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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A study of the traditional governance of the Gitxsan : its relevance today Wright, Maisie Helen


After a century of being prohibited from any political or cultural expression, Native people are now finally able to do so. The Indian Act was the mechanism through which assimilation policies were enforced, prohibiting any use of a traditional government system, a system which was inseparable from spiritual, cultural, and family ideals and values. Fortunately, however, segments of the traditional system have remained despite stripping its political powers at the community level. Native communities today are in various states of despair because of the century long victimization. This is shown statistically in higher rates of suicide, substance abuse, and family violence. The human rights violations have gradually lessened as more and more freedoms are given to them for self-determination. Within this setting of greater freedom, an expression of their traditional system as a form of self-government is a goal for most Native communities. A century of demoralizing suppression of the traditional system, however, has an impact on the successful implementation of an ancient system today. The destruction of the spiritual belief as a base for this ancient system, creates challenges in adapting it today. This thesis will identify and analyze the challenges in adapting an ancient political system to meet today's aboriginal community needs, using the Gitxsan nation as a case study. In researching these challenges, the writer began by studying the features of the traditional system, focusing on its political functions. Then an analysis of the effects of the Indian Act and its assimilation policies on the political features of the traditional system is closely examined. The writer goes a step further and identifies a planning task with options which could be considered in adapting an ancient system to meet today's societal and community needs, as an incentive for grassroots people of the Gitxsan nation to continue the planning process.

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