Cultures in Collision: Traditional Knowledge and Euro-Canadian Governance Processes in Northern Land-Claim Boards


  • Graham White



traditional knowledge, traditional environmental knowledge, co-management, land claims, environmental regulation, bureaucracy, wildlife management, government boards


This paper analyzes how traditional knowledge (TK) is used by two of the co-management and regulatory boards established under the comprehensive land-claim agreements in Canada’s territorial North: the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board (NWMB) and the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board (MVEIRB). A comparison of the defining characteristics of Western “Weberian” bureaucracy, which sets the framework within which these and other boards operate, and central tenets of traditional northern Aboriginal culture highlights the oftentimes stark incompatibilities between what amount to different worldviews. Both boards are shown to have made substantial and sincere efforts at incorporating TK into their practices. The NWMB, with its wildlife-focused mandate, is better able to accommodate TK in its work than is the MVEIRB, which deals with complex legal regulatory issues. Both, however, are limited in their capacity to fully incorporate TK into their operations by the exigencies of the modern bureaucratic state.