Water governance and Indigenous governance: Towards a synthesis


In Canada, Indigenous peoples have sui generis rights and millennia of stewardship on their traditional homelands. However, non-Indigenous understandings of those sui generis rights, let alone knowledge of Indigenous history, Indigenous knowledge, and understanding of Indigenous governance and self-determination goals, is generally poor in Canadian society. This paper explores the conceptual gap that exists between underlying principles, values and norms of Indigenous governance within the specific context of contemporary water governance in Canada. The province of British Columbia, Canada is used as an empirical setting to illustrate the issues considered. In this province, numerous organizations involved are attempting to collaborate with First Nations peoples to address water issues. This paper questions the underlying assumptions in the collaborative governance literature relative to assertions surrounding self-determination found in Indigenous governance scholarship. We conclude (1) that both the scholarship and the practice of water governance do not sufficiently address concerns relating to Indigenous governance, Indigenous pre-and post-colonial history, and varying concepts of self-determination, and (2) the ability of collaborative processes to address current and emerging governance challenges in the water realm depends in part on the extent to which assumptions held by non-Indigenous and Indigenous peoples can be reconciled.

Full Text:



Akpabio, E. M. 2011. Water and People: Perception and Management Practices in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. Society and Natural Resources 24: 584-596.

Alfred, T. 2005. Wasase: Indigenous Pathways of Action and Freedom. Toronto: Broadview Press.

Alfred, T. 2009. Peace, Power, Righteousness: An Indigenous Manifesto, 2nd edition. Don Mills: Oxford University Press.

Ansell, C. and Gash, A. 2007. Collaborative governance in theory and practice. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 18(4): 543-571.

Aylward, B., Bandyopadhyay, J., Belausteguigotia, J., Borkey, P., Cassar, A., Meadors, L., Saade, L., Siebentritt, M., Stein, R., Tognetti, S., Tortajada, C., Allan, T., Bauer, C., Guimaraes-Pereira, A., Kendall, M., Kiersch, B., Landry, C., Mestre Rodriguez, E., Meinzen-Dick, R., Moellendorg, S., Pagiola, S., Porras, I., Ratner, B., Shea, A., Swallow, B., Thomich, T., and Voutchkov, N. 2005. Freshwater ecosystem services, Chapter in Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Policy Responses, Volume 3, ed. K. Chopra et al., 213-255. Washington, DC: Island Press.

Battiste, M. 2000. Maintaining Aboriginal identity, language, and culture in modern society, Chapter in Recliaming Indigenous Voice and Vision, ed. M. Battiste, 192-208. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Berkes, F. 2008. Sacred Ecology, 2nd edition. London: Routledge.

Boelens, R., Getches, D., and Guevara-Gil, A. 2010. Water struggles and the politics of identity, Chapter in Out of the Mainstream: Water Rights, Politics and Identity, ed. R. Boelens, D. Getches, and A. Guevara-Gil, 3-26. London: Earthscan.

Borrows, J. 2005. Crown and Aboriginal Occupations of Land: A History & Comparison, Background Paper Prepared for the Ipperwash, Ontario Inquiry, 15 October 2005.

British Columbia Assembly of First Nations. 2010. Letter to Honourable Barry Penner, BC Ministry of Environment on Water Act Modernization, Submitted April 30, 2010. Unpublished.

British Columbia Ministry of Environment. 2010. British Columbia's Water Act Modernization: Technical Background Report. Victoria: BC Ministry of Environment.

Carter, J. L. 2008. Thinking outside the framework: equitable research partnerships for environmental research in Australia. The Geographical Journal 174(1): 63-75.

Coates, K. 2004. A Global History of Indigenous Peoples: Struggle and Survival. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

Coldwater Indian Band. 2010. Water Act Modernization Submission, Letter to British Columbia Minstry of Environment, April 29, 2010. Unpublished.

Coombes, B. 2003. The Historicity of Institutional Trust and the Alienation of Maori Land for Catchment Control at Mangatu, New Zealand. Environment and History 9: 333-359.

Corntassel, J. 2003. Who is Indigenous? Peoplehood' and Ethnonationalist Approaches to Rearticulating Indigenous Identity. Nationalism & Ethnic Politics 9(1): 75-100.

Craps, M., Dewulf, A., Mancero, M., Santos, R., and Bouwen, R. 2004. Constructing Common Ground and Re-creating Differences Between Professional and Indigenous Communities in the Andes. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology 14: 378-393.

Cullen, D., McGee, G., Gunton, T. I., and Day, J. C. 2010. Collaborative planning in complex stakeholder environments: An evaluation of a two-tiered collaborative planning model. Society and Natural Resources 23: 332-350.

Dalton, T. M. 2006. Exploring participants' views of participatory coastal and marine resource management processes. Coastal Management 34: 351-367.

de Lo, R. C. and Plummer, R. 2010. Climate change, adaptive capacity and governance for drinking water in Canada, Chapter in Adaptive Capacity and Environmental Governance, ed. D. Armitage and R. Plummer, Springer Series on Environmental Management, 157-178. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

Deloria, V. and Wildcat, D. R. 2001. Power and Place: Indian Education in America. Colorado: Fulcrum Resources.

Duit, A., Galaz V.R., Eckerberg, K., and Ebbesson, J. 2010. Governance, complexity, and resilience. Global Environmental Change 20: 363-368.

Duit, A. and Galaz, V. 2008. Governance and complexity -- emerging issues for governance theory. Governance: An International Journal of Policy, Administration and Institutions 21(3): 311-335.

Durant, R. F., Fiorino, D. J., and O'Leary, R. 2004. Introduction, Chapter in Environmental Governance Reconsidered Challenges, Choices, and Opportunities, ed. R. F. Durant, D. J. Fiorino, and R. O'Leary, 1-27. Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: The MIT Press.

First Nations Summit. 2010. Water Act Modernization Initiative, Submission Letter to the BC ministry of Environment, Water Stewardship Division, April 30, 2010. Unpublished.

Fischer, F. 2000. Citizens, Experts, and the Environment. Durham NC: Duke University Press.

Fish, R. D., Ioris, A. A. R., and Watson, N. M. 2010. Integrating water and agricultural management: collaborative governance for a complex policy problem. Science of the Total Environment 408(2010): 5623-5630.

Fraser, D., Gaydos, J., Karlsen, E., and Rylko, M. 2006. Collaborative science, policy development and program implementation in the transboundary Georgia Basin/Puget Sound ecosystem. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 113(1): 49-69.

Gray, B. 1985. Conditions facilitating interorganizational collaboration. Human Relations 38(10): 911-936.

Holley, C., Gunningham, N., and Shearing, C. 2012. The New Environmental Governance. London, UK: Routledge.

Holling, C. S. and Meffe, G. K. 1996. Command and control and the pathology of natural resource management. Conservation Biology 10(2): 328-337.

Ingram, H. 2008. Beyond universal remedies for good water governance: a political and contextual approach, Paper in Water For Food: Quantity and Quality in a Changing World, Zaragoza, Spain, June 24-27, 2008, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California.

Innes, J. E. and Booher, D. E. 2010. Planning With Complexity: An Introduction to Collaborative Rationality for Public Policy. New York: Routledge.

Irlbacher-Fox, S. 2009. Finding Dahshaa: Self-Government, Social Suffering, and Aboriginal Policy in Canada. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Jackson, S. and Morrison, J. 2007. Indigenous perspectives in water management, reforms, and implementation, Chapter in Managing Water for Australia: the Social and Institutional Challenges, ed. K. Hussey and S. Dovers, 23-43. Collingwood, Victoria: CSIRO Publishing.

Jackson, S., Storrs, M., and Morrison, J. 2005. Recognition of Aboriginal rights, interests and values in river research and management: Perspectives from northern Australia. Ecological Management & Restoration 6(2): 105-110.

Jackson, S., Tan, P. L., Mooney, C., Hoverman, S., and White, I. 2012. Principles and guidelines for good practice in Indigenous engagement in water planning. Journal of Hydrology [online]: 1-24.

Kettl, D. F. (ed). 2002. Environmental Governance: A Report on the Next Generation of Environmental Policy., Washington, DC, USA: Brookings Institution Press.

Kitimaat Village Council. 2010. Water Act Modernization Submission, Letter submitted to the BC Ministry of Environment, Water Stewardship Division, April 30, 2010. Unpublished.

Ktunaxa Nation Council. 2010. Qat'muk Declaration. Unpublished.

Ladner, K. 2004. Up the creek: Fishing for a new constitutional order, Paper in 76th Annual Conference of the Canadian Political Science Association,

Leach, W. D., Pelkey, N. W., and Sabatier, P. A. 2002. Stakeholder partnerships as collaborative policymaking: evaluation criteria applied to watershed management in California and Washington. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 21(4): 645-670.

Lemos, M. C. and Agrawal, A. 2006. Environmental governance. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 31: 297-325.

Lostarnau, C., Oyarzn, J., Maturana, H., Soto, G., Seoret, M., Soto, M., Rtting, T. S., Amezaga, J. M., and Oyarzn, R. 2011. Stakeholder participation within the public environmental system in Chile: Major gaps between theory and practice. Journal of Environmental Management 92: 2470-2478.

McGregor, D. 2004. Traditional ecological knowledge and sustainable development: Towards coexistence, Chapter in In the Way of Development: Indigenous Peoples, Life Projects and Globalization., ed. M. Blaser, H. A. Feit, and G. McRae, 72-91. London and New York: Zed Books.

Murphy, M. and Arenas, D. 2010. Through Indigenous Lenses: Cross-Sector Collaborations with Fringe Stakeholders. Journal of Business Ethics 94: 103-121.

Norman, E. and Bakker, K. 2009. Transgressing scales: water governance across the CanadaU.S. Borderland. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 99(1): 99-117.

Okanagan Nation Alliance. 2010. Water Act Modernization, Letter Submitted to British Columbia Ministry of the Environment regarding Water Act Modernization, April 2010. Unpublished.

Paci, C., Tobin, A., and Robb, P. 2002. Reconsidering the Canadian Environmental Impact Assessment Act: A place for traditional environmental knowledge. Environmental Impact Assessment Review 22: 111-127.

Penikett, T. 2006. Reconciliation: First Nations Treaty Making in British Columbia. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre Ltd.

Phare, M. A. 2009. Denying the Source: The Crisis of First Nations Water Rights. Surrey: Rocky Mountain Books.

Phillipson, J., Lowe, P., Proctor, A., and Ruto, E. 2012. Stakeholder engagement and knowledge exchange in environmental research. Journal of Environmental Management 95: 56-65.

Pinel, S. E. 2009. Collaborating to CompeteThe Governance Implications of Stakeholder Agendas at Mount Pulag National Park, the Philippines. Planning Theory & Practice 10(1): 105-129.

Plummer, R., Kulczycki, C., and Stacey, C. 2006. How are we working together?: A framework to assess collaborative arrangements in nature-based tourism. Current Issues in Tourism 9(6): 499-515.

Powderface, S. 1992. Self-government means biting the hand that feeds us, Chapter in Pathways to Self-Determination: Canadian Indians and the Canadian State, ed. L. Little Bear, M. Boldt, and J. A. Long, 164-168. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Raymond, C. M., Fazey, J., Reed, M. S., Stringer, L. C., Robinson, G. M., and Evely, A. C. 2010. Integrating local and scientific knowledge for environmental management. Journal of Environmental Management 91: 1766-1777.

Rogers, P. and Hall, A. W. 2003. Effective Water Governance, TEC Background Papers No. 7, Global Water Partnership Technical Committee (TEC) Background Papers. Stockholm, Sweden: Global Water Partnership.

Shackeroff, J. M. and Campbell, L. M. 2007. Traditional ecological knowledge in conservation research: Problems and prospects for their constructive engagement. Conservation and Society 5(3): 343-360.

Shrubsole, D. 2004. Canadian Perspectives on Integrated Water Resources Management. Cambridge, ON: Canadian Water Resources Association.

Singh, R. K., Pretty, J., and Pilgram, S. 2010. Traditional knowledge and biocultural diversity: learning from tribal communities for sustainable development in northeast India. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management 53(4): 511-533.

Sinixt First Nation. 2010. Consultation with the Sinixt Nation - Water Act Modernization, Letter to the Ministry of Environment, Water Stewardship Division, April 29, 2010. Unpublished.

Smith, L. T. 1999. Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples 5220. Dunedin: St Martin's Press.

Spak, S. 2005. The position of Indigenous knowledge in Canadian co-management organizations. Anthropologica 47(2): 233-246.

Stringer, L. C., Dougill, A. J., Fraser, E., Hubacek, K., Prell, C., and Reed, M. S. 2006. Unpacking "participation" in the adaptive management of social-ecological systems: a critical review. Ecology and Society 11(2): online.

Takeda, L. and Ropke, I. 2010. Power and contestation in collaborative ecosystem-based management: The case of Haida Gwaii. Ecological Economics 70: 178-188.

Tan, P. L., Bowmer, K. H., and Mackenzie, J. 2012. Deliberative tools for meeting the challenges of water planning in Australia. Journal of Hydrology [In Press].

Taylor, B. and de Lo, R.Conceptualizations of local knowledge in collaborative environmental governance. Geoforum In Press.

Treaty 8 First Nations. 2010. Water Act Modernization - Initial Submission, Letter to British Columbia Ministry of Environment, Water Stewardship Division, April 30, 2010. Unpublished.

Turner, D. 2006a. This Is Not a Peace Pipe: Towards a Critical Indigenous Philosophy. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Turner, D. 2006b. This Is Not a Peace Pipe: Towards a Critical Indigenous Philosophy. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Turner, N. J. and Berkes, F. 2006. Knowledge, learning and the evolution of conservation practice for social-ecological system resilience. Human Ecology 34(4): 479-494.

Union of BC Indian Chiefs. 2010. Water Act Modernization Initiative: Submission to The Ministry of Environment, Water Stewardship Division Government of British Columbia. Vancouver: UBCIC.

United Nations General Assembly. 2007. United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: United Nations.

United Nations World Water Assessment Programme. 2003. Water for People, Water for Life: The United Nations World Water Development Report. New York: UNESCO Publishing.

Vugteveen, P., Lenders, H. J. R., Devilee, J. L. A., Leuven, R. S. E. W., van der Vereen, R. J. H. M., Weiring, M. A., and Hendriks, A. J. 2012. Stakeholder value orientations in water management. Society and Natural Resources 23: 805-821.

Walkem, A. 2006. The land is dry: indigenous peoples, water, and environmental justice, Chapter in Eau Canada: The Future of Canada's Water, ed. K. Bakker, 303-319. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.


  • There are currently no refbacks.