First Nations, rednecks, and radicals: re-thinking the 'sides' of resource conflict in rural British Columbia




Wellburn, Jane

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In 2010 the lands of the Cariboo-Chilcotin became a site of contestation and collaboration. Through media coverage of a Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency Review Panel process sources were quick to frame the issue (a potential gold-copper mine and the destruction of a lake in Tsilhqot’in territories) as one between First Nations and development, with 'development' taken as an unquestioned tenet of non-Aboriginal interest. The polarization visible in the media obscured on-the-ground efforts of First Nations and non-Aboriginal people alike to support each other in opposition to this project; a collaboration that saw the application ultimately rejected by the federal government. My research reflects on the review process that acted as a forum for a diverse range of First Nations and non-Aboriginal peoples to vocalize concerns outside of the stereotypes or expectations attached to ethnicity. Statements from the opposition covered a breadth of concern, encompassing a social, physical and cultural environment, and addressing larger issues of Aboriginal rights, title, and self-determination. These concerns offered the Panel a remarkably broad base of potential adverse effects to transparently justify their decision that the multi-billion dollar mine not proceed. Establishing visibility for these acts of solidarity and common ground may be a means of re-thinking the perception of division between ethnic communities in rural British Columbia; a perception that often perpetuates tense relationships in the face of large-scale resource development.



anthropology, resource development, First Nations -settler relationships