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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Stikine : Tahltans, environmentalists, and B.C. Hydro Demchuk, Andrea Madelaine Katherine


The Stikine and Iskut Rivers in northwest British Columbia form one of the last pristine wilderness river systems in North America. B.C. Hydro and Power Authority has, as part of its longterm development strategy, plans to dam the rivers some time early in the next century. These plans are opposed by the Tahltan Indians for whom the Stikine-Iskut Basin is an ancestral home and by numerous environmental organizations. This thesis analyzes the interaction of these opposition groups in light of the general literature on the Indian land claims and environmental movements. This is accomplished in four chapters. The first chapter analyses Indian response to internal colonialism through both the maintenance of the native economy and the land claims movement and examines the history of the North American environmental movement in terms of reformist and deep environmentalism. The two movements are found to differ substantially over issues such as land use control and resource development. The second chapter traces Tahltan and environmentalist attachments to the Stikine, outlines B.C. Hydro's plans and describes how B.C. Hydro's planning activities would themselves generate controversy. The third chapter discusses and compares Tahltan and environmentalist opposition to B.C. Hydro's plans. The Tahltan opposition is expressed in two forms, both through the persistence of the Tahltan economy, the adherents to which are not represented in a fully funded formal organization and the more predominant Association of United Tahltans. The environmentalist opposition is falls mainly in the reformist stream of environmentalism. The predominant form of Tahltan opposition and the environmentalists are shown to have markedly different objectives. The thesis concludes that the case of the Stikine indicates that there are many obstacles to alliances between the formally defined land claims movement and environmentalists. The most prominent of these obstacles is federal comprehensive claims policy which encourages resource-extractive development by providing for resource royalties in claim settlements. However, the findings from the Stikine also indicate there are numerous points of common interest between Indians committed to the native economy and environmentalists.

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