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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Death of a community, rebirth of a homeland? : planning processes for a Kwakiutl Indian community Sheltinga, Janis Colette


During the 1960s, residents of isolated Kwakiutl Indian communities, located near the northern tip of Vancouver Island in Johnstone Straight, were encouraged by representatives of the Department of Indian Affairs (DIA) to relocate to regional urban centers. The majority of families from various Kwakiutl bands were, as a result, assimilated into non-native centers throughout the province. This thesis examines the planning processes that contributed to the death of the Johnstone Straight communities; identifies the impacts of relocation on members of one Kwakiutl band, the Tanakteuk; and evaluates various alternatives for Indian development in the future, including an assessment of the desirability of reinhabitation of Kwakiutl homelands. A literature review of international regional planning theory and development approaches points to the popularity of growth center development theory for two decades after World War Two. This theory continued to guide Canadian planning initiatives during the 1960s, resulting in the decline of rural communities, both native and non-native. Interviews with Kwakiutl band members and former DIA personnel, and an examination of DIA documents, contribute to a profile of events leading to the relocation of Kwakiutl bands in the region. Consistent with the proponents of the growth center theory, DIA suspected that the costs of providing services and facilities could be minimized in urban centers as a result, of achieving economies of scale not possible with scattered villages, and that employment opportunities in industry would be greater. The department acted on this belief by reducing the provision of crucial services to the Johnstone Straight communities, without consulting those Indians directly affected. An examination of documentation suggests that the relocation of Indians to urban centers was further advocated by DIA personnel for an additional reason: such a move would encourage Indians to abandon traditional lifestyles, and promote their assimilation into modern Canadian society. According to the assumptions on which orthodox development theory and DIA planning processes are based, Indians must adopt the values and lifestyles of participants in modern society for their development to proceed. A questionnaire was administered to Tanakteuk Band members to investigate the impacts of relocation and the level of support for re-establishing the community of New Vancouver in their traditional homeland. Results of the survey demonstrate that the socio-economic conditions of the Tanakteuk families have not significantly improved as a result of being incorporated into mainstream Canadian society. In retrospect, growth center doctrine proved to be an inappropriate guide for the planning process for natives. While relocation may have increased access to services and facilities, it did not result in increased employment opportunities. Moreover, by promoting assimilation into non-native societies, relocation threatened the cultural survival of the Tanakteuk. Having evaluated several options, the re-establishment of a community in New Vancouver has been identified by five Tanakteuk heads of households as the most rational means to strengthen their culture and further the long-term development of the Band. An alternative theory of development based on a synthesis of a territorial development approach and systems theory supports this planning option. The case study of the Tanakteuk provides strong justification of the need for major changes to the planning processes used by the Department of Indian Affairs. An orthodox approach to development must be replaced by an alternative that aims to strengthen Indian society through the development of Indian economies within Indian cultural frameworks under the control of Indian political institutions. Planning processes must account for cultural differences of clientele.

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