GATE Director Sarah Kaplan hosted a discussion with Dr. Shalene Wuttunee Jobin, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Native Studies, Director of the Indigenous Governance program, and a Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Governance at the University of Alberta. She is the author of Upholding Indigenous Economic Relationships: Nehiyawak Narratives (UBC Press, 2023). Together they had a thought-provoking conversation about the way Indigenous peoples move with and between economic structures imposed by the settler state with a particular focus on prairie Indigenous life and philosophy.
Shalene bases her work in the knowledge systems of the nehiyawak ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐊᐧᐠ (Cree people) – whose distinctive principles and practices shape their economic behaviour. She emphasized that economic exploitation was the initial and most enduring relationship between early settlers and Indigenous peoples: capitalism and colonialism are intimately intertwined. In her book, she writes, “Those Indigenous practices that fall principally outside capitalism, such as ceremonial practices deemed to fit only within the spiritual realm, are seen as noneconomic. But governance and economic relationships are embedded in ceremonies of renewal. Settler colonialism makes silos of these different practices; by removing the blinders to recognize Cree economic relationships in everyday actions and in sublime practices, we witness acts of resurgence as strong antidotes to colonial dissonance.”
She also highlighted that Indigenous economic relationships are constitutive: connections to the land, water, and other human and nonhuman beings form who we are as individuals and as peoples.
“There’s this link between the exploitation of mother earth [..] and the impacts of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and Two Spirit peoples. Especially in places where I live, where resource extraction is so prevalent, it creates these imbalances of relationships. It also creates structures where exploitation happens. Often times Indigenous women are negatively impacted with places where there are man camps and different things where resource extraction happens.”
– Shalene Wuttunee Jobin
Drawing upon Cree narratives and contemporary nehiyawak examples, Shalene provided valuable tools and advice for organizing to engage in community and economic development, planning, and governance.
Watch Shalene Jobin discuss the impact of resource extraction on Indigenous communities.