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Eurocentric Lens to Indigenous Methods of Sharing Knowledge in Jasper National Park, Canada

Jason W. Johnston, Courtney W. Mason

Abstract


Prior to the current conservation and preservation mandates, national parks in Canada were established in part to develop tourism and resource extraction industries. Indigenous peoples were often forcibly relocated to reserves, their landuse practices made illegal, and their rights ignored. Jasper National Park (JNP), the largest park in the Canadian Rockies (11,228 km2), attracts millions of annual visitors. While numerous Indigenous nations have traditional territory within the current borders of the park, JNP was established without consultation with, or consideration for, those nations. This lack of consideration endures today with the deficiency of the representations of Indigenous peoples in interpretive signage and programming in JNP and the lack of integration in decision making processes. While visiting JNP, visitors are exposed to some of the cultural histories of Indigenous peoples. These Indigenous histories are overwhelmingly presented from Eurocentric perspectives. This perpetuates negative stereotypes of Indigenous peoples that are problematic in several respects. Our research was guided by Indigenous methodologies. Members of the Jasper Indigenous Forum (JIF) and the JNP management team participated in semistructured interviews that provide insight into how park management works with Indigenous peoples in an attempt to incorporate their cultural histories in respectful and impactful ways. The JIF, composed of 26 Indigenous communities, was not established until 2006. JNP management currently have no legal duty to act on the JIF’s recommendations or concerns, as the JIF remains an unofficial advisory committee. Many Indigenous peoples in the region have lost their connections to some of their cultural histories due to the forced removals from the park and subsequent waves of targeted cultural repression instituted by the Canadian government. While there is a desire to increase Indigenous representation in JNP, funding and institutional constraints within Parks Canada are major barriers. Few tangible suggestions or related projects have been undertaken to remedy inadequate representations. JNP management displays a lack of appreciation for, and understandings of, the negative impacts misrepresentations can have on Indigenous communities. This research suggests that increasing cultural awareness and acting on JIF recommendations will not only benefit JNP management, but also park visitors, and Indigenous communities alike.

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Keywords


Indigenous peoples; representation; national park management; Jasper; cultural awareness

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.18666/JPRA-2020-10251

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