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Colonial Environments in the Canadian North: Impacts on Indigenous Land Use

Thu, March 30, 1:30 to 3:00pm, The Drake Hotel, Venetian

Session Submission Type: Panel


Through the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Northern Canadian Indigenous communities experienced the encroachment of colonial attitudes towards northern environments. These attitudes variously envisioned northern environments as something to be exploited or something to be protected. Emergent attitudes towards northern environments in turn had a material impact on land use – sometimes intended, often unintended. In some cases, colonial visions for northern landscapes rendered Indigenous subsistence activities into a subversive act. Meanwhile, other visions for the environment, contained within a provincial or territorial jurisdiction, affected Indigenous communities supposedly beyond its reach. Finally, the consequences of colonial attitudes resulted in real or imagined effects on Indigenous food systems which in turn negatively affected subsistence activities and set Western science and Indigenous knowledge at odds.

In “Colonial Space, Indigenous Land Use, and Resource Extraction in the Yukon, 1900-1940,” Heather Green examines the long-term consequences of gold mining on Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in cultural activities, particularly hunting, fishing, and gathering. Green demonstrates how colonial visions of Moosehide as a site of segregation and assimilation was subverted by the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in to serve as a cultural and community space. In “Across the Line: Cross-Border Effects of Trapline Registration in Northern British Columbia and the Yukon,” Glenn Iceton analyzes the effects of trapline registration in British Columbia and the Yukon respectively and how the application and enforcement of these conservation initiatives affected the trapping activities of Indigenous peoples in neighbouring jurisdictions. Iceton considers how the enforcement of these regulations cut through the cultural geographies of the region’s Indigenous peoples whose traditional trapping territories were bifurcated by the provincial and territorial boundaries. Finally, in “Food Contamination in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region,” Hereward Longley argues that the actual and perceived contamination of traditional foods resulting from the development of the Athabasca oil sands has affected Indigenous land use.

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