Dene-water Relations and Hydroelectric Dams: Confluence and Contestations in the Mackenzie River Basin
Principal Investigator: Borowitz, Michelle A (4)
Licence Number: 15234
Organization: Department of Anthropology, University of Alberta
Licenced Year(s): 2013 2012 2011 2010
Issued: Apr 24, 2013

Objective(s): To document how issues and practices of transboundary water security and river resource developments affect local Aboriginal communities in the South Slave region and the Peace Region.

Project Description: The objectives of this study are to:
- conduct collaborative research that respects Aboriginal knowledge and acknowledges that knowledge is specific to a community and its traditional territory, and that each community has their unique way to deal with issues, its unique responses, and its unique way of understanding;
- disseminate Aboriginal knowledge that represents Aboriginals themselves and their worldview and ways of knowing regarding their relationship to waterways and views and opinions of river resource development;
- contribute to Aboriginal peoples’ right to participate in and enjoy society’s benefits, including those that might result from research and Aboriginal involvement in research activities; and
- document how issues and practices of trans boundary water security and river resource developments affect local Aboriginal communities in the South Slave region and the Peace Region.

Methods for data collection and validation is qualitative based, which requires significant time in the community and with research participants before, during and after data-gathering, analysis, and reporting, and include the following methods:
Informal interviews: ordinary, everyday conversations with community members; inquiry is casual, free flowing; topics directly or indirectly related to project’s purpose and aims.
Semi-structured interviews: face-to-face interviews with volunteer research participant; more in-depth than informal interviews; topics more directly related to project’s purpose and aims.
Participant observation: learning by observation; to live in the community for extended periods, to develop mutual trust and openness, having community members feel comfortable enough with the principal researcher so that she can observe community activities and behaviours as it relates to the Peace and Slave Rivers; to discuss observed activities and behaviours, and community’s worldview.
Oral Histories: documenting individual and family histories about the Peace and Slave Rivers.
Archival research: searching local and regional archives for relevant data about the community as it relates to the Peace and Slave Rivers, and to river resource development.
Literature reviews: reading academic journals and books on river resource development, dam resistance movements, and human-water relationship, placing Aboriginal communities in a cross-cultural context and on a regional and global comparison.
Other methods include: Public meetings; environmental and natural resource development legislation; hydroelectric corporation and hydroelectric organization mandates;

This project may help to improve the process and outcome of Aboriginal people’s engagement and intervention in hydroelectric dam developments, and thus could contribute to better practices and policies of river resource development. Such as contribution to the global and local questions and debates related to river resource development, globalization, environmental social justice, indigenous resistance, and human-water relationship, which examine questions about authority, territory, and knowledge, and contribution to an understanding of why pressures over resource developments and conflicts over use and control of water and rivers arise and continue within the particular local contexts of Aboriginal peoples in the South Slave region and the Peace Region.


The researcher intends to prepare specific oral and visual presentation, such as community forums, school presentations, and community reports for members of the community, special groups such as Elders and students, research participants and community leaders during the period of the project. The researcher also intends to provide presentation summaries written in clear and accessible English and, if possible, in Chipewyan.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from June 3, 2013 to June 28, 2013.