UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A northern Indian band’s mode of production and its articulation with the multinational mode Dimitrov, Peter Petkov


Even after the much heralded 1977 publication of "Northern Frontier:Northern Homeland" by Justice Thomas Berger, many ill-conceived perceptions about northern Canadian indigenous peoples continue to persist. Amongst northern policy makers, rural Indian Bands are thought to be virtually devoid of an economy where people work and where goods of value are produced, distributed and consumed. This attitude is not inconsequential. Because Bands tend to have low levels of wage employment, per capita income and commercial activity, industrialization is seen by many as an essential path to development. For many reasons, not the least of which is the 'hidden' nature of Band 'underground' economies, the impacts of proposed industrial developments on the existing nature of Indian Band socio-economy are rarely taken into account. This thesis through the application of a mode of production approach to impact assessment and by the examination of one Indian Band economy, argues that northern Indian Bands have a viable, culturally unique system of economic organization that deserves recognition and support within the Canadian multicultural mileu. The concept of a mode of production, originating from the historical materialist tradition of K. Marx and F. Engels, stresses that the economy of a society can be understood by examining the character and interaction of such component 'sub-systems' as: property and resource management, production, distribution, consumption, reproductionand the nature of land use and internal social relations. The degree to which component sub-systems of economies differ, is a substantial factor in differentiating diverse modes of production. The thesis analyzes the Northern Indian mode of production as exemplified by the Ross River Indian Band—a group of Athapaskan Indian people residing in the rural part of Canada's northern Yukon Territory. After presenting historical information on the biophysical and post-conact human settlement aspects of the Ross River Indian people, an examination is made of several sub-components of their economy. Contrary to government land use maps which show that northern Canada is unpopulated and essentially a frontier, the thesis Indian land use maps reduced from field maps complete in 1983, indicate that in at least one case, Indian land and resource use is spatially extensive and systemically complex in its adaptation to regional ecology. An examination of the Ross River Indian economy indicates that is is not moribund. Even today the largest Band economic sector is the bush economy, which annually produces an imputed $700,000—about 41% of all gross personal income. Indian participation in wage employment provides about $600,000 annually (36%); while government transfer payments provide about $380,000 (23%) of annual gross personal incomes. Since the Ross River Indian Band is potentially facing a series of modernizing regional economic developments whose organizational 'sub-system' components are substantially different then that of the northern Indian mode of production, an examination is made of the important aspects of the multinational mode of production and the possible transformation effects on the northern Indian mode. The stresses which Indian labor experiences when working within an industrial environment are presented in the people's own voices. In part, difficulties of adaptation are due to a lack of training, inter-racial tensions, and the misunderstanding of union and government officials. Aside from these however, the most significant inhibiting factor that have ultimately contributed to Band members preferring employment within their own Indian mode of production, over industrial-related activity, are related to the different system of social and economic relations that typify a multinational mode of production, and the stresses which that system places on the viable continuance of the Indian mode. The effects of capitalist commoditisation on Indian land, labor and use-value production are examined, along with an analysis of the changes that might occur to Indian relations of production. As a result of Indian articulation with the multinational mode of production, Indian labor, lands,and resources become part of the global commodity market, and as a consequence, Indian Band control over their disposition becomes increasingly oriented to State and corporate interests. While transformation effects may be extensive, it is acknowledged that the changes deriving from a multinational mode of production are extremely variable within and between the many Indian Bands of the Canadian north. The uneveness of the transformation Is related not only to the inherent space and class contradictions of capitalist expansion and the hypermobility of capital, but also to preservation tendencies Internal to the northern Indian mode of production. Finally, this thesis examines a critical option whereby an Indian mode of production can protect and control it's own development path. Rather than suggesting a variety of development strategies and institutional 'bureaucratic' vehicles (such as land use and regional planning commissions) that might, or might not, contribute to increased Indian protection and control, this thesis stresses that the fundamental question of ownership of the means of production is crucial to the persistance of any mode of production—including the northern Indian mode of production. For this reason, it is emphasized, that AT THE VERY LEAST, Indian proprietory ownership of land and resources needed for reproduction is essential for the preservation of development options for the northern Indian mode of production.

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