by aboriginal peoples within Indigenous North America.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada