UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Ethnicity and politics in the Northwest Territories Potts, Randall Charles


This study of politics in the Northwest Territories concentrates on the period from 1966 to 1976 and is organized around the central theme of ethnicity. While other approaches to politics in the N.W.T. are possible, that of political development has been rejected as inappropriate and that of dependence has been set aside in so far as possible to allow concentration on the internal political system in the N.W.T. This thesis attempts to establish that ethnicity is salient in politics in the N.W.T. and to describe the resulting implications for conflict regulation. Ethnic groups are defined as groups sharing a common set of values, beliefs, and goals, bound by kinship ties, and possessing a set of communal institutions separate and apart from those of other groups. If ethnicity is salient, then evidence should be found that critical issues deal with questions of scarcity, that conflict groups are organized along ethnic lines, and that problems of legitimacy arise from the tendency toward secession inherent where ethnicity is salient. A framework for discussion of the implications for conflict regulation is provided by Nordlinger in his Conflict Regulation in Divided Societies. A discussion of indigenous societies before the arrival o of Europeans is provided along with a consideration of the changes brought by the fur trade, mineral exploration, and the development of permanent settlements after WW II. After 1966 instead of a single integrated society and culture in the N.W.T., there is a dual economy and society divided along ethnic lines between Whites with their middle-class, southern Canadian culture on the one hand, and the two indigenous native groups, the Dene and the Inuit, on the other. These divisions are reflected in the existence of both a modern wage economy and a traditional land-based economy in the N.W.T. and in the differing sets of goals, values, and beliefs of native and White people in the N.W.T. Evidence for the salience of ethnicity is provided in three areas: 1) each of the central political issues in the N.W.T. involves scarcity in that both native and White positions cannot be adopted simultaneously, 2) conflict groups are at least partially organized along ethnic lines, and 3) legitimation problems are evident at the three levels of electoral politics in the N.W.T. The implications of the recognition of the salience of ethnicity in politics in the N.W.T. are examined in terms of the elements necessary for successfulv conflict regulation as set out by Nordlinger. While the necessary condition of structured elite predominance appears to exist, conflict group leaders appear to lack conflict regulating motives which would create sufficient conditions for conflict regulation. Further, the only conflict regulating practice which appears to offer any hope of success is a combination of compromise and concession. The attempt to produce a workable compromise might introduce division among native groups in the N.W.T. and even of the N.W.T. itself. The possibility of devising any compromise which could regulate conflict in the N.W.T. is made even more remote by the dependent status of the N.W.T. and outside pressure for development.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.