The MVRMA establishes co-management regulatory land and water boards for the Sahtu, Gwich'in, and Tli Cho settlement areas, granting these boards responsibility for issuing land-use permits and water-use licenses.
All boards formed under the MVRMA are called "administrative tribunals." They are quasi-judicial bodies and must observe the rules of natural justice in delivering their mandates and be fair and objective in their proceedings and deliberations.
The Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board (MVEIRB), a public body created under the MVRMA as required by land-claim agreements, manages the environmental impact review process in a way that attempts to consider fully both science and indigenous knowledge.
In Section 115.1 of the MVRMA, the MVEIRB is instructed to "consider any traditional knowledge and scientific information that is made available to it." Furthermore, the Board makes its own commitment to the recognition of indigenous knowledge, asserting that "In order to ensure that aboriginal cultures, values and knowledge play an appropriate role in its determinations, the Review Board is committed to fully consider any traditional knowledge brought forward in its proceedings" (MVEIRB, 2005:4).
While suggesting that the NWT be regarded as a post-colonial space is neither the purpose nor the intent of this paper, we are interested in using this framework to explore the significance of the political changes that led to the creation of the MVRMA and subsequently to the inclusion of indigenous knowledge in resource management.
How did political change in the NWT lead to the creation of the MVRMA? How has this change opened spaces of inclusion for indigenous knowledge in resource management?
Interview respondents outline a series of political developments that they identify as critical to the creation of the MVRMA and to opening spaces for the inclusion of indigenous knowledge in the resource management process.
The comprehensive land-claim process has subsequently acted as a platform for other political developments, such as the MVRMA and self-government negotiations.
In particular, land claims laid the groundwork for the MVRMA, which in turn aims to provide a legal foundation for increasing local decision making.
Interview participants recognize the MVRMA as the direct result of settled land claims in the Mackenzie Valley and identify it as the culmination of a series of political changes that have brought greater decision-making capacity to the local level.
Archaeologist Tom Andrews, a longtime NWT resident, says the MVRMA has emerged from the collective struggle of the Dene Nation and other Aboriginal organizations since the 1970s to bring attention to themselves as equal players and partners in northern development and in knowledge.
Timing also played a key role in ensuring the inclusion of indigenous knowledge in the MVRMA, adds Charles Arnold, another archaeologist who has spent much of his life in the North.