Competing Conceptions of Land in Canada: From Locke to Kulchyski and Coulthard

  • Dylan Chyz-Lund


This paper examines the concept of land within the Canadian context, comparing John Locke’s understanding of it against the position of Peter Kulchyski and Glen Coulthard, two scholars studying Indigenous affairs. In so doing, I identify several important distinctions between their respective epistemologies that are important for understanding different systems of land organization in Canada. Specifically, Locke’s understanding is rooted in a biblical framework of natural rights that enables an anthropocentric position towards land and views land as instrumentally valuable. In contrast to Locke’s position, Kulchyski and Coulthard’s conception of land is holistic and emphasizes a subject-to-subject relationship between people and land, understanding it as intrinsically, rather than instrumentally, valuable. Taken together, these comparisons highlight the importance of culture in conditioning our understanding of land, and raise important questions regarding how these two systems of land organization can coexist in a single federal state.