Johnny Mack

Study program:
Ph.D. Law
Current affiliation:
University of Victoria

Johnny is investigating how the traditional socio-political and legal framework of the Nuu-chah-nulth people (a group of First Nations peoples living on the west coast of Vancouver Island) can be reformed to better suit today's realities

Genealogical Account of Nuu-chah-nulth Constitutionalism and Political Imperative

Johnny Ph.D.'s research identifies how a particular Indigenous community brings its political and legal authority into existence and how they (may) maintain healthy and functional politico-legal institutions in the face new pressures and rapidly changing social and material realities. At the base of his research is a belief that while Indigenous political and legal practices and institutions are deeply rooted in an ancient history, they survive to this day and are as relevant now as they were when they found the Europeans on their shores. However, Johnny's research substantiates the point that colonial processes have thinned out these institutions and the theoretical and philosophical storied traditions rationalizing them. This has a disorienting affect, making it difficult to know how to appropriately modify and invigorate indigenous institutions and social practices so that they can effectively inform and order relations within the very different world that now surrounds them. Johnny's work responds to this problem by exploring in theoretical and practical terms how the Nuu-chah-nulth may reorient themselves with reference to the storied traditions that constitute his peoples as Nuu-chah-nulth.

Johnny Mack is Toquaht, of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council. He was raised on an Indian Reserve in Nuu-chah-nulth territory, off the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Johnny is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Victoria (Faculty of Law) studying Indigenous legal traditions, Indigenous constitutionalism, subjectivity, critical theory, postcolonial theory and legal pluralism. His doctoral research assesses how the Aboriginal rights and title framework and contemporary treaty negotiations in Canada carry forward the momentum of earlier colonial policies by continuing to dispossess indigenous peoples of their land base and facilitating their reintegrating into the land as liberal democratic Canadians. Those aspects of indigenous political history conflicting with liberal norms of citizenship, democracy and property are deliberately cut back for the purposes of harmonization. He is developing this dissertation under the supervision of Professor James Tully and Professor John Borrows. His LLM thesis, submitted to the Faculty of Law at the University of Victoria in 2009 titled Thickening Totems and Thinning Imperialism," provided a critical analysis of the Maa-nulth Treaty Agreement (2007) as a historic and profoundly imperial moment in the history of the Nuu-chah-nulth people. 

Johnny is an impassioned advocate for indigenous peoples on the west coast of Vancouver Island. His involvement has been both formal, as a policy analyst for Aboriginal organizations and informally, as a community activist working to create constructive critical dialogue on the subject of contemporary Treaty negotiations.