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UBC Theses and Dissertations

From ceremony up : Indigenous community planning as a resurgent practice on contested lands in British Columbia Patrick, Lyana Marie


From its 19th century origins, the modern western idealization of community planning has been about social justice, including the health and well-being of people and their environment, from the “garden cities” of the late 19th century to today’s healthy built environment work. But there has always been a dark side to this ideal. In North America, socio-legal frameworks were developed that deployed the language of “health” and “hygiene” to exclude specific groups of people from cities and towns. Indigenous peoples whose ancestral lands were adjacent to towns and cities were dispossessed of their territories and became the target of colonial bylaws that sought to criminalize their presence in urbanizing areas. Bringing together the fields of public health, planning and Indigenous studies, my research sought to understand how Indigenous experiences of health in urban areas have been discursively framed by colonization and continually impacted through settler colonialism. This case study explored how urban Indigenous community planning might be conceptualized at the nexus of health and justice in the work of one urban Indigenous organization, the Native Courtworker and Counselling Association of BC (NCCABC). Through an examination of the day-to-day labours of frontline workers, I answered my primary research question: In what ways do the resurgent practices of NCCABC relate to the emerging theory and practice of Indigenous community planning? Information was gathered through immersive participation, interviews, a talking circle, and document analysis in four primary sites of study: NCCABC Health Services in downtown Vancouver, NCCABC Prince George office, and First Nations Courts in New Westminster and North Vancouver. In spite of immense jurisdictional and administrative challenges that create barriers for urban Indigenous peoples and organizations – and a political landscape that largely denies urban Indigenous claims to sovereignty and self-determination – frontline workers with NCCABC create alternative spaces of belonging through relational practices that emphasize personal accountability, integrity, trust, and the importance of culture and ceremony. These resurgent practices, I argue, inform an Indigenous community planning paradigm shift that challenges colonially imposed categories of being and belonging and creates community for diverse urban Indigenous peoples.

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