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  • Grounded Authority: The Algonquins of Barriere Lake Against the State by Shiri Pasternak
  • Megan Baker
Shiri Pasternak. Grounded Authority: The Algonquins of Barriere Lake Against the State. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017. 392 pp. Paper, $30.00.

The Algonquins of Barriere Lake understand all too well colonialism's endurance in Canada's so-called era of reconciliation. Since the 1991 signing of the Trilateral Agreement, which would have enabled the community to govern themselves, the land, and its resources, Algonquins have been fighting for its implementation. Once told by family friend Russell Diabo that she could learn everything about colonialism in Canada by working with Barriere Lake, Shiri Pasternak clearly delineates this process with analytical precision and engaged community input. To contextualize and historicize the ongoing struggles and restrictions on Algonquin life, she turns a critical, ethnographic eye toward Canadian state sovereignty and jurisdiction. She reveals how both are recent productions that seek to undermine and obfuscate Algonquin self-determination. Not only do Canadian legal frameworks produce the spatial arrangements that limit Barriere Lake's ability to live in accordance with their laws, but Canada's legal financing and regulations also alienate Algonquins from their unceded land.

Pasternak lays bare the political theories and colonial logics that undergird Canada's claims to sovereignty and jurisdiction over Barriere Lake. To further unpack the concept of jurisdiction in its multiple registers, Pasternak respectfully and necessarily engages Mitchikanibikok Anishinabe Onakinakewin, or Algonquin laws, juxtaposing them against settler conceptions of sovereignty and jurisdiction. Together, Barriere Lake community members and Pasternak illustrate how Algonquian jurisdiction is formed through what she calls an ontology of care. Jurisdiction is distinguished from sovereignty as the practice of "how authority is established, exercised, and contested in settler colonialism" (3). Whereas settler jurisdiction functions as an apparatus for enacting and spatializing settler sovereignty, Algonquin jurisdiction exists in everyday practices that are grounded in their intimate knowledge of the land. Manifested in a complex tenure system, Algonquin families maintain an equitable distribution of wildlife, ensuring the health of the interconnected human and nonhuman communities. Through these deeply storied and reciprocal sets of relations, Algonquins gain their [End Page 374] political authority and jurisdiction. Canada fails to have such relations and thereby lacks jurisdiction at Barriere Lake—a fundamental threat to the Canadian sovereignty that they seek to assert at any cost.

Grounded Authority's first four chapters delve into the tensions between settler and Algonquin sovereignty and jurisdiction, as well as the issues raised in the process of studying this difference; the subsequent chapters chronicle the development of the Trilateral Agreement and its nonimplementation at Barriere Lake. In chapter 1, Pasternak reflexively accounts how she, a settler scholar, conducted this research and outlines an ethics of accountability to Indigenous peoples. She offers four planks to her legal and political responsibilities to the community: "a commitment to center decolonization as the object of research, a commitment to honor treaty relations, a commitment to build alliances between settler and Indigenous societies, and a commitment to respect Indigenous law and prophesy" (44), which can serve as model for Indigenous allies conducting similar projects. Chapter 2 examines how mechanisms of steady encroachment and restrictions placed upon Barriere Lake's lands created a space of overlapping jurisdiction, exposing the precariousness of settler sovereignty. Focusing on Algonquin jurisdiction, chapter 3 explains how families are responsible for specific tracts of territory, thereby creating their land tenure system—the foundation for Algonquin legal order. Chapter 4 juxtaposes Barriere Lake's relationship of care against Canada's understanding of land as a form of supply. Engaging social contract theory, Pasternak powerfully argues that Canada renders land into property that the state should manage. Subsequently, Canada produces the knowledge and space necessary to manufacture its own jurisdictional authority via the property regime. Chapter 5 shifts and traces the history of interactions between logging companies, the provincial government of Quebec, the federal government, and the Barriere Lake community. Opposed to the clear-cutting of its forests, Barriere Lake demanded input on resource extraction decisions on its lands, laying the groundwork for the Trilateral Agreement. Chapter 6 elaborates on the merits of the Trilateral Agreement; as legally enshrined land co...


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pp. 374-376
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