If the Lubicon lose we all lose: A case study of interchurch advocacy and intervention in an Aboriginal land rights conflict

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Sciences


Robert A. Rubinstein


Lubicon Cree, Alberta, Interchurch coalitions, Advocacy, Aboriginal, Land rights

Subject Categories

Anthropology | Race and Ethnicity | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Sociology


This dissertation is a qualitative study of an attempt to develop and maintain a particular type of Aboriginal rights advocacy relationship, namely the effort of the a regional interchurch coalition, based in Edmonton Alberta, to develop a solidarity relationship with the Lubicon Cree of northern Alberta and to advocate for the resolution of the Lubicon land rights struggle. Ethnographic research methods included participant-observation of the Edmonton Interfaith Coalition on Aboriginal Rights (EICAR) from 1997 to 1999, analysis of media and interchurch documentation on the Lubicon struggle and semi-structured interviews with 31 interviewees. After a brief history of the Lubicon conflict, the study examines the convergence of several political discourses which provided the political space for the creation of a new advocacy network and a new type of relationship with specific Aboriginal societies such as the Lubicon. This particular solidarity relationship conveyed a commitment to act on behalf of the Lubicon and the moral justification for doing so, but also confronted non-Aboriginal supporters with the tensions between standing with Lubicon while simultaneously acknowledging the many factors that separated them from each other. The study analyzes two specific collective actions--a blockade of Lubicon territory in 1988 and the establishment of a nongovernmental commission of inquiry in 1992--as attempts to enact this solidarity relationship. The blockade is a collective action which was developed and implemented by the Lubicon who then invited interchurch and other supporters to stand with them in solidarity. The commission exemplifies an attempt to set up an intermediary structure with overlapping advocacy and mediating roles. The study then examines the impact of both actions on the power and cultural differentials separating the Lubicon from their non-Aboriginal supporters and concludes that the maintenance of a strong advocacy and solidarity relationship requires not only the willingness to empower the Lubicon in various collective actions but also a sensitivity to the cultural boundaries between the two parties and the willingness and opportunity to sustain ongoing supportive relationships across cultures.


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