Confronting Settler Colonialism When Assessing the Impact of Mining on Indigenous Peoples' Health and Well-Being

Jones, Jennifer
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University of Guelph

In Northern Canada, mechanisms governing mining designed to address health and well-being impacts find their origin in modern-day treaties. However, advancements to environmental assessments, impact benefit agreements, and health impact assessments have yet to reflect calls to redress the legacies of structural injustices in mining governance processes related to settler colonialism, such as residential schools and forced relocation. This dissertation responds to these calls, and argues that in order to better address the impact of mining on Indigenous Peoples’ health and well-being, governance mechanisms should consider how Indigenous Peoples describe the impact of mining, challenge the presumptions underlying governance mandates, and find ways to reflect and consider impacts of settler colonialism as experienced by Indigenous Peoples. This participatory case study, premised on decolonizing research approaches, was conducted with Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation (LSCFN), a self-governing First Nation in Yukon. Data were gathered from a total of 56 interviews with Yukon First Nations Peoples (n=42) and individuals who operationalize mining governance (n=21), and a community focus group meeting with LSCFN, complemented by digital storytelling, research assistant training, and a survey. Key findings, emergent from qualitative analysis and circle sorting, reveal that: 1) attention to intersectional Indigenous values, and not discrete impacts from mining, illustrate the important intersections between and among the loss of culture and language, kinship ties, and access to the land with the diverse impacts of mining operations; and 2) mining governance mechanisms are institutions that often perpetuate loss of identity and dispossession of land and, as a result, undermine modern-day treaty relations. In response, this dissertation introduces potential strategies designed to confront settler assumptions and reconsider what data to assess in mining assessments, based on Indigenous values and relationships with lands. Thus, this research contributes knowledge which may assist in addressing social and political injustices related to mining governance mechanisms within Indigenous territories and homelands. Ultimately, by addressing settler colonialism in the mechanisms governing mining, governments and industry can demonstrate their participation in healing relationships with Indigenous Peoples so that the negotiated benefits and mitigation strategies result in positive health and well-being outcomes for individuals and communities.

Yukon, Indigenous, Impact of settler colonialism, Extractive Industries and Governance, Arctic, Ethical research with Indigenous Peoples, First Nation Health and Well-Being, Impact Benefit Agreements, Health Impact Assessment, Environmental Assessment
Jones, J., Cunsolo, A., & Harper, S. L. (2018). Who is research serving? A systematic realist review of circumpolar environment-related Indigenous health literature. PloS one, 13(5), e0196090.