Tsuwalhkálh Ti Tmícwa = (The land is ours): St’át’imc self-determination in the face of large-scale hydro-electric development




Moritz, Sarah Carmen

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In Canada, First Nations asserting authority over their lands are developing diverse strategies to overcome the state’s dogmatic insistence on jurisdictional sovereignty. This movement corresponds to the wider context of the challenges faced by indigenous people to use their own ways of knowing to resist or reformulate legal doctrines and political tenets based on colonial power. Interior Salish St’át’imc people identify themselves through a strong and ongoing social relationship with Satáqwa7, the Fraser River, and the “Valley of Plenty”— now known as the flooded Bridge River Valley – maintained through St’át’imc knowledge and cultural practice and demonstrated by talk of “the St’át’imc right to fish” and Tsuwalhkálh Ti Tmícwa (The Land is Ours). St’át’imc fishers are prepared to contest and resist any regulatory system that is understood to impact this right to fish while they advocate their own ways of sustainable fishing and water management. Based on ethnographic research in collaboration with St’át’imc people, this thesis explores some of these often successful contestations especially in the context of increasing territorial governance and by example of the rapidly transforming relationship between St’át’imc, BC Hydro and the Province of BC. Interior Salish St’át’imc people are currently navigating through a significant phase of increasing jurisdiction and authority and recognition of (unsettled) territorial property relationships. This very dynamic process is marked by strategic collaborations, compensation for ‘infringements’ on St’át’imc Title and Rights, and conservation efforts to protect their home. An important example is the changing relationship between St’át’imc people and BC Hydro – a relationship between two groups with radically different cultures and agendas: St’át’imc people in a struggle for self-determination, social justice and cultural survival and BC Hydro, a corporate culture, with the agenda to provide hydro-electric power to BC, maintain operation ‘certainty’ and to generate revenue. Exploring the different ways of relating to and acting on the land will allow for more holistic and shared cultural practices of co-governing land, working collectively, remembering history, co-existing in the present and sharing a common future according to the ethical ideals of reconciliation: accountability for wrongdoing, justice, sharing, respect, transcending of hegemonic silences and increased public knowledge.



Environmental Anthropology, Colonialism, Self-Determination, Hydro-Electric Development, Indigenous Territorial Governance, Conservation, Indigenous-State Relations