How does decolonisation look like? Dara Potts, Hybrid Government Institutions: Reconciliation or Institutional Colonialism? The Case of the Tłįchǫ Peoples, Northwest Territories, MA dissertation, Carleton University, 2019


Abstract: On August 25, 2003, the Tłįchǫ Peoples of the Northwest Territories signed a combined comprehensive land claim and self-government agreement with the Government of Canada. In addition to transferring ancestral lands back to the Tłįchǫ Peoples, the Agreement provides the Tłįchǫ Peoples with the right and freedom to define how their lands and its resources are managed. The establishment of such an Indigenous government presents an opportunity to create new institutions of governance that meaningfully include Indigenous values and that reflect traditional knowledge and practices of the Tłı̨chǫ Peoples. This thesis poses two questions. Has Tłįchǫ self-government resulted in the creation of unique Indigenous government institutions that incorporate Indigenous approaches, customs and habits (Indigenous perspectives)? Have these Indigenous institutions been meaningfully incorporated by formal government institutions at the watershed and territorial level? This study is situated within the broader debates surrounding reconciliation. It argues that meaningful reconciliation requires more than simple acknowledgement of rights or a duty to consult; it requires meaningful integration of Indigenous practices and perspectives into formal institutions, and most importantly, formal government institutions. A combined structural institutional analysis and discourse analysis of formal government institutions and documents of the Tłı̨chǫ Government, the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Management Board and the Government of the Northwest Territories was conducted. Analysis focused on land and water management. It was found that the Tłı̨chǫ Government has created unique hybrid government institutions, grounded upon Tłı̨chǫ history, culture and practices and augmented by modern knowledge and practices through the principle of knowing two ways. However, the integration of Indigenous practices and perspectives remains limited in the formal government institutions and documents, and therefore formal practices, at the watershed and territorial levels. This suggests the possibility of a new “two solitudes” separating Indigenous peoples and their governments from territorial, provincial and federal governments in the day-to-day activities of governance. This study also raises the question of whether hybrid formal government institutions can be created and if they can, whether these can become institutions of reconciliation or remain expressions of institutional colonialism under resilient settler colonialism.

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