Governing Transboundary Waters : Canada, the United States, and Indigenous Communities book cover
1st Edition

Governing Transboundary Waters
Canada, the United States, and Indigenous Communities

ISBN 9780415838597
Published November 24, 2014 by Routledge
236 Pages 32 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Winner of the Political Geography Specialty Group's 2015 Julian Minghi Distinguished Book Award!

With almost the entire world’s water basins crossing political borders of some kind, understanding how to cooperate with one’s neighbor is of global relevance. For Indigenous communities, whose traditional homelands may predate and challenge the current borders, and whose relationship to water sources are linked to the protection of traditional lifeways (or ‘ways of life’), transboundary water governance is deeply political. 

This book explores the nuances of transboundary water governance through an in-depth examination of the Canada-US border, with an emphasis on the leadership of Indigenous actors (First Nations and Native Americans). The inclusion of this "third sovereign" in the discussion of Canada-U.S. relations provides an important avenue to challenge borders as fixed, both in terms of natural resource governance and citizenship, and highlights the role of non-state actors in charting new territory in water governance. The volume widens the conversation to provide a rich analysis of the cultural politics of transboundary water governance. 

In this context, the book explores the issue of what makes a good up-stream neighbor and analyzes the rescaling of transboundary water governance. Through narrative, the book explores how these governance mechanisms are linked to wider issues of environmental justice, decolonization, and self-determination. To highlight the changing patterns of water governance, it focuses on six case studies that grapple with transboundary water issues at different scales and with different constructions of border politics, from the Pacific coastline to the Great Lakes.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Water, Borders, Scale and Power 

Part 1: Rescaling Transboundary Water Governance 

2. Mobilising Theory 

3. From Supranatural to Intertribal: Transboundary Governance at Different Scales 

4. Rescaling Water Governance: From Federal-Federal to International Watershed Initiatives 

Part 2: Indigenous Water Governance: Re/ordering Transnational Space 

5. Shellfish Harvesting in Boundary Bay: Transboundary Environmental Justice and the Politics of Counting 

6. "We are the Ones that We are Waiting For." Indigenous Leadership in Transborder Environmental Governance 

7. The Canoe Journey: Paddling for Change 

8. Walking Gichigami: Mother Earth Water Walks and Environmental Advocacy 

9. What Boundary, What Whale? Whose Responsibility? The Blurring of Political and Cultural Boundaries in Marine Governance 

10. Conclusion and Reflections: What Makes a Good Upstream Neighbour?

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Emma S. Norman is Chair of the Science Department / Native Environmental Science Program at Northwest Indian College, Bellingham, Washington State, USA. She is also a Research Associate with the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of the America Indian, USA, and a long-term collaborator with the Program on Water Governance at the University of British Columbia, Canada.


"The strength of this book is Norman’s ability to draw on a number of viewpoints, many of which are ignored by traditional texts on the topic. Particularly, transboundary waters books lurch toward a legal view." – AAG Review of Books, Scott O. McKenzie, University of British Columbia, Canada

"On several occasions, Dr Norman suggests that the "underlying question" for this book is "What makes a good upstream neighbor?" (p. 7, and elsewhere). Her book takes a good step towards answering that question, and, more importantly, for supporting the process towards answering it, in Canada and the United States. As she states at the close of the book (p. 185), "literally and metaphorically" we are "all upstream to someone."Water International, David B. Brooks, IWRA member

"Norman provides a much-needed re-framing of transboundary governance from Indigenous peoples’ perspectives and celebrates the achievements made by First Nations and Tribes to date in successfully re-uniting communities across state borders and rescaling transboundary watersheds. A compelling read and one that should be required reading for anyone working in watershed governance at the border." – Jennifer L. Archer, Rivers without Borders, Vancouver, Canada. 

"Bringing together politics of coloniality and indigenous struggles for territorial, cultural and resource rights with water politics at the US-Canada border, this work makes significant conceptual and policy relevant contributions. Skillfully weaving diverse narratives, experiences, and moments of relevance for Indigenous communities on both sides of the border, the book makes for an inspiring read that explores key debates for contemporary water governance."Karen Bakker and Leila Harris, Co-Directors, Program on Water Governance, University of British Columbia, Canada.

"For anyone interested in the future of our waters and how we can truly care for them, Emma Norman's book is vitally important. It illuminates in fresh ways the challenges of 'transborder' water governance, and in particular the function of borders themselves to distort how we understand, treat and value water – as divisible, bounded, owned – and to reiterate power relationships of exclusion and alienation from our water "neighbors". In accessible and hopeful case studies, Norman shows how indigenous communities and their allies are re-asserting the meaning of ecological boundaries, reweaving communities around them and creating leadership structures capable of sharing and protecting water." – Alexa Bradley, Co-Director, Great Lakes Commons, 

"Governing Transboundary Waters marks an important contribution to scholarship on water governance, transboundary resource management, and border studies. Whereas most studies of transboundary water management focus on state interaction, Norman brings the study down to earth, engaging with the communities involved in resource management around the international border itself. As such, she reminds us that the international border is a colonial relic that continues divide traditionally connected Indigenous Communities. Rejecting the international border as the essential arbiter of resource management is a first step in moving towards environmental justice in transboundary resource management."  – Kathryn Furlong, Assistant Professor in Geography at the Université de Montréal, Canada Research Chair in Urban, Water and Utility Governance, and Co-director of the Ethics and Environment axis of the Centre de recherche en éthique (CRÉ). 

"Water territorialities may be the next frontier to roam in order to progress in our understanding of socio-spatial relations, and this book indeed shows that labile environments reveal a lot about multi-tier decision making. Through a very convincing demonstration based on extensive field knowledge, E. Norman presents the disruptions in territorial hierarchies which are at stake when maritime management overlaps both international limits and sets of autochthonous rights. Her thorough analysis of the now-called 'Salish sea', over the US/Canada border, escapes easy conclusions and interestingly recalls to us that the semantic transfer from government to governance does not mean that the state has been kicked out of politics!"Anne-Laure Amilhat Szary, Professor, Université Grenoble-Alpes, France. 

"E. Norman’s Governing Transboundary Waters captures genuine progress in restoring boundary environments. Her eloquently written book analyzes how through patient, determined indigenous led efforts, legal rights to access culturally relevant food are being secured. This book is a timely guide for critically needed environmental action." – Melvin J. Visser, author of Cold, Clear, and Deadly: Unravelling a Toxic Legacy.