How to Decolonize Democracy: Indigenous Governance Innovation in Bolivia and Nunavut, Canada


  • Roberta Rice University of Calgary



decolonizing experiments in Bolivia and Nunavut, diversifying democracy, Inuit indigenous movement, participatory governance, resource governance


This paper analyzes the successes, failures, and lessons learned from the innovative experiments in decolonization that are currently underway in Bolivia and Nunavut, Canada. Bolivia and Nunavut are the first large-scale tests of Indigenous governance in the Americas. In both cases, Indigenous peoples are a marginalized majority who have recently assumed power by way of democratic mechanisms. In Bolivia, the inclusion of direct, participatory, and communitarian elements into the democratic system, has dramatically improved representation for Indigenous peoples. In Nunavut, the Inuit have also opted to pursue self-determination through a public government system rather than through an Inuit-specific self-government arrangement. The Nunavut government seeks to incorporate Inuit values, beliefs, and worldviews into a Canadian system of government. In both cases, the conditions for success are far from ideal. Significant social, economic, and institutional problems continue to plague the new governments of Bolivia and Nunavut. Based on original research in Bolivia and Nunavut, the paper finds that important democratic gains have been made. I argue that the emergence of new mechanisms for Indigenous and popular participation has the potential to strengthen democracy by enhancing or stretching liberal democratic conceptions and expectations.

Author Biography

Roberta Rice, University of Calgary

Assistant Professor of Indigenous Politics, Department of Political Science, University of Calgary, Canada