Little community that could but wouldn't : a case study of controversy, innovation and social change among northern Ojibwa
Dion, Rene R.
Master of Arts
SubjectIndians of North America Ontario Webequie
Ojibwa Indians Social life and customs
Television Ontario Webequie Receivers and reception
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The main conclusion arrived at in this thesis is that social change in northern Ojibwa communities is linked to the balance of power and dependence found between various individuals and groups. To arrive at this the author examined the issue of obtaining illegal satellite signals in the village of Webequie, Ontario. Through the method of participant observation several groups in this issue were identified, each had varied desires but all had the same interest—television service. In Webequie, the demand for such a system created a controversy which divided the village into two groups; those who wanted television and those who rejected it. Each faction held a degree of power, but the struggle to gain a satellite unit was more difficult for supporters. They not only had to contend with non-supporters represented by elders (those people most influential according to village norms and Ojibwa custom}, but they also had to deal with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), Their desire was to enforce communications policy and they stated that legal action would be taken against all illegal systems. Apart from the legal issue, all northern native settlements operating such equipment, despite CRTC threats, are faced with the added risk of losing their language and current way of life. This is so because most of the programming found on such systems (mainly American "super stations") is controlled by people with values different from the ones practiced in remote Ojibwa^—Cree villages, J is this cultural threat which concerns a fourth group identified in the study--Wawata Communications Society, This organization was established to help preserve native culture, yet illegal satellite systems threaten to undermine their purpose. Realizing their position and the demand for television by many villages like Webequie, Wawata’s goal was to resolve its dilemma. So, in this study of social change, one finds supporters who want television service, non-supporters who reject it, the CRTC who requires that communications policy be upheld and finally, Wawata who desires a solution to its problem. By concentrating on interactions between these four groups over the issue of television, the researcher has conducted a case study of social change. To analyze the situation, the author used the principles of exchange relations, power-dependence, balancing operations and network exchange, found in Richard M. Emerson's power-dependence exchange paradigm. The data obtained revealed that exchange relations were established between all groups. Furthermore, power and dependence was found not only between supporters and nonsupporters, but also between advocates and Wawata, supporters and the CRTC, plus other government branches such as the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development The power-dependence relation between non-supporters and advocates in Webequie generated an imbalance in which non-supporters maintained a "power advantage". Yet, through network exchange and one of the balancing operations (coalition formation) advocates joined with Wawata to balance non-supporters' power and in the end obtained television service.