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(Re)Examining Power on British Columbia’s Logging Frontier: Histories of Indigenous Forestry in the Pacific Northwest

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

Session Submission Type: Panel

Abstract

This panel complicates the history of forestry in the Pacific Northwest by analyzing the diverse ways that Indigenous people engaged with the industry in the 19th and 20th centuries. Using ethnohistorical methodologies, panelists engage Indigenous elders to ask important questions about the ways that the emergence of an industrial logging industry shaped Indigenous ways of knowing and using the forest. Central to this conversation is the role of power in delineating the ways that Indigenous people understood, accessed, and worked in their forested territories.

Indigenous responses to industrial forestry varied, and depended largely on realities on the ground at specific times and places. Susan Roy and Jessica Silvey examine 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. Nicholas May highlights Haida and Gitxsan agency and adaptability in adjusting to the presence of industrial logging on their lands, and shows the expediency of these Indigenous loggers in responding to new economic opportunity. Colin Osmond highlights continuities in pre-and-post contact Tla’amin forest use to provide historical context for the decisions that informed Tla’amin engagement with the commercial logging industry in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Assessing the role of power in the history of Indigenous interaction with forestry in the Pacific Northwest promises to tell a more complicated story than previous histories that emphasized foreign capital and technology as the most important elements in the late 19th and 20th century logging industry. Recognizing that Indigenous people maintained an active role in their forested territories, and exercised power to help reshape their local environments through the changes that came with industrial logging, allows historians to gleam new insights on a previously ‘whitewashed’ history.

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