Illuminating Community Experience and Perception of Modern Treaty Implementation Through Photovoice: Photography and Stories From Huu-ay-aht First Nations
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Canada is currently operationalizing reconciliation efforts that stress the establishment of respectful and just relationships between Indigenous peoples and provincial and federal governments. British Columbia (BC) is unique among Canadian provinces and territories, given its lack of historical treaty agreements with Canadian governments. In April 2011, Huu-ay-aht First Nations joined four other Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations to begin implementation of the Maa-nulth Final Agreement (also known as the Maa-nulth Treaty) with BC and Canada, one of only three modern treaties that had been negotiated in the province at that time. Through narrative analysis of a case study using photovoice and participant observation involving 33 participants, I explore the experiences and perceptions of Huu-ay-aht citizens regarding the early years of treaty implementation. Modern treaties are often theoretically criticized for being extensions of assimilative and colonial processes. However, empirical findings from this community-engaged study exemplify positive change, or the potential for change, and enhanced community autonomy, as seen and experienced through increases in control over Treaty Lands. Participants’ data show that this control is effectively counteracting some of the impacts of dependency and suffering created by decades of destructive and racist Canadian federal and provincial government policies, structures, and services. Structural, environmental and health concerns that remain as treaty implementation continues are also discussed. This case study contributes to a better understanding of the experiences and perceptions of Indigenous peoples implicated in modern treaty relationships, experiences and perceptions that (as yet) are not adequately represented in the literature.