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Land Use Studies Internationally

The complexities surrounding land use and resource development are not unique to Canada, Indigenous Peoples in many other countries have had to negotiate with their own federal and provincial/state governments in similar ways. The regions were this issue can be found are North America, Oceania and the Circumpolar North.

Carving Faces, Caving Lives

For almost 200 years, the Indigenous People of Australia and New Zealand have been in contact with Non-Aboriginals. With some of the first agreements and land trusts signed in New Zealand in the 1840s, there is a long-standing history of understanding between the Aboriginals and the government. The Australian government has numerous guidelines and has passed numerous acts to regulate and protect Aboriginal land and resource development (for more information visit http://www.atns.net.au/). In addition to these agreements, the Australian government passed the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Ac,to ensure that any developments that could have an impact on the environment, biodiversity or heritage preservation are strictly regulated by the government.

The Circumpolar North region encompasses the eight countries surrounding the Arctic Circle: Canada, United States, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark (Greenland, Faeroe Islands), and Iceland. Numerous Indigenous Peoples throughout this region have negotiated land use agreements with the federal governments and the natural resource sector. While timelines shift from country to country, many similarities occur in the way Indigenous Peoples have been treated and how their needs and occupancy have been recognized, through such means as land use studies and traditional knowledge collection.

The Sami inhabit the northern parts of Sweden, Norway, Finland and the Kola Peninsula in Russia, collectively known as Scandinavia. Of the 70, 000 Sami who live in this region, about 3,000 still practice reindeer herding fulltime. For these Sami who still rely on reindeer herding for their livelihood, access to forest lands and vegetation is essential for both the reindeer and the Sami's survival. Unfortunately, much of the forest has been destroyed by the logging industry. The problem facing the Sami is the need to provide the government with written proof of their centuries' old land use and close relationship with the reindeer. This problem is very similar to the one encountered by Canadian First Nations regarding the validity of oral history, as demonstrated in the landmark Delgamuukw case.

Carving Faces, Caving Lives

During the International Polar Year, 2007-2008, several studies were initiated to look at the interactions between the Nenets People of Northwest Russia and the oil and gas industry. This process is quite similar to the Canadian Traditional Use Studies (TUS) in both intent and method. More information on this study can be found at the IPY website http://www.ipy.org.

A common theme among all these regions is the need to respect and recognize the rights of Indigenous Peoples and occupancy of the land while also meeting the needs of a growing resource development industry. In some cases, formalized studies have already been carried out, such as in Canada. In the case of the Sami, conflicts with the forestry industry escalated before studies had been carried out so the Sami had no documented proof of their occupancy. These regions share a common history of colonization and Indigenous Peoples struggling to maintain their traditional ways of life. TUS could be used to document and strengthen the lives of Indigenous Peoples throughout the world.

Resources

Australian Agency for International Development, Making Land Work; Case Studies
on customary land and development in the Pacific.
Canberra: Australian Agency for International Development, 2008.

Nanna Borchert, Land is Life: Traditional Sami Reindeer Grazing Threatened in Northern Sweden.Edited by Kenyon Fields. 2001[Unpublished]. http://www.oloft.com/landislife.pdf

Parliament of Australia, Background Paper 15 1997-98 Indigenous Affairs in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United States of America, Norway and Sweden. Parliament of Australia. http://www.aph.gov.au/library/Pubs/bp/1997-98/98bp15.htm, Retrieved March 9th, 2009.

Parliament of Australia, http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/assessments/index.html, Retrieved March 9th, 2009.

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