How tiny, remote Haida Gwaii taught a lesson on achieving Indigenous sovereignty

An excerpt from The Haida Gwaii Lesson written by Mark Dowie that was published by The Star on August 7, 2017:

In The Haida Gwaii Lesson: A Strategic Playbook for Indigenous Sovereignty, journalist Mark Dowie examines the Haida Gwaii’s decades-long battle for sovereignty. It’s the story of a how a small, remote Indigenous band on the northern B.C. coast organized, lobbied and blockaded over 50 years to gain control from governments and logging companies over their islands and their resources.

“Blockades don’t work by themselves,” a former president of the Haida Nation remarked. “There needs to be a legal strategy. But a legal strategy won’t work by itself either. We had the courts, our alliances and blockades all working together while we developed and negotiated a land-use plan. Timing was always at the forefront of our minds, and our timing was good.”

If it’s the state that is granting permission to extractive corporations to mine or harvest resources from your land, then the state must be your target as well as the corporation. But where and when to challenge the state becomes the central strategic question. The where is likely in the state’s own courts, but that only works if their courts have enough power, enough authority, that political leaders and corporate executives will abide by the courts’ rulings. That is the case in Canada, but by no means everywhere in the world. The when is the all-important question that requires as much deliberation, skill and talent as preparing your case for court.