Indigenous space, citizenry, and the cultural politics of transboundary water governance

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1 Indigenous space, citizenry, and the cultural politics of transboundary water governance Emma S. Norman Michigan Technological University, United States Discussion Paper 1248 November 2012 This paper explores the cultural politics of water governance through the analysis of a new governing body created by indigenous leaders in the Pacific Northwest of North America The Coast Salish Aboriginal Council. Inclusion of cultural politics in the understanding of environmental resources will, arguably, provide a more nuanced approach to the study of transboundary environmental governance. Considering these politics has important implications for the study of natural resource management for indigenous communities, whose traditional homelands are often bifurcated by contemporary border constructions. The Global Water Forum publishes a series of discussion papers to share the insights and knowledge contained within our online articles. The articles are contributed by experts in the field and provide original academic research; unique, informed insights and arguments; evaluations of water policies and projects; as well as concise overviews and explanations of complex topics. We encourage our readers to engage in discussion with our contributing authors through the GWF website. Keywords: cultural politics, transboundary water governance, Coast Salish, indigenous community, North America. A political border means different things to different people. For those looking at a political map, the dotted lines look unproblematic, even passive. As one gets closer to the site of the border, the materiality of the border becomes clear. For communities that pre-existed the formation of contemporary nation-state boundaries, a border holds much significance. Indigenous communities throughout the world have struggled to maintain a sense of place, collective identity, and connection to culturally relevant resources in the face of geopolitical restructuring. In recent years, a notable trend of rescaling environmental governance from federal to regional models has occurred. 1, 2 In this paper, I explore one example of this rescaling, involving transboundary environmental governance for, and by, Indigenous Suggested Citation: Norman, E. 2012,, GWF Discussion Paper 1248, Global Water Forum, Canberra, Australia. Available online at: space- citizenry- and- the- cultural- politics- of- transboundary- water- governance/

2 Indigenous space, citizenry, and the cultural politics of transboundary water governance communities. This shift relates to banding together for the protection of shared natural resources through the case of the Coast Salish Aboriginal Council. The Coast Salish Aboriginal Council The Coast Salish Aboriginal Council (the Council) is a new governing body created by indigenous leaders in the Pacific Northwest of North America with the aim of managing and protecting transboundary resources for and by their Coast Salish communities. Harvesting marine resources is integral to preserving traditional Coast Salish life ways. These communities are generating methods to address the decline of traditional foods such as salmon and shellfish. Figure 1. Map of Salish sea basin and locations of Coast Salish gatherings. The Council represents more than 70 tribes Rethinking citizenry and bands that span the Canada-United States border, and approximately 72,000 Km2 of the To reframe environmental governance beyond Coast Salish region (Figure 1). The Council a nation-state framework (and realigning to streamlines efforts within tribal communities, traditional indigenous societal constructions), it also hosts an annual Coast Salish Gatherings one where 'citizenry'.4, the Council, tribal leaders, can look 5 to recent Standard discussions of interpretations of governmental officials, and decision-makers citizenship often link citizenry with state, and interface. The Council has emerged as a highly locate citizenry as the place of birth.6 However, important and innovative effort at regional scholarship by Ehrkam and Leitner7, for governance that draws on the strengths of example, argues that "citizenship is not just traditional leadership to successfully deal with about passive criteria of membership in complex national community and/or rights and duties issues.3 transboundary environmental conferred by the state". Rather the social

3 practice of citizenship frequently engages and challenges the state, and thereby should be theorised as actively constructed. recent gathering every Council member added the phrase "And I am Coast Salish" after their name. Disentangling citizenship from the nationstate is particularly relevant for the Coast Salish Aboriginal community, whose identity is based simultaneously on the individual tribe and/or band, yet intricately reliant on the wider Coast Salish community, which is (re)uniting as a singular Nation. This rescaling process aids in political negotiations with 'outside agencies' in regard to resource management, as well as in realigning communities for Aboriginal group sovereignty in critical issues such as salmon management. Transcending borders: Re-imagining space through counter-mapping and strategic essentialism Participants at the gatherings continually emphasise the need to re-establish a sense of unity. Although the Coast Salish communities recognise themselves as a connected group, the realities of border crossing serve as harsh reminders of the politics of occupation and colonially constructed space. In an effort to mitigate the divisiveness of the constructed international border, the gathering organisers seek to reinforce cultural connections by empowering communities and reframing governance structures. For example, at a The gathering also provides the space for the Coast Salish leaders to collaborate and speak with 'one voice'. Establishing consensus within the Salish communities serves an important purpose. It helps prioritise issues and strategically organise efforts to tackle increasingly complex and multi-jurisdictional environmental issues. With a unified voice, the Council has committed to meeting a series of goals and outcomes. Through the development of an environmental action plan, the Council aims to "Conserve and restore the Salish sea ecosystem to a level that ensures the sustainability of the Coast Salish People and our cultural lifeways". 8 The priorities established in this plan represent the contemporary Coast Salish governance model. It also highlights how protecting water resources directly supports subsistence, cultural, and economic activities all of which transcends nation-state boundaries. Establishing consensus also helps in coordinating with external agencies. The regional director of the United States Environmental Protection Agency expressed: "The more unified your voice, the more

4 support we can give you" and that establishing a common position aids in the navigation through large bureaucratic systems". The creation of the Council fosters several tangible outcomes: 1) Data gathering. The Council has paired with federal agencies to test water quality of the Salish sea on their annual Canoe Journey. Acquiring comprehensive and recent data on transboundary water quality has proven to be common problem in the governance of transboundary waters. 9,10 2) Political alignment. Facilitated by the Council, the tribes and bands of the Salish sea have aligned against the farming of Atlantic salmon in the Pacific coast. This issue is a top priority of the Council which lobbies governmental agencies to stop approving licenses for new aquatic farms because of the negative impacts on Pacific fish. The Council s unified voice has broadened the constituency base and reduced legal and administrative costs for individual tribes and communities. 3) Ecosystem indicators. The Council has facilitated the consultation of Coast Salish members in the development of transboundary ecosystem indicators in the Salish sea. Regional divisions of the US Environmental Protection Agency and Environment Canada are now working with Coast Salish tribes and bands to deepen the understanding of the changing environment and to identify priorities for setting ecological benchmarks. 11,12 Also, the agencies are creating an interactive map that will include Traditional Ecological Knowledge of the region and highlight areas of critical concern and priority for tribes and bands. Despite these positive outcomes, progress towards a central goal of the Council salmon recovery remains slow. Extraterritorial environmental threats such as global climate change, over-harvesting, and habitat degradation within river basins and in critical spawning sites complicate efforts of salmon recovery. In addition, the consensus-model of governance slows the decision making process. Concluding reflections This paper helps to document the growing movement within indigenous communities to reclaim traditional governance processes. Overall, my research finds that the aggregation of historically connected tribes and bands for the shared benefit of environmental protection and cultural reunification is a first step in reclaiming space and reconstructing traditional governance mechanisms.

5 This paper marks a deliberate effort to include the cultural politics of the border in the investigations of transboundary environmental governance. Investigating how administrative structures and physical boundaries of water governance are both socially constructed and politically mobilised provide a more nuanced approach to discussions of transboundary environmental governance. Including a critical discussion of the cultural politics of borders (and border making) helps to identify, and thereby address, more effectively, the power dynamics constituted through postcolonial constructions of space. This approach should arguably complement other studies engaging in issues related to the governance of natural resources, particularly flow resources such as water. The full version of this article can be found at: Norman, E. (2012). Cultural Politics and Transboundary Resource Governance in the Salish Sea. Water Alternatives, 5(1), References 1. Norman, E. and Bakker, K. (2009). Transgressing Scales: Transboundary Water Governance across the Canada U.S. Border. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 99 (1): Norman, E., Cohen, A. Bakker, K. (2012 forthcoming). Water without Borders? Canada, the U.S. and Shared Waters. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 3. Thom, B. (2010). The anathema of aggregation: Towards 21st-century self-government in the Coast Salish world. Anthropologica, 52(1), Ehrkamp, P. and Leitner, H. (2003). Beyond national citizenship: Turkish immigrants and the (re)construction of citizenship in Germany. Urban Geography, 24(2), Mostov, J. (2008). Soft borders: Rethinking sovereignty and democracy. London, UK: Palgrave. 6. Brubaker, R. (1992). Citizenship and nationhood in France and Germany, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 7. Ehrkamp, P. and Leitner, H. (2003). Beyond national citizenship: Turkish immigrants and the (re)construction of citizenship in Germany. Urban Geography, 24(2), Coast Salish Gathering Program. (2008). "Our Way: 3rd Annual Coast Salish Gathering", available at: 9. Hill, C.; Furlong, K.; Bakker, K. and Cohen, A. (2008). Harmonization versus subsidiarity: Emerging trends in water governance in Canada. Canada Water Resources Association Journal 33(4): Norman, E Navigating bordered geographies: Water governance along the Canada-US border. PhD thesis. University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. 11. EC and EPA (Environment Canada and US Environmental Protection Agency) Puget Sound Georgia Basin Ecosystem Indicators Report. Seattle, WA, US: US Environmental Protection Agency. (accessed 30 January 2012). 12. EC and EPA (Environment Canada and US Environmental Protection Agency) Puget Sound Georgia Basin Ecosystem Indicators Report. Seattle, WA, US: US Environmental Protection Agency. About the author Dr. Emma S. Norman is an Assistant Professor of geography at Michigan Technological University (MTU). Prior to joining MTU, Emma was a faculty member in the Native Environmental Science Program at Northwest Indian College (Washington State) and was a post-doctoral fellow with the

6 Program on Water Governance at the University of British Columbia. Her research focuses on transboundary water governance, political ecology, and social justice. For more information contact her at or visit About the Global Water Forum The Global Water Forum (GWF) is an initiative of the UNESCO Chair in Water Economics and Transboundary Governance at the Australian National University. The GWF presents knowledge and insights from leading water researchers and practitioners. The contributions generate accessible and evidence-based insights towards understanding and addressing local, regional, and global water challenges. The principal objectives of the site are to: support capacity building through knowledge sharing; provide a means for informed, unbiased discussion of potentially contentious issues; and, provide a means for discussion of important issues that receive less attention than they deserve. To reach these goals, the GWF seeks to: present fact and evidence-based insights; make the results of academic research freely available to those outside of academia; investigate a broad range of issues within water management; and, provide a more in-depth analysis than is commonly found in public media. If you are interested in learning more about the GWF or wish to make a contribution, please visit the site at or contact the editors at The views expressed in this article belong to the individual authors and do not represent the views of the Global Water Forum, the UNESCO Chair in Water Economics and Transboundary Water Governance, UNESCO, the Australian National University, or any of the institutions to which the authors are associated. Please see the Global Water Forum terms and conditions here. Copyright 2012 Global Water Forum. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivative Works 3.0 License. See to view a copy of the license.

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