Emma Feltes

Legal and Political Anthropology; Critical Constitutionalism; Settler Colonialism; Jurisdiction and Sovereignty; Indigenous-State Relations; Postcolonial and Critical Race Theory; Transnational Indigenous Movements

Research summary:

My dissertation research questions the assumed jurisdiction of the Canadian settler state in light of the patriation of the Constitution in 1982. When Canada first sought to patriate the Constitution from the UK—a move it promised would “break this last colonial link”—it omitted any mention of Indigenous peoples, treaties, title, and rights. So, under the leadership of Grand Chief George Manuel, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs kicked off a battle that would be fought on all fronts: local, national, and international. After chartering two trains from Vancouver to Ottawa, this movement became known as the “Constitution Express.” Ultimately, the movement was vital in getting Aboriginal rights added in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. However, what might appear to be a domestic struggle for constitutional rights and recognition, revealed itself to be an transnational movement for Indigenous nationhood and jurisdiction. Working in partnership with its living organizers, I examine the Constitution Express, asking how it sought to re-shape political relations between Indigenous Peoples and the settler state. Combining oral history with archival research, and working in close partnership with the movement’s participants and leaders, my project looks to the Constitution Express—its vision for establishing Indigenous jurisdiction and self-determination on an international basis—for direction on how to build just political relations today. As a settler scholar, my ethical and methodological practice is rooted in the vision of the movement itself—one grounded in Indigenous jurisdiction.

BHons, Contemporary Studies and International Development, University of King’s College, 2008

M.A., Social Anthropology, Dalhousie University, 2011

M.A. Thesis: “We Will Help Each Other to be Great and Good”: The Memorial to Sir Wilfrid Laurier and Resolving Indigenous-State Relations in Canada

PhD Supervisor: Dr. Carole Blackburn


Feltes, Emma. 2017. “Book Review: Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-Up Call by Arthur Manuel and Grand
Chief Ronald M. Derrickson.” Canadian Journal of History 52 (3): 584-586.

Feltes, Emma. 2015. “Research as Guesthood: The Memorial to Sir Wilfrid Laurier and
Resolving Indigenous-Settler Relations in British Columbia.” Anthropologica 57 (2): 469-480.

Engler, Cecilia and David VanderZwaag, Richard Apostle, Martin Castonguay, Julian Dodson, Emma Feltes,
Charles Norchi, and Rachel White. 2013. “Sustaining American Eels: A Slippery Species for Science and
Governance.” International Wildlife Law & Policy 16 (2-3): 128-169.

Conference Papers:

Native American and Indigenous Studies Association. Los Angeles, California. 2018. Roundtable Organizer:
The legacy of Arthur Manuel: A roundtable on his revolutionary thought and writing.

Transforming Colonial Categories Symposium. York University, Toronto, Ontario. 2012.
Paper: Research Models Founded on Respect Between Sovereigns & Indigenous Legal Principles

American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting. Montreal, Quebec. 2011. Paper: “Memorial Sir Wilfrid Laurier: the Document, Indigenous Sovereignty, and Anthropological Allies in British Columbia.” Panel: The “Settler Question” in Canada: Anthropological History and the Challenge of Living Together in Indigenous Lands.

Canadian Anthropology Society Annual Conference. Fredericton, NB. 2011. Paper: “Reciprocity, Protocol, and the Research Relationship.” Panel: The “Settler Question” in Canada and the Challenge of Living Together in Common Lands.

Society for Applied Anthropology Annual Conference. Seattle, Washington. 2011. Paper: “Reciprocity, Protocol, and the Research Relationship.” Panel: Applied, Professional, and Practicing Anthropology in Canada.

Govenor General’s Gold Medal (Dalhousie University) , 2012
Arts Graduate Student Research Awards, Faculty of Arts , 2018
Liu Scholar, Liu Institute , 2016
SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarships Doctoral Program (2015-2018) , 2015
UBC Four-Year Fellowship (2015-2019) , 2015