When Letitia Pokiak was following the developments in 2019 and 2020 on the Moist’suwet’en and Unist’ot’en territories in B.C., and with the Dakota Entry Pipeline in the US, she felt the Indigenous teams had been being marginalized on their territories.
Each areas had been websites of main conflicts between First Nations and power firms and governments.
Pokiak, who was doing her grasp’s diploma in anthropology on the College of Victoria on the time, mentioned she thought business and governments had been making an attempt to develop on Indigenous lands “with out actually meaningfully consulting with these Indigenous teams,” she mentioned.
“It actually made me wish to handle how these conditions had been enjoying out.”
She determined to check how the dearth of session with Indigenous teams affected their well-being. She additionally questioned how related dynamics performed out in relation to the local weather disaster.
She went house to Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., within the Inuvialuit Settlement Area, and interviewed 18 elders, harvesters and land declare negotiators, together with her uncle Randall. She sought their views on the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline, whether or not the Inuvialuit land declare settlement was working the way in which it had been envisioned, and on how local weather change had affected the area in the previous 40 years.
Pokiak compiled the knowledge she gathered in her grasp’s thesis, during which she concluded that business and governments ought to “cease what they’re doing and actually contemplate these Indigenous teams who’re making efforts to rebuild sovereignty and rebuild their nations inside their very own values and future-making efforts.”
Historical past for instance
A part of the thesis addresses the two-year Berger Commission that seemed on the potential impacts of two proposed pipelines within the Mackenzie Valley within the mid-70s.
The fee consulted extensively with Indigenous peoples within the North, greater than some other resource-related session till that point. It concluded that Indigenous land claims must be settled earlier than industrial improvement, and known as for additional research in addition to a 10-year ban on pipeline building within the Mackenzie Valley.
“I needed to doc that for instance that governments at one level meaningfully consulted with Indigenous peoples,” Pokiak mentioned.
Pokiak additionally documented the Inuvialuit efforts to barter a land declare that resulted within the Inuvialuit Closing Settlement. Signed in 1984 after 10 years of negotiation, the agreement units out the circumstances beneath which improvement can happen on Inuvialuit land and the function the Inuvialuit play in that improvement.
She mentioned her grandfather, Bertram Pokiak — Angagaq in Inuvialuktun — was her inspiration.
He labored as considered one of 217 area staff whereas the Inuvialuit had been negotiating the settlement. He went into folks’s houses and spoke with households, elders and harvesters, recording land use for his or her territory, creating maps of conventional place names and documenting the place totally different households established tenting grounds and looking areas.
“He made positive each household was consulted,” she mentioned.
Pokiak mentioned her conventional upbringing in Tuktoyaktuk knowledgeable her analysis.
“Simply having that context and background offered me the instruments with which I may write about significant session and significant participation and which means making during which, as Inuvialuit, we’re capable of have a future based mostly on our personal values and our personal sovereignty,” she mentioned, including that she wrote her master’s thesis as a narrative that revered Indigenous practices of storytelling.
For her efforts, Pokiak was lately awarded a prestigious award for her masters thesis from the Western Affiliation of Graduate Colleges, which represents all of the graduate faculties in western Canada, 14 U.S. states and western Mexico.
Her graduate supervisor at UVic, Prof. Brian Thom, mentioned Pokiak “understands how data might be mobilized on the earth and what sorts of questions that we have to ask to have the ability to transfer our communities ahead.”
“I feel that is actually a part of her lived expertise,” he mentioned. “She requested actually good questions and I feel not all people can try this.”
Pokiak mentioned she encourages Indigenous folks to remain in class and make the most of the funding and different alternatives obtainable to them.
As for the award, she’s nonetheless letting that sink in.
“I imply, it is nonetheless very surreal,” she mentioned.
She mentioned she’s undecided what she desires to do subsequent — regulation college or a Ph.D. are choices — however she is aware of she desires to place her schooling and expertise to make use of to assist Indigenous communities in a technique or one other.