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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Relational Nations : trading and sharing ethos for Indigenous food sovereignty on Vancouver Island. Manson, Johnnie


This thesis explores how Indigenous conceptualizations of being and place influence the food trading and sharing behavior of Indigenous people on Vancouver Island. Chapter 1 utilizes critical theory to explore how historically and contemporarily Indigenous nations and people practiced a relational politics where political activity and subjectivity is nested within the tenets of relationality, respect, beneficial reciprocity, and responsibility. Chapter 1 demonstrates that Canada utilized science and rationalism to assert sovereignty and jurisdiction over Indigenous lands, nations, and people. This process altered Indigenous conceptualizations of political subjectivity. Chapter 1 conducts a theoretical exegesis of state conceptualizations of sovereignty, which reveals how food-based politics can be alternately conceptualized and enacted. That is, I argue for a relational politics oriented explicitly towards recognizing, learning from, and incorporating the concerns of the most vulnerable members of Indigenous communities – human and nonhuman – as a mechanism for relational self-determination. In Chapter 2 I analyze the trading and sharing practices of 14 Indigenous people in rural and urban Vancouver Island using an Indigenous research paradigm, qualitative research methods, and critical theory as a mode of analysis. Chapter 2 demonstrates that Indigenous trading and sharing behavior is influenced by ancestral conceptualizations of place and that enactment of these place-based worldviews changes to fit the social context in which Indigenous people find themselves. Indigenous trading and sharing behavior enables Indigenous people to fulfill relational obligations to community, each other, and their non-human kin. Hence, food trading and sharing is a mechanism for relational politics and is used by Indigenous traders and sharers to engage with, cope, and overcome dominant conceptualizations of political subjectivity. In Chapter 3, I reflect on what I have learned from Indigenous traders and sharers, and situate their stories and propositions within a broader dialogue with Indigenous and non-Indigenous social theorists on the meaning of relationships, value, and political subjectivity.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada