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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Choices for change : a study of the Fort Ware Indian band and implications of land settlements for northern Indian bands Harris, Yvonne


This thesis analyses the options for Indian land settlements in terms of the social, ecomomic, and cultural implications for northern Indian bands. The focus is on three Sekani communities in northeast British Columbia, but more specifically on Fort Ware, a remote Indian settlement located in the Finlay-Parsnip watershed within the Rocky Mountain Trench. Social and economic problems faced by Canadian Indians have, in the past, always been met by remedial programs, programs that have been directed at the symptoms of distress, not the causes. This thesis examines land settlement as a possible long term solution to the economic and social problems of Canada's Indian population. The question that is posed in the thesis is: what would be the optimum kind of settlement in terms of bringing about positive social and economic change? To answer this question, information was gathered on three Indian communities - Fort Ware, an Indian reserve without road access and remote from non-Indian settlement and resource developments; McLeod Lake, a settlement surrounded by industrial development and severely affected by the massive 1960's W.A.C. Bennett hydro-electric project; and Ingenika, a community displaced by the same project. The thesis focusses chiefly on Fort Ware because it is a northern band whose territory has not yet been significantly altered by non-Indian resource developments and is similar in this respect to many northern Indian settlements that are still just beyond the frontier. In order to determine the present extent of territory and the value of Indian subsistence activities of. the people of Fort Ware and McLeod Lake, a land use and occupancy study was carried out in these two communities. It was found that country food (food from gathering and hunting) was critical to the diet of both communities and that the territory used by the bands was extensive. In Fort Ware the extent of territory used for hunting, trapping, guiding, and fishing was almost as extensive as that used at the time of white contact. In McLeod Lake the extent of territory used has declined since the contact period, with the major decrease occurring since completion of the W.A.C. Bennett dam. The thesis focusses on the village of Fort Ware and its choices for change. Options for land settlement for Fort Ware and other similar northern Indian bands have been grouped into four categories and analysed. They include: traditional, following the Indian treaties; moderate, characterized by the James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement, the proposed Yukon agreement and the Committee for Original Peoples Entitlelment (C.O.P.E.) settlement; assimilation, following the Alaska Native Claim Settlement, and Indian reform,characterized by the Nishga negotiating proposals. It was concluded that none of the settlements were satisfactory, although several elements were considered to be positive. The treaties fall short of providing the necessary land base for continued Indian subsistence activities, do not provide Indian participation in resource management, and do not provide capital for the bands' economic development. The moderate agreements - James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement, the proposed Council for Yukon Indians agreement and the C.O.P.E. settlement - address the issue of native resource use but fail to provide comprehensive control over resource management. Even the C.O.P.E. agreement, which has the most extensive land base, falls short because the Inuvialuit, the beneficiaries in the agreement, have insufficient voice in resource and land use decisions. The Alaskan agreement is an assimilation package with little protection -for subsistence use or adequate political framework for the Indian and Inuit people. The Nishga negotiating proposals are the most positive in terms of support of the Indian culture and in terms of bringing about social and economic development. Because these proposals are aimed at gaining Indian control over all the extensive, claimed land and resource revenues, it is not realistic that such proposals could be successfully negotiated for all northern Indian bands. Some general conclusions have emerged from this analysis. In order for northern Indian bands to achieve economic, social and cultural growth, a land claim agreement should contain at least the foil owing: 1.One to one and one-half square miles of land per beneficiary to be owned by the Indian group. 2. Priority rights to resources <for hunting, fishing, trapping, guiding, and forestry) on the balance of the claimed land. 3. Equal voice on decision-making resource management committees. 4. Cash settlement sufficient for the band's economic development. 5. Greater political and administrative control over matters affecting the Indian group.

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