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Northern Environments and Indigenous Communities

Thu, March 31, 8:00 to 9:30am, Westin Seattle Hotel, Blakely

Session Submission Type: Panel


Canadians have had a complex relationship with their northern environments, oscillating between absence of mind and frenzy of interest in these remote regions. When northern climes have entered the radars of southern Canadians, views have ranged from a desire to exploit natural resources to concerns for environmental conservation. This panel will demonstrate, both of these imperatives impacted the extant indigenous communities by reordering northern ecologies and the human-environment relationship. However, the impacts of these various intrusions into northern indigenous environments – and indigenous responses to them – were far from uniform. In response to both resource extraction and environmental conservation, indigenous peoples not only experienced displacement and dispossession, but also found room to negotiate their own interests within colonial institutions.

In “The Great Upheaval,” Heather Green examines how the Klondike Gold Rush and its aftermath altered the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in’s relationship with the natural environment. This includes analysing how mining activities altered the landscape, adversely affecting the indigenous abilities to pursue subsistence activities, as well as cultural elements, such as fish and game regulations, which further circumscribed these pursuits. Meanwhile, in "An Intricate Maze,” David Vogt complicates the commonly-held notion that trapline registration in northern British Columbia resulted in the large-scale dispossession of indigenous lands. He contends that some indigenous communities, including the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en, also endeavoured to use trapline registrations as a form of state power to advance their own interests and resolve disputes between indigenous trappers. Finally, in “Trapline Registration and Constructing Land Use,” Glenn Iceton uses trapline records and GIS software to understand how state officials came to conceptualize Kaska land use and occupancy and to measure the extent to which they were dispossessed by non-indigenous trappers. Additionally, he analyses how government discourse factored into the ethnogenesis of band affiliations and the concomitant allocation of traplines.

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