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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Valuing traditional activities in the northern native economy : the case of Old Crow, Yukon Territory Murphy, Sheilagh C.


The purpose of the research is to develop a widely acceptable and more holistic method for valuing traditional activities in a northern native community. It does this by extending contemporary valuation methods to include native categories and perceptions of natural resources, both past and present. The community of Old Crow, Yukon Territory is used as the field site because it is a relatively stable community, closely linked to the land, and one for which historical material is available. Any assessment of a contemporary native community, its people, and their relationships to the land and its bounty would not be complete without an examination of their history. Thus, the thesis recounts the history of the Kutchin Indians of Old Crow. By reviewing past situations, traditions and cultural beliefs, the present day place of the land and its resources in the lives of the Old Crow people is revealed. Contemporary valuation methods are defined as those which emphasize valuing resources numerically using a specific type of quantitative information. The more holistic method, on the other hand, includes the examination of the 'value'1 assigned traditional activities by the people themselves as exemplified through past and present situations. The ultimate goal of this work is to show that static quantitative analyses must be balanced with research into the more social side of native activities if their true value is to be found. The thesis shows that contemporary valuation methods continually underestimate the 'value' of production from the land because they are usually limited in time and scope, and fail to deal with the non-market 'values' the land and its bountry hold for native northerners. It is discovered that comparing data collected at different points in time is a very effective means of precipitating out those 'values' which influence native people in making choices about the pursuit of traditional activities in the north. Using this method the land and its resources as perceived by the Old Crow people are shown to still hold a paramount place in their day to day lives. As with other northern native groups, even though material opportunities and hunting strategies have changed, the people continue to value their traditional land and life for a variety of reasons. While the thesis identifies the various 'values' associated with productive activities in Old Crow, it does not develop a scheme that quantifies or ranks the relative worth of these 'values'. It discusses the merit of the concept in the context of valuing activities in the traditional economy of the north, and concludes that much research is still required in this area.

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