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People, Place and Season: Reflections on Gwich'in Ordering of Access to Resources in an Arctic Landscape

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Johnson, Leslie Main; Andre, Daniel
Conference: Constituting the Commons: Crafting Sustainable Commons in the New Millennium, the Eighth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Bloomington, IN
Conf. Date: May 31-June 4
Date: 2000
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/1065
Sector: General & Multiple Resources
Social Organization
Region: North America
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources
institutional analysis
indigenous institutions
arctic regions
resource management
Abstract: "It is a tenet of common property theory that local groups of people tend to evolve institutions to allocate common pool resources among community members in ways which are economically and ecologically sustainable. We are interested in the applicability of this type of analysis to subsistence systems of non-agricultural indigenous peoples. This paper is a preliminary examination of informal institutions of the Gwich'in of the Northwest Territories in Canada and how they contribute to ordering access to resources through the seasons by Gwich'in. This analysis is based on conversations by Johnson with Gwich'in and other people who have worked with Gwich'in people, and her fieldwork with Gwich'in from Fort McPherson and Tsiigehtchic in 1999 and 2000, and the insights and experiences of Andre regarding Gwich'in seasonal use of land and resources. This paper considers the resource use of the people of Fort McPherson and Tsiigehtchic. It does not deal with the mixed Gwich'in-Inuvialuit-non-Indigenous communities of Aklavik and Inuvik, which are historically more complex. We will consider three principal areas in this analysis: fishing, trapping, and caribou. "It must be emphasized that this discussion uses an analytic framework which differs in important ways from the usual perspective of Gwich'in people. The conceptualization of diverse elements of traditional subsistence as 'resources,' for example, and the discussion of these as things separate from a seasonal flow of life is not an indigenous perspective. Nonetheless, this approach can reveal aspects of Gwich'in life that allow us to compare aspects of the Gwich'in way of living on their land with that of other peoples in diverse areas of the world."

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