Impact as a Political Technology of the Settler State: an account of land and territory in Denendeh
Principal Investigator: Evenden, Matthew (1)
Licence Number: 15817
Organization: University of British Columbia
Licensed Year(s): 2016
Issued: Jan 13, 2016

Objective(s): To learn about the importance of early impact assessment methodology to questions of political governance in the Northwest Territories.

Project Description: The objectives of this research are to learn about and articulate the importance of early impact assessment methodology to questions of political governance in the Northwest Territories. In this research into core concepts of the field of political geography, the Principal Investigator (PI) has found little that examines or articulates the manner in which traditional territories of Indigenous populations have been given agency within contemporary settler states. Much existing state theory, for instance, continues to rely heavily upon concepts of "territory" that derive from international relations theory. In the context of settler colonial states like Canada, however, traditional territorial space, such as Denendeh, run counter to accepted norms regarding what is and is not "territory." In this research proposal, the PI outlined the theoretical and practical value of locating impact assessment within this process of creating territory and governable space within the settler state. Theoretically, a nuanced and historical perspective on impact assessment allows us to see how deeply ingrained the ideas and philosophy of impact assessment are to questions of governance. Practically, this approach challenges conventional wisdom about the efficacy of impact assessment techniques and methods, and highlights the importance of pursuing cumulative approaches to studies of the effects of large-scale development.

The research consists of two methods: archival documentation and collection, and interviews. Preliminary stages of archival research have been completed at both Ottawa and Yellowknife, and supplemented with research done at the University of British Columbia. The purpose of this external application is to obtain ethical approval to conduct interviews with persons of interest throughout the Mackenzie Valley region. It is hoped that participants who agree to take part in the research will be able to share stories of their involvement in the political development of Denendeh during and since the period under study, and will further be able to clarify the history from the perspective of those who lived in Denendeh at the time. Participants will be asked to make themselves available for personal interviews and discussions, and may also be invited to take part in larger group discussions involving several members of the community. Participants will not be required to divulge or share information that they do not wish to share, and are not required to provide any specific information or materials.

Local involvement is an essential component of this research. At all periods during this research, it is the hope that any person with knowledge or insights into the history under study will feel comfortable approaching the PI to share experiences or offer guidance where they feel it is necessary.

The purpose for my application for a research license is to solicit input from residents and members of the communities throughout the Mackenzie Valley region who have experience and recollections of involvement related to the forming of the Dene Nation (formerly the Indian Brotherhood of the NWT), the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry, and the Dene Mapping Project that was conducted during the 1970s. The PI is interested to hear from anyone who would like to share their knowledge and experiences of how Dene fieldworkers, residents, and leaders responded and organized submissions to the Mackenzie Valley pipeline hearings (also known as the Berger Inquiry), and about the importance of Dene political organization and activism in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In particular, the PI hopes to hear about the experiences of fieldworkers and political leaders who traveled throughout Denendeh during this period to document the historical land use and ownership of Dene territories. The PI is interested to learn more about the importance of this period and of activities then from the perspective of those who were closely involved in shaping events then.
It is my intention to conduct interviews in a way that ensures all participants feel that their knowledge is valued, and shared in ways that are most comfortable and appropriate to them. There may be perceived social, cultural, and educational benefits to recalling and sharing this history, and the hope that the PI’s role in this research can be to help facilitate the transfer of that history and knowledge to others who might otherwise not have access to it.

Research will likely be published in one or more of three ways: as scholarly or journal article; as a policy or review report, or; as part of the final dissertation. Scholarly and journal articles that make use of comments drawn from participant interviews will be submitted to pertinent participants prior to final submission for publication. Here, participants will have the chance to clarify or amend their comments, or withdraw them altogether if they see fit. Similarly reports - policy, historical, or otherwise - will be made available to participants prior to being finalized. Participants will have the same rights to withdraw or edit their contributions. Finally, all research collected will be subject to publication in the final dissertation which, as required by the University of British Columbia, will be made available to the nation-wide network of university students. Where appropriate, participants will be informed of this prior to publication, and be given the opportunity to review their contributions. Their right to withdraw their contributions remains with them at all times.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from March 1, 2016 to November 3, 2016.