Young Scholars tackle indigenous enfranchisement & settler imagination

Young Scholars Essay Prize – RAVEN’s  2015 winners tell us about their essays.

Out of this year’s entries, Danette Jubinville’s paper entitled (In)Voluntarily Enfranchised: Bill C-3 and the Need for Strengthening Kinship Laws in Treaty 4 was chosen by the adjudicating panel as the winner.   Ms Jubinville’s essay gives voice to her personal connection to the impact of the past and current policies of Indigenous ‘enfranchisement’ – and the resulting implications of being a “nonstatus Indian” despite Cree and Anishinaabe ancestry.

Danette Jubinville:  I wrote this paper in the fourth year of my bachelor’s degree in First Nations and Indigenous Studies at UBC. This topic is obviously very close to my heart, as enfranchisement has affected my family so negatively. The process of researching this paper helped me to understand the issue from a legal and political standpoint, and also see the bigger picture. I got excited when I looked at the number of people who supposedly enfranchised voluntarily, before and after the more oppressive compulsory enfranchisement laws were introduced. I realized that the numbers were probably not what they seemed, as my grandmother’s story illustrates. No one was really talking about that in the literature I reviewed, and I found it to be compelling – another indication of how coercive and manipulative the state is willing to be, in order to take away our land, our resources, and our dignity.

Issues related to membership, belonging, and identity are at the forefront of Indigenous social justice movements. Considering how colonialism has unfolded in Canada, working our way through these issues requires close attention not only to legal and political histories, but also to our hearts. These conversations are at times extremely uncomfortable and disheartening. When I connected the enfranchisement policy to our treaty and our Indigenous laws, I realized how empowering it is to know your rights (and also your responsibilities). I am glad RAVEN is bringing awareness to these issues, and also supporting efforts to rectify them.

Winning this award was a great honour, and a highlight of my undergraduate experience. Miigwech to the RAVEN adjudicating panel for encouraging young scholars, and helping to remind us when we are the right path.

Sarah King’s paper, Aesthetic Alibis: Settler Imaginations in Creating and Maintaining Pacific Spirit Regional Park, was chosen as the second place entry.   

Sarah King:  My paper emerged out of a new course at UBC, co-taught by Nuu-chah-nulth law scholar Johnny Mack and Nehiyaw scholar Matt Wildcat: Indigenous Law and the Settler State. As a First Nations and Indigenous Studies and Political Science double major, I am familiar with many of the ways politics are ever-present in our lives, but somehow never thought about law the same way: in a broad and normative sense. Thus, in thinking about a final paper topic, I knew I wanted to reflect on law in my own relationships and communities.

As the paper explains, living in a wealthy neighbourhood on the edge of Pacific Spirit Regional Park was an odd experience for my roommates and I. Odder still were the instances of colonial manoeuvring I discovered in the history of settler activism around the park. One incredible example I came across was a song from a rally in 2007, which includes the line “First Nations don’t get us wrong / and please join us in this song / you were here first, but both of us thirst / for parklands in an urban landscape.”

Importantly, there are alternatives to singing along with the tunes of settler colonialism, some of which were evident in the practices of my own communities. While brief, the conclusion of the paper is dedicated to these small but significant ways we can use to turn towards the laws of the communities who have pre-existing and on-going relationships with the lands we live on.

The staff and volunteers at RAVEN are also enacting support for other courses of action; RAVEN’s own fundraising and educational work is a great example of not needing to be in a courtroom to contribute to building more just legal relationships. It was an incredible honour to have received this prize, and to have met some of the people contributing to this work with their labour, scholarship, and activism.

RAVEN’s 2015 adjudicating panel consisted of: 

Dara Culhane – Professor, Anthropology, SFU

Glen S. Coulthard – Professor, Politic Science, First Nations Studies Program, UBC

Dawn Hoogeveen – Graduate Student, UBC

Max Ritts – Graduate Student, UBC; RAVEN volunteer

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