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Traplines, Pipelines, and Storylines: Histories at the Intersection of Local and Land Use and Global Resource Development

Fri, April 12, 10:30am to 12:00pm, Hyatt Regency Columbus, Morrow


In 1977, the Alaska Highway Pipeline Inquiry (AHPI) held hearings in the Yukon’s various communities assessing the feasibility of constructing a natural gas pipeline through the Yukon. The AHPI occurred concurrently to the protracted negotiations of Indigenous land claims. Indigenous peoples’ testimonies during the inquiry emphasized the importance of their land rights and associated hunting and trapping activities. They drew attention to their historical land use and how pipeline construction would jeopardize their subsistence activities. The importance of traplines was a prominent theme in the AHPI. However, traplines in the Yukon and adjacent regions in British Columbia, had complicated and contradictory histories with respect to Indigenous communities. Registered traplines were simultaneously state-imposed wildlife regimes and means of preventing the unfettered alienation of Indigenous trapping grounds to non-Indigenous trappers. Despite the controversial nature of trapline registration at its inception, during the 1970s resource developments – such as pipeline proposals – resulted in the mobilization of extant traplines as means of opposing or mitigating the potential effects of megaprojects. This paper discusses the contexts in which compulsory trapline registration was undertaken in both northern British Columbia and the Yukon Territory (1925 and 1950 respectively). It considers how trapline registration circumscribed Indigenous trapping activities while also providing a check on the advance of non-Indigenous trapping activities. The paper then examines how traplines were used within the context of Indigenous land claims and emerging natural resource developments. Although a state imposition which circumscribed Indigenous land use, traplines were used to draw attention to the risks that resource development posed to subsistence activities.