American Indian/First Nation Place Attachment to Park Lands: The Case of the Nuu-chah-nulth of British Columbia


  • Leo McAvoy
  • Dan McDonald
  • Mark Carlson


American Indians, First Nations, place attachment, parks, resource management, contested terrain.


This article reports the results of a case study of place attachment to park lands among American Indians/First Nations (the Nuu-chah-nulth peoples) in British Columbia, Canada. “First Nations” is the term used for Canada’s aboriginal peoples. Some common values can be identified in nearly all North American aboriginal cultures to a lesser or greater degree. Many share the same cultural values and worldviews, and share the same relationships with lands that once were their traditional areas. Many of today’s national, state and provincial parks were created out of lands that at one time were traditional use areas of aboriginal peoples. Many of these parks now share borders with reservations and reserves, or are located near Indian communities. There is a need for more understanding of American Indian/First Nation views toward the land, and toward parks and protected areas. An examination of place attachment and meanings for the Nuu-chah-nulth can yield information helpful in understanding other North American aboriginal peoples. The article describes the historical relationships the Nuu-chah-nulth people have both with the park and protected lands surrounding their communities and with the government agencies that control these lands. The study uses archive material and contemporary interviews with First Nation people to describe the contemporary meanings of place held by the Nuu-chah-nulth people; examines how historical relationships with park lands influence contemporary place attachment in American Indian/First Nation communities; and, makes recommendations to park management agencies concerning American Indians/First Nations. Recommendations from this research include: park managers need to be aware of the depth of place meanings attached to park lands that used to be in tribal control and more aware of the way lands were obtained for parks and protected areas; managers need to understand that debates over park resources may symbolize cultural reclamation and the ability of a tribal people to determine their own destiny; and park management agencies should consider co-management options for managing parks and protected areas that have cultural and symbolic significance for American Indian/First Nation people, co-management options where American Indian/First Nation people are fully involved in all phases of the management process.





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