Yellowhead Briefs

Yellowhead Briefs provide a platform for perspectives from key thinkers on First Nations issues. 

Our Briefs focus on topical and pressing issues affecting communities on the ground and ideas that challenge the status quo. 


Equalization Politics in Alberta & the Restoration of Indigenous Power

Robert Houle discusses the recent referendum question proposed to Albertan’s relating to the issue of equalization. Houle discusses the exclusion of Indigenous community members from the vote and calls for greater Indigenous participation and decision-making, especially on issues directly related to stolen resources.

Not So Grand Plans: The Continued Erasure of Indigenous Rights in Newfoundland and Labrador’s Hydroelectric ‘Development’

In this Brief, Johnson-Castle and Penney, argue that Newfoundland and Labrador’s continued push to advance hydroelectric development – not under the auspices of recovery from COVID-19 – is in disregard of Indigenous rights and title, and risks compounding social, health and economic impacts for the whole region.

Canada and Israel: Partners in the “Settler Colonial Contract”

After eleven days of violence in Palestinian territories and a ceasefire in place, Azeezah Kanji takes stock of the Canadian role in the assault, and more importantly, the links in the Settler Colonial Contract between Canada and Israel.

In Defence of the Integrity of our Nation: Métis Colonialism West of the Rocky Mountains

The relationship between First Nations and Metis has been one of kinship, but not without tension. A new, and troubling source of tension is now in B.C., where the Metis Nation of BC has begun claiming lands and rights. In this Brief, Stephen Mussel even describes this relationship as a form of colonialism.

Colonizers Being Colonizers: Lobster Fishing & the Continued Oppression of L’nu’k in Mi’kma’ki

Months after the fisheries conflict in Nova Scotia, the Dept. of Fisheries and Ocean’s has imposed a decision on the “moderate livelihood fishery” and l’nu’k fishers continue to be charged and harassed by the RCMP. This Brief assesses the current state of affairs and asks where we go from here.

George Cleary & The Sahtu Dene and Métis Land Claim Agreement

George Cleary has stood out as a prominent fixture in the history of treaty-making in the Sahtu region. He led the regional tribal council that negotiated and signed the Agreement. Here, Dakota Erutse reflects on the influence of George Cleary today.

A User Guide for Land Defenders: The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)

As Arthur Manuel said, you can’t “cry on the shoulder of the guy who took your land.” One place to turn instead is to international human rights bodies, like CERD. But navigating the UN is hard from the outside. This guide breaks it down.

Statement from the Braided Warriors on Police And State Violence re: Trans Mountain Pipeline

Indigenous Youth Land Defenders, the Braided Warriors, issue this statement in response to their violent arrest and treatment by Vancouver Police Department on February 19, 2021 when peacefully occupying the corporate lobby of AIG, an insurer of the Transmountain pipeline.

Battle for the Sun: Green Energy vs. Indigenous Heritage in Edmonton

Earlier this month, the Epcor E.L. Smith Solar Farm was approved at Edmonton City Council. Located on a Cree heritage site, this approval exemplifies a failed process of Indigenous engagement that ultimately, may lead to bigger problems in the future. 

Open Letter From The Williams Family Regarding Their Rights and Safety

As the land back movement at 1492 Land Back Lane goes on, so do the threats and intimidations faced by Indigenous Peoples. This open letter from the Williams family was written at the request of three daughters to address the intimidation directed at their family by Ken Hewitt but also the Haldimand Police Services Board, and the Ontario Provincial Police.

Do Métis have Rights in British Columbia? Let our Métis People be heard in a Good Way

Are Metis west of the Rocky Mountains Indigenous to that place? And what is the scope of their rights there? Stephen Mussel confronts these questions and offers important insights about Metis-First Nation relations and the revitalization of Indigenous laws.

Peace, Friendship and Fishing in Mi’kma’ki

For the past three weeks Mi’kmaq in Nova Scotia have been pursuing a “moderate livelihood fishery” while facing harassment and intimidation. Hannah Martin looks at the roots of the conflict and argues that a better understanding of Mi’kmaw rights and the treaty relationship generally could help resolve the conflict.

Yellowhead Statement Regarding Arrests At 1492 Land Back Lane

This statement was released by Yellowhead Institute and Indigenous faculty members at Ryerson University in response to the arrest of Courtney Skye, Yellowhead Research Fellow. Courtney was charged with disobeying a court order and mischief in relation to 1492 Land Back Lane.

Statement from Concerned Haudenosaunee Women Regarding Injunctions at 1492 Land Back Lane

This statement was released the morning Haldimand County sought to make an interim injunction against land defenders permanent. Concerned Haudenosaunee women responded, calling for an end to the criminalization of their community.

Metis Harvesting in Alberta: Violence, Racism & Resistance

After the murders Jake Sansom and Morris Cardinal—two Metis hunters trying to get on the land to feed their families in this time of uncertainty—Conor Kerr reflects on his own experiences as a Metis hunter and some of the challenges more generally for Indigenous hunters.

Wet’suwet’en: Why are Indigenous rights being defined by an energy corporation?

An unsigned agreement between a Wet’suwet’en First Nation and Coastal GasLink along with financial documents, obtained by Yellowhead Institute, provide reinforcement to Yellowhead’s assessment of the ways these private contracts can dramatically undermine First Nation rights and jurisdiction

Nuna: Dispossession & Reclamation in Inuit Nunangat

Amid the ongoing conflict between Western and Indigenous philosophies of relating to and with the land, the reflections here engage with Yellowhead’s Red Paper and offer an Inuk perspective on the challenges and hope of “Land Back” in Inuit Nunangat.

Injunctions by First Nations: Results of a National Study

After reviewing over 100 cases of injunctions filed by and against First Nations, we believe that this legal tool reinforces the impossible position of First Nation parties when they appear before Canadian courts. This brief provides a summary of just a slim subset of data collected in the largest national research project that exists to date on the use of injunctive relief by and against First Nations in Canada.

Preface from Land Back

This is the preface to Yellowhead Institute’s Red Paper, Land Back. The project of land back is about reclaiming Indigenous jurisdiction: breathing life into rights and responsibilities. Our Red Paper is about how Canada dispossesses Indigenous peoples from the land, and in turn, what communities are doing to get it back.

Election 2019: Which Party will Return the Land?

With the 2019 federal election imminent, this Brief represents an overview of each of the major federal parties, their commitments to issues of land restitution, and a more general breakdown of investments (or lack thereof) to Indigenous communities.

After the Far North Act: Indigenous Jurisdiction in Ontario’s Far North

The Legislature will address the Far North Act when they are back in session. But we should not hold our breaths. Because the answer to how to govern the north should not come from provincial law. It must be found through a negotiated joint-planning regime based on renewed treaty relations.

Libertad para Alberto! Mapuche Land Defence in Chile & the Goldman Environmental Prize

In April 2019, Alberto Curamil was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize. Leader of the Alianza Territorial Mapuche, Alberto could not accept because he is currently in a Chilean prison for charges widely considered fabricated. Here, Yellowhead an interview on Alberto’s incarceration and Mapuche resistance with Belén Curamil, his daughter, and Miguel Melin (spokesperson for the Alianza Territorial Mapuche).

An Injunction Against the Unist’ot’en Camp: An embodiment of healing faces eviction

In so-called Northern British Columbia, the Unist’ot’en House Group of the Wet’suwet’en Nation is facing an injunction application to allow construction of the Coastal Gaslink pipeline through their traditional territory. If approved and enforced, the injunction would force the pipeline through the territory without the consent of the Dinï ze’ and Ts’akë ze’ (Hereditary chiefs), who have unanimously rejected Coastal Gaslink’s proposal.

In Conversation with the Gwich’in Tribal Council: Modern Treaties, Northern Self-Government & “Rights Recognition”

The Gwich’in Tribal Council (GTC) is a political organization advocating for Gwich’in rights relating to lands, waters and resources in the Gwich’in treaty settlement area as well as Treaty #11. Read on for an interview with Grand Chief Boobie Jo Greenland-Morgan and Deputy Chief Jordan Peterson.

What about Cities? Containing Urban Self-Determination through the Indigenous Rights Framework

The federal government’s policies and the new Indigenous Rights Framework, as it appears to be taking shape, reproduce the (original and ongoing) dispossession of First Nations from (urban) land and the disconnection of citizens from First Nation jurisdiction.

Canada’s Indigenous Rights Framework: A (Bad) Proposal Emerges

Last week the Assembly of First Nations hosted a national meeting on the federal government’s proposed “Rights, Recognition and Implementation Framework”. The proposal was met with resistance by most of the elected First Nation leadership who were present, justifiably so. As suspected, Canada is seeking to entrench a version of contemporary state-Indigenous relations merely re-branded as reconciliation.

We Own It, So Let’s Kill It: What to do about Kinder Morgan in an era of “reconciliation”

Now that Canada owns the pipeline, what difference does it make to Indigenous people who are fighting to stop it?

Aboriginal Title in British Columbia Examined Under the New Liberal Agenda

How do the new Liberal government initiatives affect aboriginal title in British Columbia?

Mi’kmaq and the Recognition and Implementation of Rights Framework

This brief highlights some of the issues with the new Rights Framework as it pertains the Mi’kmaq and what is known as the Made-In-Nova Scotia Process (Mi’kmaq Rights Initiative (MRI) Negotiations).

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