Below the Radar Transcript

Episode 203: Supporting Indigenous Self-Determination Through Research — with Cliff Atleo

Speakers: Julia Aoki, Am Johal, Cliff Atleo

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Julia Aoki  0:02
Hello listeners! I’m Julia Aoki with Below the Radar, a knowledge democracy podcast. Below the Radar is recorded on the territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. On this episode of Below the Radar, our host Am Johal is joined by Cliff Atleo, a scholar and professor in SFU’s School of Resource & Environmental Management whose research investigates Indigenous governance and economic reconciliation. Together, Am and Cliff discuss prioritising Indigenous communities' wants in environmental and economic movements, navigating institutional bureaucracy, and Cliff’s past work with the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council. Enjoy the episode!

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Am Johal  0:46  
Hello, welcome to Below the Radar. Delighted that you could join us again this week. We have a special guest with us today, Cliff Atleo from SFU's Faculty of Resource and Environmental Management. Welcome, Cliff.

Cliff Atleo  1:00  
Yeah, thanks for having me. 

Am Johal  1:01  
Yeah, I wonder if we can begin with you introducing yourself a little bit.

Cliff Atleo  1:05  
Sure. This always takes a while. I am Nuu-chah-nulth on my father's side and Tsimshian on my mother's side. And for whatever reason, my families have decided to give me three names. So I have three current names. This is in addition to, you know, younger baby names and, and youthful names. It's not uncommon for Indigenous people in this part of the world to have multiple names throughout their life. So on my, on my father's side, I'm from the community of Ahousaht and from the house of ƛaakišpiił, and I carry the name Chachim’multhnii. And I got that name when I got my PhD, which was in 2017, 2018. On my mother's side, I'm Tsimshian from the community of Kitselas and the house of Nishaywaaxs, and I carry two names there: Kam’ayaam, which is my website,, and Sm’oogyit Niis Na’yaa, which is a more recent name, and it is a title and a name. So it comes with some house responsibilities and obligations in our community. And I'm also an assistant professor in the School of Resource and Environmental Management at SFU. And by the time this comes out, I will have applied for tenure. I won't know if I got tenure yet. It'll be another, I don't know, it's like nine to twelve months after that.

Am Johal  2:14  
Cliff, I'm wondering if you can speak a little bit to how you ended up, you know, why resource environmental management, why this was of particular importance to you, as you were studying and doing work in the community?

Cliff Atleo  2:26  
Yeah, I mean, I've always sort of been interested in resources. And 2002 is like a really pivotal date for me. I was working for the Nuu-chah-nulth council on Vancouver Island, which is a body that includes fourteen First Nations—Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations—and a bunch of stuff happened in 2002. We launched a court case, the Ahousaht et al. case, which was seeking recognition of commercial fishing rights for Indigenous peoples. And one of the things that really stood out, so I was working for the tribal council at the time and we were at this legal briefing. And one of the things that stood out in terms of the evidence we were presenting was the fact that we had six Nuu-chah-nulth owned and operated fishing vessels by 2002. This was a community of nearly 10,000 people at the time, but in my father's generation, so just one generation back, we had a peak of over two hundred Nuu-chah-nulth fishing vessels. So we went from a smaller population, but also one where everybody was connected in some way, either your uncle or your cousin or your, you know, your aunt were involved in fishing or fish processing, to a point by 2002, where almost nobody was involved at all. So this massive reduction in what I call an adaptive livelihood for Nuu-chah-nulth peoples who had been participating in these fisheries, I mean, for a long time, but in a commercial sense, for the better part of the 20th century. And then we also— my community of Ahousaht also signed its first impact benefit agreement with a fish farm company, which was quite controversial. We were protesting it at the beginning of 2002. By the end of 2002, we had signed an IBA. And there was also the mine in Clayoquot Sound, a Catface mine proposal that was initiated in 2002, or we signed an MOU. So I was really interested in resources at that time. My training was mostly in Indigenous governance and political science. So I wasn't really... My department REM at SFU was very interdisciplinary. So we have a mix of economists, social scientists, planners, as well as ecologists like just straight up, you know, applied scientists. So it's an interesting mix. And I wasn't necessarily looking for that department in particular, but I was glad that they asked me to apply for the job. And I also applied at Laurier and Guelph and interviewed in those places. And SFU was really a place that I was very keen to start at in terms of the support, in terms of already existing Indigenous faculty there. It was just nice to see.

Am Johal  4:48  
In the context that you were working on resource and environmental issues and agreements with nations. We're in a particular historical moment from the colonial era in the sense that you have governments who are attempting to put forward sort of template land claim agreements, you have other nations that are taking governments directly to court. And in the meantime, there's a need for economic development and Indigenous owned processes around governance as well. Wondering if you could sort of speak to the complexity of that environment, because it seems you know, depending on which nation is taking the lead, the way that they're working might be slightly different.

Cliff Atleo  5:32  
Yeah. Oh, my goodness. Where do I start? It's a... BC is always a very unique and interesting place. And there's a reason why there's so many Supreme Court decisions that are rooted here, whether it's in fisheries or consultation regarding a mine or forestry, or a number of title cases where communities are trying to get recognition for aboriginal title. The biggest reason, of course, is that there is a significant lack of treaty agreements in British Columbia. If you Google number treaties in Canada, for example, you'll get a fairly significant map where you'll see most of the country is covered by some form of historical treaty. But you'll also see large areas that fall under more recent comprehensive claims like in the James Bay Cree situation, or Nunavut up north or the Yukon umbrella agreement. But in British Columbia, with the exception of Treaty 8 in the northeastern part of the province, and some very small treaties on Vancouver Island called the Douglas treaties, most of the provinces have never been settled in any official way. So even though we have this history of colonisation, it happened more out of inertia, you know, with countries being formed. And just basically, by the time they got to BC, which in many ways was several hundred years behind where the initial contacts happened in the eastern part of the country. It's almost like they didn't feel like they needed to sign agreements anymore. So even under colonial law, or, you know, like, if you think of a conquering peoples, you know, with their own sense of decorum, they kind of neglected British Columbia in that sense. So you have a lot of different experiences here in BC. And in terms of resources, you also have very different experiences of coastal Indigenous communities, which I kind of alluded to had a pretty significant, what I call, I guess, an adaptive livelihood. So they had traditional subsistence economies and cultures on the West Coast, and that translated somewhat into commercial fisheries. But it was quite different in other parts of the province and sort of the interior and the north. So you get a big, big patchwork of experiences, not only sort of initially, in terms of how their livelihoods were managed, but also in terms of reserve sizes. On the coast, for example, reserves are really small, like really small, I know, some communities that only have a few hundred people and they're literally out of room, there is no more space in their home community to build more houses. Whereas the further east you go, and even into the United States, you have reserves that are really like hundreds and hundreds of square miles in some cases. I think in Arizona, for example, it's like 1/5, or 1/6 of the whole state is an Indian reserve down there. Obviously, not so much the case in Canada, but you definitely see in the interior part of the province and in other provinces in Canada, much larger land masses that Indigenous peoples still have or still have official recognition of.

Am Johal  8:17  
In the context of growing environmental concerns, climate change, etc. You know, the environmental movement has had strong links with Indigenous communities and in other moments, there's been lots of difference. Wondering in terms of looking at Indigenous sovereignty, and approaches to resource management, sometimes there's alignment around conservation, other times there's friction. And I'm wondering from the perspective of Indigenous governance, how you think through these questions, or if you have some examples where both it's worked really well and other examples where there was significant difference.

Cliff Atleo  8:56  
Yeah, there's mostly friction, despite what it seems like. Certainly, there seems to, you know, if you think historically, there, you know, there are campaigns like the Stein Valley, I remember going to the Stein Valley Music Festival when I was really young. And you know, there were— there was cooperation between environmentalists and Indigenous communities. But Clayoquot Sound for example, in on my father's side of the family, the in 1993 was really significant for a whole bunch of reasons. At the beginning of the 90s, we were really starting to see that old growth logging, clear cut logging was unsustainable. There was a period in the 80s and 90s, I think it was a 13 year period where BC logged about half of its old growth trees. So there was more attention being paid to this on Vancouver Island up in Haida Gwaii. And it culminated in the War in the Woods in 1993, with this unprecedented sort of grassroots mostly non-Indigenous protest, people coming from around the world. And if you remember 1993, that was mostly pre-internet. I mean, there was some internet but it was like dial up and really slow. And, you know, it was kind of a different time. But it still really resonated with people around the world in terms of this, this environmental movement. And the Nuu-chah-nulth and the environmentalists at that time had kind of an uneasy marriage of convenience. My father Cliff Atleo Senior, he always likes to remind people that the environmentalists had to ask us permission or specifically had to ask the hereditary chiefs for permission to protest. But the Nuu-chah-nulth at that time, they took a very different approach. They worked with other environmental organizations, ones that were more geared towards, like professional like in terms of helping Indigenous people contact politicians, helping them with lobby campaigns, economic campaigns, and they took that route more than the sort of, you know, laying their bodies on the, on the logging roads kind of route. Less activist and a bit more professionally oriented. And in the aftermath of that, in 1994, there were significant negotiations with Nuu-chah-nulth people and the provincial government that led to interim measures agreements that address things like you mentioned, like economic development, having the development of what became the Central Region Board and the Clayoquot Sound Scientific Panel. So bringing together Western scientists and Indigenous elders to begin having more of an influence on you know, what was happening in the Sound in terms of resource management decisions, but also addressing the economic component. Because this again, like I said, this was leading up to the point where we started to see the exodus of Nuu-chah-nulth people from the fishing industry and having to consider other forms of economic activity to feed their families. One more, sort of more recent example I want to bring up that I think is interesting. And I'm doing a little bit of research on with some colleagues in St. Andrews, Scotland, and Minnesota, is on Fairy Creek. And so we've been interviewing a lot of the protesters at Fairy Creek, and Fairy Creek has a very interesting situation in the sense that, again, you have a fairly predominant amount of non-Indigenous protesters. You do have Indigenous protesters, and you do have some people from the closest community, they're Pacheedaht First Nation. But it's also a case where the Pacheedaht nation as a collective in some ways, has asked the protesters to not be there, or asked them to leave, that they were not being helpful. So you have a couple of things that I think are interesting there is that what—in terms of solidarity—what do you do when Indigenous people say go away? Or please don't come here? And how do you decide who speaks for the nation? Because in Canada, we have a, we have an imposed Indian Act governance system, but we also have traditional hereditary governments that to a greater or lesser degrees have some de facto legitimacy in communities still. So sometimes they get along with the Chief and Council, sometimes they don't. And it's, to me, it's not entirely clear what it's like in Pacheedaht yet. This is a research project that I'm engaging... The first part of it in the last year, we've engaged mostly with non-Indigenous protesters, but next year, we're focusing on the Pacheedaht side specifically. And so it's a critical conversation for many environmentalists is what happens if, if you disagree? So Squamish nation, for example, they oppose the trans mountain pipeline, there was a lot of support in the city of Vancouver, the city of Burnaby, Tsleil-Waututh, lots of communities were opposing the pipeline. And, you know, in another case, they are a... I'm not sure their status, but they, you know, they've been supportive of an LNG project. So it's not always clear to the general public in some ways, what is driving these decisions or what are their priorities because they don't always get communicated. But that's the stuff that I find really interesting in terms of decision making, you know, dynamics that play out in different ways.

Am Johal  13:43  
Yeah, you know, and as you mentioned, that many of these things are still being worked out in the present time, and that the models for doing this work together are still being forged in many ways. And I'm wondering, you know, related to your own research, what are you finding interesting in terms of new models, or new ways of working that seem to be emerging, or what people are perhaps experimenting with?

Cliff Atleo  14:08  
I mean, I guess the one thing that really stands out for me in terms of research is much more research is Indigenous-led. I mentioned that I was at a defence this morning, for example. And it was very much a collaborative co design project with the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation and professors and students here at SFU. And so, I'm finding as I'm sort of stewarding my own students as they go through and work with Indigenous communities, it's almost like they have to do not quite double the work, but like there are definitely multiple objectives. So they have the objective to, to work on their thesis and to gather research. But what is taking sort of the forefront these days is a bit more in line with what an Indigenous community's priorities are in terms of their research. There's a professor at Trent University named Lynne Davis, she's got an article that I often teach my students called Home or Native Land [Home or Global Treasure?] and it's about her engagement with the Heiltsuk community. So Bella Bella up on the Central Coast. And she asked them basically what their experiences have been like with environmentalists and what kind of organizations they like to work with, and what they find helpful. And it did lean definitely strongly towards that— that example I gave before about more professional-oriented organizations, less sort of grassroots, you know, block the road kind of organizations and more groups that would help facilitate access to money to resources to contacts. And for them, you know, some examples that they've come into are philanthropists from the United States, for example, that I think in the case of the Heiltsuk it was Warren Buffett or Warren Buffett's family that gave several million dollars and they were able to purchase a lodge. And it's, it's a lodge that they're constantly working in terms of experiential learning, connecting reconnecting with the land. So I'm finding, like if I want to, if we want to say a generation or two ago, let's say 20, 25 years ago, research is definitely a lot more collaborative now. And less extractive, I think, than it used to be. And even, even more so than when I started my grad school training, which would have been 2008.

Am Johal  16:19  
Yeah, I find having done work in the Downtown Eastside over the years in the late 90s, there's a lot of critiques of universities doing extractive forms of research here in the Downtown Eastside. And there's a little package right behind you here in our little office around a community ethics project that Hives for Humanity led after they had a negative experience with a documentary filmmaker. So it was sort of a series of questions that researchers or artists should ask themselves before doing a project. There's a manifesto for ethical research in the Downtown Eastside. I'm just wondering, as you see your own grad students do this work, what are the sort of models of research are the principles or approaches that you're finding interesting and collaborative in terms of the way that this sort of community-led research is happening?

Cliff Atleo  17:09  
Yeah, I think it's... So one of the things that I often do with my students is a self-location short paper at the beginning of the term. And this is something I picked up from a professor at UBC named Margaret Kovach. She's a Cree Saulteaux scholar there. And it basically— I ask the students to reflect on who they are, where they come from, what their background is, what their biases may be, why they're here, what they're doing, and to really try and take a pause to reflect on those things. And sometimes students will tell me that they've never done that before, they've ever thought, you know, they end up at university in a program and they thought, well, I just thought this was the right thing to do, or this was expected of me as I grew up was to work in this area. And so, when working with Indigenous communities, it really is an important question to be able to identify who you are. It reminds me of something Freda Huson at the in the  Wet'suwet'en, you know, she's been involved, obviously, for years and years at the Unist'ot'en, sort of land defence, and they have what they call a, it's a free prior informed consent protocol, where they ask people who are you? Where are you from? Are you, you know, do you work for industry or government? What is your intention here? How will your being here benefit the Wet'suwet'en people? So I find, and I've talked to a number of scholars from-not Wet'suwet'en scholars-but people who have gone to that territory and who have worked with them. And you know, it's not perfect, but I find that it is encouraging to see, again, like I said, Indigenous communities taking more of a... more control, having more sort of autonomy and agency when it comes to these research relationships.

Am Johal  18:48  
Yeah. And I think in Ontario, the Association of Friendship Centers [Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres] also put out a really interesting report on community led research. Wondering, you know, on our podcast, we have a number of people within government, both elected people and civil servants who listen in occasionally, I'm wondering, from the perspective of the research you're doing on the ground, if you had the ear of government in terms of like, what's not working, or what could be done better, that your research is already showing kind of what would be some broad advice to government in terms of what they could be doing better? Because there's clearly a lot remaining to be done.

Cliff Atleo  19:25  
Yeah, I don't know if you could see, I had about three answers cross my face there as you were talking. So, before I came back to university... I started it in the early 90s. And then I went away for 12 years. And part of that 12 years was working for the tribal council, working for other Indigenous communities. And then I came back to grad school in order to finish my Bachelor in 2006, actually, but I remember experience in— I was on Vancouver Island working for a First Nation there. And I remember we're at this tripartite meeting so a meeting between the First Nation communities, the province, and the federal government. And we're on this break, and this guy from the government, I can't remember which government it was, but he kind of sidled up to me. And you know, just making small talk, it was coffee break, and he's like, wow, these things really are complex, aren't they? And, and I just at that point in time, I had been in the game for about five or six years, I had lost a lot of patience for very friendly bureaucrats who, you know, genuinely nice people, but within a system that was so frustrating to navigate. And I just, I kind of, I didn't lose it. Like I didn't snap or anything I just said, well, it is and sometimes it isn't. It's like it can be really simple. You can listen to us, and you can get out of the way. And sometimes so that's one of the responses that I have for government. There was a Lakota scholar named Vine Deloria Jr. I'm not sure if all the  younger students are still— keep up with Vine. But he was a very prolific Indigenous scholar from the United States. He's written over 30 books, I think. And one of his books, that's one of my favourites—Custer Died for Your Sins—which came out in like '72, '73. He says what we need is a 'leave us alone' agreement. And so there are definitely times when I think there's that in terms of having space and not being lorded over, not being sort of constantly micromanaged. And then there are other times, I think, where Indigenous communities genuinely need, you know, institutional change, to access the resources, to access money, and to be able to have the recognized jurisdiction to make decisions. You know, I often do engage with governments, the last department I spoke to, I think, was Fisheries and Oceans Canada, you know, just giving my perspective on governance issues. And I think the other thing that I often find challenging is how big the bureaucracy can be, and how siloed it can be in terms of, you know, we're just dealing with cod, we're just dealing with salmon, we're just dealing with trees. And our engagements over the last 20, 30 years have really tried to bring them together, like these are, these are ecosystem level, you know, decisions that we're making. And so we need to consider all of those things, not just the ministry of forest folks, not just the DFO folks, not just economic development people, but we all need to come together to talk about these issues. And so there is, you know, I think there have been positive moves in that direction over the years, I think it needs to keep going further and further in that direction is to have people be able to step outside of their fairly well defined, you know, portfolios, and understand how we're all sort of— interact in a very dynamic way. And, and then, like I said, I obviously see this from an Indigenous perspective, which is sometimes you know, perpetually frustrated at how, because if people from government are also interchangeable, it's like somebody new, there's a new election, and new people get appointed. And like I said, they're the friendliest, nicest people in the world. And it's hard to, you know, to meet with them knowing that, that the system that's bigger than all of us, in some ways, is so constraining on creativity.

Am Johal  22:58  
It's interesting in the context here, where the Sen̓áḵw development is happening, where the City of Vancouver doesn't have a say over zoning and policy and- which in a lot of ways that makes it like such an int- like what other city in North America is having that and it's providing rental housing in a city that desperately needs it. But you have a whole urbanist and other sort of crowd critiquing it all over the place without a deep sense of the history of the place, and why this is happening. And at the same time, it's actually really interesting how these things are coming together.

Cliff Atleo  23:32  
Yeah, I really, I mean, I really like the... that dynamic. And, you know, to see the protesters, there's an issue about a right of way, or like a temporary one that goes through that park, I think an access road that'll then get remediate or whatever, after the development. But, you know, maybe this is not very gracious of me to kind of chuckle a little bit that like, once in like a million times the shoe is on the other foot. And you know, this Indigenous community gets to do what it wants in its territory. Yeah, I mean, it's interesting. From a research point of view, it's fascinating to see how this will play out, especially, you know, in a place like Kitsilano, where I imagine that there's fairly significant NIMBY-ism concerns. But it just it definitely looks differently, to see people wringing their hands and wondering what's going to happen and how, you know, it's just so ironic. There's so many reasons why, you know, and it's not like the Squamish nation is out to be like, vindictive or anything or like, you know, I think in many ways Indigenous people have always been willing to be collaborative and to work together. It's just not often you see this particular dynamic, or they have the, the means and the ability to, to do what they want.

Am Johal  24:51  
Yeah, Cliff, and in terms of, you know, you've spent so many years outside of the academy doing work with your nation and other work in the community. I know that you're one of the early founders and still involved in Iron Dog Books, and you have this whole life outside of the university. We all have deep critiques of this place. And wondering if you can talk about that sort of relationship between what would be your more formally like academic work, like applying for tenure, all of that stuff that you have to do inside of these institutions that can sometimes move at a very glacial pace. And then at the same time, this relationship with community and how that informs your work. This intersection is always really interesting, makes SFU a really special place because there's so many people sort of working in this zone.

Cliff Atleo  25:37  
Yeah, I mean, my first response actually relates to research ethics. And going back to my master's degree, actually, so just you know, before I got to SFU, it was the weirdest experience to go through a research ethics process, where you have basically non-Indigenous people, critiquing your application, you know, making sure that you're not exploiting your own Indigenous community. And I always tell this example where, where I was interviewing an aunt of mine, my aunt and uncle ran a fishing boat. And I was really interested in getting perspectives of women, relatives of mine that were working in the fishing industry. And I remember the first time I sat down with with my aunt, and I, I kind of like, passed over the three page consent form. And I never forget the look that she gave me. It was just- it was like this weird, like nephew, what, what the heck is this, like? And I realised at that time, so when I was a little bit younger, that the research ethics process, in many ways is so... there are lots of challenges with it, I realised why it's in place, I realise that, you know, research has been quite exploitative. And in the Nuu-Chah-Nulth case, in particular, there's this, you can google 'Bad Blood story', it was the story where a researcher at UBC, you know, collected all this blood, under the auspices of doing diabetes research, and then left his job at UBC, went back to England, and started doing genetic research on the blood, like really gross sort of violations of research. So I understand why it's in place. But I also understand that, you know, in sort of many organic sort of Indigenous scenarios, you really have to go with the flow. And you have to... there's different accountabilities. And that's one of the other things I realised was so, in a research context, in a settler state, you know, you're basically- you make up rules, because people, you know, that people are going to break the rules. And you make up rules, in many ways, because you don't know a lot of people. So you're trying to figure out how do we structure a society of a bunch of strangers, without relationships of accountability. But it's hard to transfer that, those sorts of protocols, then into this relationship, where I'm just sitting down with my aunt, we're having tea and, you know, muffins or whatever. And I'm like, I'm asking her to sign this document. And she, she, like I said, I never forget the look, she gave me and I kind of retreated a little bit and was like, realised what was happening. And I said, look, I said, auntie, this is just something that they make me do, and so it's this sort of, like, positioning myself, like, the big bad University makes us do this, we have to do it, it basically saying that, you know, I'm not going to exploit you or I'm not going to, you know, if you want this to be confidential, it can be confidential, or anonymous, all of this stuff that would be in there. And then she just took it and signed it without reading it, which technically is unethical for me right as a researcher to, to have an informant sign something that they didn't read, they basically took my word for it. So that was one of the moments where I realised that the process, the existing process, has many, many challenges that we still haven't overcome yet. In terms of broader, you know, sort of reflections on community, and, you know, outside academia, as you mentioned, I do own Iron Dog Books or I'm the Vice President, technically. We just incorporated this year, and my wife is the President she has, it's, I don't know, it's 100 A-class shares and I have 100 B-class shares, whatever that means. And it's an interesting thing, trying to run a business in the city and trying to run a business where we, you know, we encourage, you know, BIPOC authors as much as possible. You know, we're struggling right now, this is kind of related. I guess, in a way. We're struggling right now, because we have 1000 square feet, we've been there for three years, we would like more square feet, but we also don't really want to abandon that Hastings-Sunrise neighbourhood. And so there's a development at the bottom of our block. So just you know, less than 100 yards away. It's a corner area, it would be beautiful, it's on the downhill, so it's got really big windows, right, as it gets more West. And we've made appeals to the landlord twice to go in there, it would be 3000 square feet, it would be a perfect size, to do all the things that we want to do. Like it would be like our forever store we could do just exactly like we would want it and he's baulking at it and he wants something more professional, he wants like a bank or a dentist or doctor and it is a local guy you know it's not like he's a international corporation, you know, or anything like that. But I don't know I guess he's more concerned with- he thinks a bank will, some big international organization will have... can be sued in whatever and pay up if they default on their lease or what have you. And we're just this you know, small independent bookstore, but we think we're like, this neighbourhood doesn't need more banks or Money Marts and doctors and lawyers and dentists can all go on the second floor like it's... People will find them right? Like if you, you know this, we're like this is such a waste of retail, like prime corner retail. So there's always you know, certain things about the neighbourhood and like I said, we don't want to leave it as well, because they were really good to us during the pandemic. And we we had no idea. So we opened four months before the pandemic really locked down. And we had no idea if we were going to make it and we're like, what, should we look at bankruptcy? You know, like, we had no idea. And I don't think a lot of people did have an idea how bad is this gonna get. But we managed to stay afloat through curbside pickup and two days a week, I was doing deliveries around town, we were doing free deliveries around town. And it was funny because I got to see all the other professors that were ordering from us, because like, oh hey, this is where you live. And people I would meet from UBC and SFU and or people that I knew. But yeah, there's lots of issues with community and development. Last year, we gave a bunch of money away to Indian residential school survivors. And so we try to incorporate into the business model different ways of recognizing different charities. We've worked with the Native youth organization, Urban Native Youth, I think, and yeah, it's an adventure. It's interesting.

Am Johal  31:50  
When Joe Sacco was in town the other day we did a- the day after his talk with Glen Coulthard, we ended up going around to all the bookstores. So he started at Iron Dog, went to Massy books, went to Paper Hound, went to Macleod's, the whole run through. Yeah, it's very, it's such a great institution already in the city. And it's such an important place in the fact that you did it during the pandemic as well. It's amazing.

Cliff Atleo  32:17  
Yeah, I mean, one of the things I find interesting, we... Glen's son works for us, by the way, on Saturdays, when he's not doing his, I think he's in the forestry program at UBC. But one of the things I find interesting is my wife, Hilary is friends with almost all of the bookstore owners like Patricia Massy, Kim at Paper Hound, the guy up at Pulp Fiction, but they all kind of know each other. 

Am Johal  32:39  

Cliff Atleo  32:40  
And they all you know, in many ways, mutually support each other when they can, some of us are on the same software system. So you can see who has what, so if somebody comes in, and they're looking for something specific, and we can look it up and say, oh, you should go to Book Warehouse or go to Massy, she's got it. And it's, it's something that I find fascinating, because it's not necessarily a model where you have to compete with each other. I spent a bunch of my time in Victoria. So I did two degrees there. And there's a community outside Victoria called Sidney, which is right close to the ferry. And there's that main drag in Sidney. And there used to be like four or five bookstores like within, like three blocks. So I used to think about this in that way is that I would always go, I would go to the mall, like you don't, I didn't just pick one. And that was my favourite, and they would trash talk the others. You know, if you're a bibliophile, you really like, you want to check them all out, because you can't have all the books. And so I think that that was really cool during the pandemic, as well, was there was a lot of a lot of support and encouragement amongst independent bookstore owners. And, you know, and we're happy to provide, I guess, sort of service and conversation in a way that you can't get from Amazon or Indigo in the same way. 

Am Johal  33:51  
Cliff, is there anything you'd like to add? 

Cliff Atleo  33:55  
You know, there is one project that I'm working on that I think is really cool. And in part, it's because I don't know a lot about it. Last year, I was I was sitting on my couch and just lying there wondering, why don't we hear more about electric boats. And I had read a bunch of stories about, you know, the emergence of electric cars, and what percentage of new purchases are electric vehicles or hybrid vehicles. And so I applied for a Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions grant. And we were successful with partners Skidegate First Nation and council, the Haida nation in Massett and then the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council. We're doing a feasibility study, it's been going this last year, and it'll be going into next year, looking at how we might convert our fishing fleets, water taxis, patrol boats, different kinds of vessels to cleaner marine propulsion. And I, I say I don't know a lot about it, because we have an engineering team. So there's, there's a group of professor and grad students at UVic, that are like full on, you know, that's what they do electrical engineers, mechanical engineers. And when I look at their papers, they're full of equations. And like, I have no idea what they're talking about. But I find it fascinating. And it's kind of an area of research that, actually, frankly, some of my grad students have brought me towards, because when you teach Indigenous Studies and resource stuff, it can be mostly depressing. Like it's a pretty downer to talk about how bad things are, or, you know, whether its relations with the government or the impact of- cumulative impacts of these industries. And so, you know, I've had students over the years that wanted to like research some positive things and renewable energy. There are several hundred medium sized to larger sized renewable energy projects in the country right now that involve Indigenous people, either as like full owners or as partners or that there's some sort of an agreement with another party. So I find that that area of research is very, very cool. I'm interested to see where that goes and then larger projects that will grow out of that, because there's a whole bunch of stuff right now that there's—what is it called—Power to the People? Melina Laboucan-Massimo, she's got a program on APTN that I thought was cool. And so you can see these different communities all over the country that have instituted different renewable energy projects. And I find that part fascinating because also, you know, Indigenous peoples largely bearing the brunt of climate change impacts, really active on the solution side, like wanting to explore how we might work our way out of this.

Am Johal  36:28  
Cliff, thank you so much for joining us on Below the Radar.

Cliff Atleo  36:31  
Thanks for having me.

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Julia Aoki  36:38
Below the Radar is a knowledge democracy podcast created by SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement. Thanks for listening to our conversation with Cliff Atleo. To learn more about Cliff’s research and other resources mentioned, check out the show notes in the episode description. Make sure to follow us on Instagram at sfu_voce to stay up to date on our newest podcast releases. Thanks again for tuning in, and we’ll see you next time on Below the Radar.

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Transcript auto-generated by and edited by the Below the Radar team.
February 28, 2023

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