Guest Publication

Decolonizing Environmental Management: A Case Study of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug

by James Wilkes, M.A.

Trent University, 2011, 283 pages

This study was done as a Masters thesis at Trent University and is posted here at the request of the author. 


Canadian environmental management involving Indigenous communities is at a crossroads. First Nation communities in regions holding mineral and other natural resources are coping with legal, economic and political pressures to comply with government and industry demands for resource extraction and exploitation. In light of resulting conflicts, an improved environmental decision-making process is required to avert adverse environmental and cultural impacts and to recognize the rights of Indigenous peoples. My research sought to identify key principles of Indigenous environmental decision-making in Canada through the development of a conceptual framework. This framework was then applied to direct the examination of a mineral exploration conflict on the traditional lands of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) in northwestern Ontario. Case study findings were subsequently used to adapt the framework and provide recommendations for improved environmental decision-making processes involving Indigenous peoples and traditional territories. This thesis highlights the significance of Indigenous worldview, governance and participation in these circumstances. There is a need for improved environmental decision-making models that: i) respect the relationships, responsibilities and knowledges of Indigenous peoples; ii) recognize the rights, laws and autonomy of Indigenous communities; and iii) involve Indigenous people in fair, open and meaningful ways.