Cultural Preservation and Self-Determination Through Land Use Planning: A Framework for the Fort Albany First Nation
Minkin, Daniel Paul
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The Fort Albany First Nation (FAFN) in Ontario’s western James Bay region is interested in undertaking a community-based process of land use planning for its traditional territory, in order to respond to increasing resource development pressure within the area. To construct a framework for such a process, semi-structured interviews were held with 12 members of the FAFN and two staff members of the Mushkegowuk Council, which represents the FAFN at the regional level. Interviews focused on the substantive values that community members see as worthy of protection or management through the land use plan, and on the procedural values that ought to guide the process. In addition, three group discussions on valued ecosystem components were observed, to supplement interview data on substantive values. The results indicate that the community is concerned with preserving their way of life in the face of resource development pressure and social change, by protecting subsistence resources and strengthening the transmission of culture. Substantively, this means that the land use plan needs to protect wildlife and its habitat, navigable waterways, and water quality. Procedurally, this means that the planning process should engage the entire community in discussions of its cultural identity and connection to the land, in order to build a genuine consensus on appropriate land uses. It was felt that the process should be grassroots-based, that the FAFN should initiate the process autonomously, and that the planning process should pursue the twin goals of community self-determination and cultural continuity. It was also felt that neighbouring first nations should be invited to participate in the process or to conduct separate planning activities streamlined with those of the FAFN, because of overlap in traditional territories. At the conclusion of this thesis, a set of recommendations outlines a planning process that is appropriate to the needs and values expressed by participants. This framework draws upon the principles of empowerment, advocacy, and collaborative planning, applying them to the local cultural context. It relies upon social learning as a vehicle by which to develop a community-wide vision for the traditional territory of the FAFN.