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  • Consent, Collaboration, Treaty:Toward Anti-Colonial Praxis in Indigenous–Settler Research Relations
  • Brian Noble (bio)


The contributors to this thematic section issue explore the contours of research praxes for anthro-pologists, and other engaged scholars, committed to strengthening anti-colonial and decolonial engagement in settler–Indigenous encounters.1 Animating these articles are three quite charged, and increasingly explicit features of research engagement in such encounters: first, seeking the consent of Indigenous peoples we engage as peoples; second, advancing respectful collaborative research relations as persons; and, third, taking seriously the over-arching idea and practice of treaty as a guide to acting honourably together as researchers, persons and peoples. These explorations are offered in response to our shared, empirical understandings that settler–Indigenous relations are still dogged by the unrelenting double problem of colonial dispossession/colonial imposition, and in response to the rising currents of decolonial action through mutual engagement and alliance-building between Indigenous and settler peoples—Idle No More being but one prominent example of such engagement.2

The four articles in this series offer examples of how these three modes of engagement are woven into thinking, praxis and the lived interchanges between Indigenous and settler peoples. Spurred by interrogation of these practices, we also see how this leads to the obligation to position oneself, as researcher and person, whether settler or Indigenous, in relation to the facts of the political milieu of our moment and their antecedent histories. Emma Feltes, Joshua J. Smith and Brian Noble write from the stance of settler Canadian anthropologists, and Sherry M. Pictou, who is Mi’kmaq of L’sitku, writes from the stance of an Indigenous resurgence scholar.

In this introduction, I situate the four articles in relation to several contexts of research and thinking, starting from a key challenge raised by Michael Asch (2001), whose subsequent, incisive commentary also concludes [End Page 411] this series. I also locate the papers in regard to the rise of what I call the collaborative ethos in anthropological research, and how practices of consent and treaty become activated in relation to this ethos.

As will become evident, there is an abiding interest to plumb the possibilities of what it means to live, act and undertake research together as “treaty people,” while recalling, as Sherry M. Pictou carefully and rightly does in her contribution, the need to be wary of, and differentiate such action from, what takes place in official, contemporary “treaty” negotiations, which are prone to subordinating Indigenous peoples’ autonomy, authority and lands to the economic and political powers of the sovereign state (Coulthard 2014; see Scott 2011). The alternative ideas and praxes of treaty discussed in these articles are drawn from historic and lived precedents among Indigenous peoples and settler society relations, and from the direct involvement of the contributors as engaged decolonial researchers.

“Finding a Place to Stand”

Our important starting point is Michael Asch’s prescient challenge, made a decade and a half ago during his 2001 Weaver–Tremblay address; that is, the matter of morally and ethically “finding a place to stand” within the complex milieu of settler–Indigenous political engagement, especially in Canada (Asch 2001). This is a challenge with which Asch himself has long been contending; indeed, some 30 years before receiving the Weaver–Tremblay Award, he began undertaking research closely and respectfully with the Dene. This continued throughout the 1970s and 1980s, when Asch was invited by the Dene to bring to bear his anthropological expertise, as the Dene sought to have their historic treaty-sourced consent and land-sharing principles honoured in the face of the proposed massive-scale pipeline development along the McKenzie River Basin. The very idea of finding a place to stand, as an anthropologist, in the relations between the Crown and the Dene would, for Asch, necessarily invoke all three of the practices we grapple with here: consent, collaboration, treaty. It has also caused him to reflect deeply on the intellectual histories of anthropology in settler society milieus, which have alternately foregrounded, or lost sight of, colonial and decolonial engagement.

Each of the contributors provides direct or indirect responses to Asch’s (2001) call in the face of colonialism that...


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pp. 411-417
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2021
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