Exerting Sovereignty Through Relational Self-determination: A Case Study of Mineral Development In Stk’emlupsemc te Secwépemc Territory

Jonathan Boron, Sean Markey


With an increasingly political environment developing in western, industrialized resource sectors, the purpose of this paper is to explore Indigenous governments’ ability to assert sovereignty over their territory as it pertains to resource development. Utilizing a relational self-determination framework, we present a case
study of the Stk’emlupsemc te Secwépemc Nation and their role in governance over mineral development in their unceded traditional territory located in the interior of British Columbia, Canada. This article adds to the growing case examples that suggest that First Nations governments in Canada are exerting their selfdetermination strategically, transitioning the role of negotiated agreements from an Impact-Benefit transaction to gain greater participation in resource extraction decision-making. Utilizing tools such as cultural heritage studies, legal action, and developing community-based processes of consent, First Nations governments are gaining more negotiating leverage and influence over decision-making processes for resource development projects. These insights are particularly relevant for Indigenous communities that are considering their options regarding resource development as a path to autonomy and self-governance over their territory,
resources, and economies.

Keywords: Indigenous sovereignty; resource development; relational selfdetermination; negotiated agreements; impact benefit agreements

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The Journal of Rural and Community Development is supported by SSHRC.