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Race, Ethnicity, Indigenous Peoples and Politics

L21 - Treaty Relations and Indigenous Sovereignty

Date: Jun 6 | Time: 03:15pm to 04:45pm | Location: SWING 121

Chair/Président/Présidente : Annelies Cooper (York University)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Gina Starblanket (University of Calgary)

Treaty and the Critique of Political Economy: Corey Snelgrove (University of British Columbia)
Abstract: In this paper, I offer a critical review of the treaty turn in Canadian political and social thought in order to demonstrate how treaty as a critique of liberal political economy has been obscured. I begin by looking at how treaty is transformed into a derivative discourse in Canadian political thought – where treaty is reduced to the proceduralism of “ancient constitutionalism” (Tully) and a different iteration of the “social contract” (Patton). The purpose is to draw out how these readings elide questions of political economy by interpreting treaty through the framework of cultural difference and misunderstanding. The next section challenges this elision by summarizing Frank Tough’s work on the economic aspects of the numbered treaties before drawing out its major limit in reducing treaty to a reflection of the norms of political economy. Put differently, whereas Tough appears to read treaty as political economy, I read treaty as suggesting a critique of political economy based on Leanne Simpson, Heidi Stark, and Robert Williams, Jr.’s interpretations of treaty along with the reports of Alexander Morris. The final section asks what this alternative reading of treaty offers to contemporary efforts at re-imagining Canada often through the very idea of treaty in the era of reconciliation.


Settler Colonialism, Epistemic Sovereignty, and Ktunaxa Nation v. British Columbia: Daniel Sherwin (University of Toronto)
Abstract: Critical Indigenous scholars have argued that the dominant discourses and epistemologies of Canadian politics are incompatible with true decolonization. These discourses systematically exclude indigenous legal, political, and philosophical traditions and epistemologies. Indigenous Resurgence therefore aims to turn away from engagement with the dominant society in order to create alternative futures for indigenous people. In the context of and in response to Resurgence, this paper is part of a broader project which critically explores the specific processes through which indigenous legal, political, and spiritual traditions were and are excluded, marginalized, or dispossessed by the Canadian state. It focuses on Section 114 of the Indian Act, more commonly known as the Potlatch and Sundance ban. Passed in 1884, Section 114 is perhaps the most direct and explicit effort by the Canadian state to eradicate Indigenous political, economic, legal, and spiritual traditions. Its rationale, and the history of its enforcement, provide a valuable lens through which to study the encounter between the Canadian state and Indigenous political orders during a period when Canada was struggling to assert its sovereignty from coast to coast. It also provides insight into the broader processes through which the Canadian state established what I call “epistemic sovereignty” – to the exclusion of indigenous epistemologies. Resurgence challenges this epistemic sovereignty; this paper aims, from my own perspective as a non-Indigenous scholar, to contribute to that challenging by exploring how settler epistemic sovereignty was established.