Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
Twenty years ago, five Laich-Kwil-Tach and Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations on Vancouver Island, British Columbia formed a society to manage their fisheries. They called it “A-Tlegay,” and today it has the potential to play an important role in decolonization and reconciliation. Currently, A-Tlegay advocates for its members’ fishing rights while enhancing and protecting the resource wherever possible. It supports the food, social and ceremonial fishery, holds communal licenses, conducts research, is present during fisheries openings and is highly respected within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). While facing many challenges, the A-Tlegay Nations created a vehicle to better assert fishing and marine management rights, and they have done so within the state institution of the DFO. In spite of this success, in its work with the DFO, A-Tlegay is treated as a data collector, a cog in a scientific machine that continues to deny it, and their Indigenous knowledge keepers, as legitimate knowers. In this respect there remains a gap in decision making and authorities. Nevertheless, as A-Tlegay increases capacity under the DFO, it maintains its ability to include Indigenous knowledge; knowledge that is productive of a 21st-century ontology as informed by Western practice but also by the responsibilities and respect that are enrolled in 19th-century Laich-Kwil-Tach/Kwakwaka’wakw ontology. From this position, there is potential to expand the nations’ rights, authorities and jurisdiction through treaty or reconciliation agreements, but for these high level discussions to be successful, we must expose Western scientific hegemony and invite open dialogue with other intellectual heritages.