Northern Aboriginal Communities: Economies and Development


268 pages
Contains Maps, Bibliography
ISBN 1-895712-37-8
DDC 330.9719'008997





Edited by Peter Douglas Elias
Reviewed by David Mardiros

David Mardiros is an anthropological consultant in Kars, Ontario.


This collection of studies on economic development initiatives
undertaken by Native people in

a variety of regions focuses on “the North,” including the Mackenzie
Delta, northwestern Quebec, the eastern and western Arctic, the Yukon,
the Ontario “mid-North,” and northern Alberta. A great deal of
cultural diversity is also represented.

What makes this book unusual are the focus and structure provided by
editor Peter Elias in his introductory and summary chapters. While a
great deal of research has already been conducted in Native communities
(particularly in northern regions), little if any systematic evaluation
of this body of work has been done in such a way as to inform and direct
policymaking. Elias points out that the traditional research agenda,
directed by the interests of outside researchers and reflecting nonlocal
priorities, was deplored by many of the Native people who testified
before the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. What communities
wanted was research that would help to synthesize what is already known,
and research that would help communities direct development resources
according to community priorities and needs. To that end, Elias provides
a very useful, albeit brief, summary of current research relating to
economic development in the North, grouped according to themes
(disciplines represented, subsistence production, the cash economy,
transfer payments, employment enterprise and commodity production,
cultural change, employment and development), as well as a very useful
annotated bibliography on works dealing with economic development and
aboriginal people.

Elias advocates a comprehensive approach to development incorporating
political, cultural, and economic goals; the case studies he includes
are concrete examples of how a variety of community concerns are
addressed through the various enterprises described. Although the
studies can be criticized for their lack of focus on the problems
encountered in the development of the projects profiled (analysis of
these problems would be valuable for other communities seeking to
develop their own enterprises), the book is nevertheless an important
source for researchers and community development workers seeking to
apply research to practical problems.


“Northern Aboriginal Communities: Economies and Development,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 13, 2024,