Understanding Power in Indigenous Protected Areas: the Case of the Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks
This article draws on concepts of power from political ecology and political sociology to describe the ways that the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation (a Canadian indigenous people) have attempted to realize their goals under the broad rubric of their Tribal Parks initiative. Like some other Indigenous peoples’ and Community Conserved territories and Areas (ICCAs), the Tribal Parks example features de facto legal pluralism, lack of clear tenure and/or legal recognition, oppositional and/or cooperative relationships with other actors, and situations where local actors are influenced by intersecting global discourses on conservation and indigenous rights and culture. Globally, ICCAs are a form of protected area and are potentially critical in terms of meeting ambitious global protected area targets as well in addressing issues related to the rights and well-being of indigenous peoples. As such, understanding the ‘customary law or other effective means’, or the dynamics of power through which indigenous groups are able (or not) to realize their protected area goals is of global significance. This article illuminates the contours of power through two specific Tribal Parks case studies: the first involves contestations over industrial logging, while the second focuses on the establishment and implementation of what came to be called an ‘ecosystem services fee’ paid by ecotourism outfitters operating within a Tribal Park. Results highlight that the Tla-o-qui-aht have drawn power from different sources and exercised it by different means including turning to the Courts in a context of legal uncertainty, protest and direct action coupled with appeals to public opinion, developing and drawing on relationships with both local and non-local interests, and by strategically ‘tapping into’ prominent discourses.
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