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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Troubled waters : co-management in the aboriginal fishery : the case of the Gitxsan and Wet'suwet'en Peruniak, Jain Anne

Abstract

The Pacific coast salmon fishery has a legacy extending into the shadows of historic time. Since the last ice age, aboriginal communities have actively participated in the harvesting, regulation and management of the salmon resource. First Nations' societies developed governance structures which regulated resource use and access. Prior to colonization and the articulation of a state resource management system, indigenous systems were the sole management regime and they functioned to sustain the fishery for thousands of years. As European colonization proceeded and British Columbia joined Confederation in 1871, federal institutions began to assert their authority over the management of the Pacific fishery. The net effect was to suppress and marginalize indigenous populations from an active and meaningful role in fisheries management. This thesis provides an analysis of First Nations involvement in current fisheries management in the Skeena inland fisheries and explores the potential of co-management agreements for reconciling the two systems of resource management. The objectives of the thesis are: (i) to outline the divergent value systems which underlie resource-based conflict in crosscultural settings; (ii) to identify key components of the indigenous resource management system as expressed within the fishery; (iii) to apply three analytical frameworks to help analyze the current regulatory regime within the inland fisheries; and (iv) to identify recommendations arising from the case study for the future of co-management within the inland fisheries. The introductory chapters outline the historical, philosophical and theoretical contexts for the research. My case study focuses upon the current fisheries management regime, within the inland fisheries, of the Gitxsan and Wet'suwet'en Nations. The study examines key features of the indigenous resource management system and discusses how this system acted to restrict access and regulate harvesting activities. Government regulations which have impacted First Nations harvesting are outlined and the history of fisheries conflict between the state and the Gitxsan and Wet'suwet'en is profiled. The core of the conflict involved a jurisdictional dispute concerning aboriginal rights and authority within the fisheries. Litigation by First Nations resulted in key court rulings which established a legal framework for aboriginal fishing rights. The policy response by government to the new legal context involved the delivery of the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy. This program, which is intended to deliver co-management, is assessed in terms of its application within the fisheries of the Gitxsan and Wet'suwet'en Nations. It is argued that a form of co-management is being expressed but the program is not addressing key concerns raised by the First Nations. Nineteen strengths evident within the current fisheries management practice of the Gitxsan and Wet'suwet'en are identified. Some of these include internal policy development, role of the hereditary system, community support, watershed focus and a pro-active stance. The analysis leads me to conclude that the Gitxsan and Wet'suwet'en agreements under the Aboriginal Fisheries Strategy are more enhanced than other AFS agreements and I argue that this is directly related to the political empowerment processes which have been actively expressed by these First Nations. It is suggested that co-management, empowerment and community economic development are inter-related processes each acting to reinforce the other. I end my research by generating 13 recommendations to enhance fisheries co-management, sustainability and to deliver some measure of historical justice.

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