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Monstrous histories, Indigenous cultural revitalization, and the remaking of shíshálh forests in the Pacific Northwest

Sat, March 17, 8:30 to 10:00am, Riverside Convention Center, RC D


In the early twentieth-century, a number of shíshálh men applied for provincial hand-logging licences throughout shíshálh territory, what is now known as the Sunshine Coast in southern coastal British Columbia. Many shíshálh families strategically applied for logging licences in areas where their families held long-standing rights and access to resources according to shíshálh systems of governance. This paper examines the relationship between shíshálh genealogies and the transformation of the Indigenous forest through industrial logging, the revitalization of Indigenous forestry practices, and the re-emergence of animals or “monsters,” including smaylah (sasquatches) to the forest landscape.

This paper presents the history of the Silvey family’s ongoing relationship to the Egmont forest of Jervis Inlet, an area first hand-logged in 1907 by the grandparents of co-presenter Jessica Silvey. We trace the historic transformation of this forest—from Indigenous participation in the logging industry, to the formation of Skookum Chuck Provincial Park, and as a current site of Indigenous harvesting for cedar bark and other resources. Importantly, we also present these histories of interactions between Indigenous peoples and resource development together with histories of the disappearance or emergence of forest animals or creatures, including dangerous “monsters”— two-headed serpents and smaylah (sasquatches)—who inhabit the lands and waters of shíshálh territory. Indigenous relationships to the coastal forest were (and are) experienced as embodied relationships—for example, not just as landscapes, but also as integrated sound- and sight-scapes. Thus, these stories integrate Indigenous oral traditions about the forest and animals with histories of non-Indigenous settlement and resource extraction, exploring ways that we can understand the persistence of shíshálh landscapes and relationships to forested territories in defiance of colonial processes of dispossession and alienation. This paper highlights integrated family genealogies, personal histories, and deep histories of place into an integrated understanding of ancestral and modern-day shíshálh forest-scapes.


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