Full text: Ownership as interpersonal dominance

Now that | am at the end, it is through the drum that | have handed on my relationship to the 
animals, and to the land, and to the hunting spirits. | have never allowed my drum to be 
taken off my territory, for the drum would not want that. But | have now given my drum to 
my younger brother Sam. He is the man who is worthy of accepting it. And with my drum, 
I have given my land. | no longer own the land that was handed down to me by my father. 
(Isaiah Awashish in Richardson, 1975, p. 17) 
Ecological analyses argue that the relationship of the sub-arctic peoples to their land resources 
is not “accidental”, but ecologically necessary and predictable (Damas, 1966; Rogers, 1963; 
Winterhalder, 1981). 
Richardson (1975) also made the important point that the issue is not whether the Cree 
have a concept of ownership, but how their concept of owning differs from that of 
Euro-Canadian society: 
For many years anthropologists have been trying to discover the fundamental concepts of 
land and of ownership among the Mistassini people. The longer the investigations have 
gone on, the more complex the ideas seem to be. For the one thing that is sure is that the 
Cree do not have the white man’s concept of “ownership” though they do have territories 
which they think of as their territories which are handed on to others, young men, when the 
older men die. (Richardson, 1975, p. 219) 
Native people's concepts of land ownership seems to be consistent with the Aristotelian notion 
that a subordinate part of a whole cannot own the whole and with the Christian notion that 
ownership is stewardship: 
We are told that we own the land. But really nobody can own it, the land. For eventually 
everyone dies. (Sam Blacksmith in Richardson, 1975, p. ix) 
But, wherever we go in the bush, we always see old signs, from long ago. We see old 
deadfall places and all this. We know that iong before us this country been used lots and 
long time before that. People still using it. 1 mean the people that were brought up to the 
life of trapping and hunting. We belong to it, we belong to the land and we look at it like that 
land is our mother. That's where we're born and that's where we're going to go back, We're 
going to be part of this land when we die. There is no way we are going to leave it. That's 
why we think of this land. What else we got? Just land, land is our bank, it’s our living, it's 
everything. Everything we got is land. What we depend on next year coming is depending 
on this land. Land is the most precious thing we got. (Willie MacDonald in Watkins, 1977, 
p. 21) 
This land was given to us to make our living for food, clothing, and income....The land was 
given to us to look after it and the land was supposed to be protected. The land, the water, 
and the animals are here for us to make living on it, and it's not to play with. (Louis 
Moosenose, in Watkins, 1977, p.22) 
They think we are people who have a hell of a time understanding their point of view. | 
remember one old woman who said, ‘| have to laugh when | think about the white man’s idea 
that each person owns the land, and that if you own the land you can sell it. How could that 
be? God gave us the land to keep for future generations. We can’t sell it, but the white man 
thinks vou can.’ (Thomas Berger in Corelli, 1986, pp. 26-27) 
Even though Cree property concepts are important for political economic theory and for 
native land claims, they have rarely, if ever, been the subject of replicable, quantified, empirical 
study. Most studies have been ethnographic, often influenced by prior theoretical interests.

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