Reimagining BC modern treaties: a critical discourse analysis of the Tsawwassen, Maa-nulth, and Tla'amin final agreements
This thesis critically examines settler-colonial legal structures, languages, and mapping conventions that underpin the British Columbia (BC) modern treaty process. The mandate of the BC treaty process is to resolve the status of unceded Indigenous lands, promising to foster Indigenous self-governance while providing legal “certainty” for resource extractive industries. However, only 65 of over-200 First Nations in BC have engaged in negotiations, and just seven have implemented modern treaties. To better understand Indigenous reticence, this thesis conducts a critical discourse analysis of the Tsawwassen, Maa-nulth, and Tla’amin nations’ Final Agreements, looking at the lands, eligibility and enrolment, and fisheries chapters. It argues that treaties ultimately communicate land as property, identity as individual, and fish as allocations – reflecting settler worldviews and obscuring and erasing Indigenous epistemologies and ontologies. As a counterpoint to settler-colonial treaty frames, this thesis engages Indigenous stories to highlight how Indigenous legal paradigms offer different pathways to coexistence.