Revitalizing Indigenous Women’s Water Governance Roles Through Indigenous Legal Orders and Water Stories

Monday, 1 July 2019
Dr Patricia Hania

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Call to Action Report placed an onus on government and industry sectors to incorporate Indigenous law into policy and practices. Recent trends in the Indigenous law and Indigenous water governance scholarship points to the recognition of Indigenous stories as a source of First Nation law (Borrows, Napoleon and Friedland), and Indigenous women holding the governance authority to ‘speak for water’ (Craft, McGregor). In this paper, we consider the TRC recommendations as well as the recent scholarship and recognize that mining is an extractive activity that impacts aquatic systems and implicates Indigenous women’s traditional governance function. However, in mainstream regulatory institutions, Indigenous women’s participation in decision-making (e.g., environmental assessment, impact and benefit agreements, participatory water governance processes) is limited. In this paper, we argue that Indigenous women’s participation in decision-making regimes can be strengthen by recognizing Indigenous women’s governance authority in relation to water and their identity as Indigenous water knowledge holders, as expressed through stories. In support of the TRC challenge to incorporate Indigenous law, we ask: Do Indigenous stories coupled with Indigenous women’s water governance authority offer a way forward to incorporate Indigenous law and women into the government regulatory and mining industry’s policies and practices?