Anishinaabe Governance and the Commons: The Whitefeather Forest Initiative for Community Economic Renewal

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"Community-based land use planning has opened up opportunities for indigenous communities to develop resource management activities based on their values and institutions. Many traditional land-use activities of indigenous communities have been identified with complex common property systems. I present a case study which explores the commons system of Pikangikum First Nation, an Anishinaabe community in Ontario, Canada. The objectives of this paper are 1) to identify salient aspects of the traditional governance system of Pikangikum, relating to activities on the land, and 2) to analyze the adaptability of land-use institutions within the scope of a new land-use planning approach. Property rights and management of local resources can be objects of struggles with state resource management agencies. When traplines were registered in Pikangikum, First Nations people were confronted with a new system of rules introduced by the government. However, trappers continued to practice trapping, hunting, and fishing using customary institutions and values rooted in their traditional family areas. Findings were that while boundaries between traplines figured prominently in the introduced system, adaptability and fluidity of movement of Pikangikum people across these boundaries was maintained through Pikangikum social values and institutions. The tenure of traplines held by Pikangikum people is understood by them to prevent incursion by resource developers from outside, as well as to represent an understanding between the community and the resource management agency regarding traditional forms of spatial authority for land-based activities."
indigenous institutions, governance and politics, land tenure and use, community participation