Advocating for Indigenous sovereignty in state relations

Human and Social Development

- Stephanie Harrington

Morgan Mowatt, a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Victoria
Morgan Mowatt, a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Victoria (photo supplied)

Morgan Mowatt is working to transform Indigenous Peoples’ relationship with the state by giving Indigenous knowledge—particularly relating to sovereignty—the authority it deserves.

From the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples to the 2021 passing of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, Mowatt says Indigenous Peoples have stated the same plight: Indigenous legal and political authority is not taken seriously by Canada.

Mowatt, a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow in Indigenous Governance and at the Centre for Indigenous Research and Community-led Engagement (CIRCLE) at UVic, says relations between Indigenous nations and the Canadian state continue to be framed in ways that undermine Indigenous sovereignty.

Their research, which continues on from Mowatt’s PhD work in political science at UVic, looks to reimagine the Indigenous-state relationship beyond reactive responses to high-pressure flashpoints.

“We need to understand Indigenous people still have sovereignty and authority and maintain their political order to this day,” Mowatt says. “This project takes a proactive step towards reformulating the Indigenous-state relationship, informed by Indigenous political thought.”

Mowatt, who is Gitxsan and lives on Snuneymuxw territory, says Indigenous knowledge must be understood in its own context, which includes expanding understandings of political authority that don’t depend on finding likeness to states.

While the project takes on a jurisdictional impasse, it is also inherently social and cultural, and will effectively re-story Indigenous-state relations as both cultural and political.” 

— Morgan Mowatt, Banting fellow

UVic scholars Gina Starblanket and Heidi Kiiwetinepinesiik Stark, both world-renowned scholars in Indigenous law, treaty and governance, will be working with Mowatt on their research.

Morgan is keenly aware of the impacts of colonialism on Indigenous communities and takes a sensitive and ethical approach to [their] analysis of how the logics that undergird colonialism have been taken up by Indigenous nations in efforts towards decolonization and resurgence.” 

— Heidi Kiiwetinepinesiik Stark

Mowatt says they feel lucky to continue to do the work they started in their PhD.

“This is the continuation of many decades of work Indigenous nations have been doing,” Mowatt says. “I’m trying to highlight important things Indigenous people have been articulating for a long time.”


In this story

Keywords: Indigenous, politics, government, research, graduate research, Indigenous governance

People: Morgan Mowatt

Related stories