From dispossession to Indigenous economies of care

Lake Malbaie

The recently released Yellowhead Institute Red Paper, Cash Back, features an insight from Ngāi Tahu academic and CERN member Matt Scobie (from the University of Canterbury in Aotearoa New Zealand).

Cash Back documents how the Canadian economy has been built on the dispossession of Indigenous lands and how, in the process, First Nations peoples were robbed of their economic livelihoods and pushed into dependency on the state.

The paper draws parallels between Canada’s colonial history and contemporary developments: from the initial 1670 royal charter by the English Crown which essentially gave what would become over one third of Canada to eighteen investors in the Hudson’s Bay Company, to more recent moves such as the permits and approvals granted to TC Energy’s Coastal Gaslink pipeline on unceded Indigenous (Wet’suwet’en) lands (which has led to impacts that include the removal of people from their homelands).

Against this repeated pattern of dispossession, Cash Back identifies how Indigenous peoples in the land currently known as Canada are pursuing multiple forms of redress, restitution and compensation in order to restore Indigenous economies.

The paper highlights how these efforts are focused on Indigenous economies of care that seek to restore what Anishinaabe scholar Eva Jewell refers to as “Indigenous relationality and stewardship principles.”

In his contribution, Scobie focuses on the importance of transforming systems of accounting and accountability so that the multitude of values intrinsic to Indigeneities might be recognised.

Scobie says, “This effort has to be done community by community, nation by nation, and it involves acknowledging the intimate kinship relations that are shared between humans and non-humans and that exist across generations.”

“This is an exciting challenge which means transforming accounting techniques so they are accountable to Indigenous responsibilities and relationships—this surpasses anything the accountants have so far been able to construct.”

One tool that Scobie looks to is the Community Economies Return on Investment, from chapter 6 of Take Back the Economy, that can be adapted to incorporate the types of social, cultural, and ecological features that communities deem to be important.

Cash Back builds on the Yellowhead Institute’s first Red Paper, Land Back.

Yellowhead Institute is a First Nation-led research centre based in the Faculty of Arts at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario. It draws on First Nation philosophy and is rooted in community networks. The Institute is named after Chief William Yellowhead (1760-1865), who was known as Misko Aki (or “Red Earth”) and was an Anishinaabe leader in what is now Southern Ontario.


Photo by Thomas Lardeau on Unsplash (of Lake Malbaie)

Jenny Cameron