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Extractive industries have negative impacts on Indigenous peoples

February 06, 2017

Extractive industries affect Indigenous peoples in Sweden and Australia, and Indigenous group's perspectives are often ignored or trivialised, according to a PhD thesis from Umeå University in Sweden. Kristina Sehlin MacNeil has collaborated with Indigenous organisations in developing concepts that include Indigenous peoples' perspectives on conflicts and power relations.

The PhD study compares situations for Laevas čearru, a Sami reindeer herding community in northern Sweden and Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners, an Indigenous people in South Australia. Both groups identify various forms of violence caused by extractive activities on their lands as threats to their societies, livelihoods and cultures. Furthermore, the results show that in order to address violence against Indigenous peoples and improve processes of conflict transformation, Indigenous and decolonising perspectives should be heard and taken into account.

"By illuminating asymmetrical conflicts and power relations between Indigenous groups and extractive industries and by highlighting Indigenous peoples' perspectives, a better foundation for inclusive dialogue and conflict transformation can hopefully be achieved," says Kristina Sehlin MacNeil, PhD student at Vaartoe - Centre for Sami Research at Umeå University.

As a part of Umeå University's Industrial Doctoral School, Kristina Sehlin MacNeil, with the mentorship of the Swedish Sami Organisation, Sámiid Riikkasearvi, has also developed methods and analytical tools aimed to make the research more relevant for the communities it concerns. In her study, Sehlin MacNeil has used Indigenous and decolonising methodologies to centre the research participants' perspectives and create space for their voices.

Kristina Sehlin MacNeil has adapted the Violence Triangle, developed by Norwegian peace researcher Johan Galtung, in order to understand the conflicts and power relations. The model includes structural violence (unfair social structures), cultural violence (discriminating attitudes) and direct violence (physical violence).

"As the model didn't allow for the type of violence that the Sami and Aboriginal research participants experience when their lands are destroyed by extractive industries, I introduced the term extractive violence, to replace direct violence. Extractive violence is a concept that illuminates how extractivism impacts Indigenous peoples negatively and how this is often ignored or trivialised," concludes Kristina Sehlin MacNeil.

Kristina Sehlin MacNeil comes from Umeå in northern Sweden and has a background in communications and conflict studies from the University of South Australia in Adelaide. From an early age, she has been interested in conflicts, particularly in conflict transformation, and has worked and studied in the peace and conflict field for a number of years.
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In 2014-15 Sehlin MacNeil was a Visiting Scholar at University of South Australia's David Unaipon College of Indigenous Education and Research. There she worked together with Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners in exploring Adnyamathanha people's resistance to proposed nuclear waste dumps on Adnyamathanha land. After completing her PhD at Umeå University this February, Sehlin MacNeil aims to continue researching conflicts and power relations between Indigenous groups and extractive industries.

Umeå University, located in the north of Sweden, is characterised by strong research conducted in a vast number of fields, and many of our researchers belong to the global elite in for instance global health, epidemiology, molecular biology, ecology, plant physiology and Arctic research. Umeå University is one of Sweden's largest teaching universities that offers a wide-spanning and attractive selection of courses and programmes, and stimulating environments for working and studying for the over 4,300 employees and 31,000 students. It was from Umeå University that the work in discovering the gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 was led.

Umea University

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