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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Counter-institutionalization and the economic futures of First Nations in British Columbia Persaud, Anthony William


The legacy of settler-colonialism is manifest most potently as a dominant narrative that rationalizes First Nations compliance with Western-liberal institutions of common law, property and market-based economic growth. These have become de facto requirements for socio-economic improvements and well-being within First Nations communities. This dissertation challenges this assumption and narrative through an examination of the efforts of several First Nations in British Columbia as they pursue self-determination as central to their institutional and economic futures. I begin from the premise that the socio-economic and cultural-ecological condition of First Nations communities today is contingent upon the rules and governance structures imposed on First Nations as they interact with the settler-colonial state. Less recognized, however, are the multiple efforts of First Nations to redraw these structures and the logics that drive them through counter-institutionalizing processes. The dissertation comprises several studies of these processes, each of which are based on qualitative research conducted across four years working as a researcher and community development practitioner with First Nations in British Columbia, Canada. Chapter 2 highlights how First Nations are strategically positioning themselves – albeit in constrained ways – by leveraging the Crown’s duty to consult and accommodate in order to strengthen territorial self-governance and jurisdiction. Chapter 3 examines the conflicting institutional logics at play within First Nations forestry-based social enterprises. Chapter 4 demonstrates how a growing number of First Nations communities are seeking to resolve exigent local housing challenges through the creative reformulation of relations of production, allocation and redistribution. Chapter 5 focuses on the institution of property within the context of the Tŝilhqot’in Nation as they seek to re-establish an institutional framework upon which they can take control of their title lands and new jurisdictions, while maintaining their values and visions for the future. Combined these chapters aim to make real the diverse economic efforts of First Nations and open up new possibilities to establish counter-institutional frameworks which prevail alongside or independent of capitalist and colonial pressures.

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