Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology (PhD)
Possibilities and Challenges of Recognising and Implementing Indigenous Peoples' Rights to Land and Territory in Canada
This dissertation describes the results of ethnographic research on the wilderness tourist attraction known as the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. It investigates settler-colonial views of and experiences in a space that is claimed by the Canadian state and is also part of the traditional territories of indigenous peoples. The entanglement of wilderness tourism and settler-colonialism is analyzed in the contemporary Canadian context where, it is argued, Canadian nationalism and indigenous reconciliation are in conflict. Particular attention is paid to the complex ways a space is constructed as wilderness (and therefore a-cultural and a-historical) through both material and representational actions of the settler-colonial state. The trail is a 75 kilometre backcountry hiking trail managed as the West Coast Trail Unit of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. It is co-managed by Parks Canada and the Huu-ay-aht, Ditidaht and Pacheedaht First Nations. Fieldwork was conducted from 2013-2014, where the investigator based herself in the settler community of Bamfield and repeatedly hiked the length of the trail interacting with both visitors and locals. Qualitative data was collected through interviews and participant observation with both locals living on and near the trail and hikers recreating in the national park. This thesis posits that Canadian settler-colonialism venerates not only idealized images of a national landscape but also the active engagement with nature through recreation. It is contended that within this active, corporeal, and material engagement there is potential for challenges to static colonial narratives of wilderness that mask Indigenous territory.
Development in British Columbia has and continues to operate within an extractivist, colonial framework with little regard to environmental or community impacts. In 1952, the Cheslatta T’En were forcibly removed from their homelands for Alcan’s Kenney Dam. Because of the frequent flooding of Nechako Reservoir, the Cheslatta live in constant tension with a permanently changed landscape as the bones of their ancestors and memories of their way of life continues to wash ashore. The coordinated and intentional efforts of Alcan and the Department of Indian Affairs to remove all material traces of the Cheslatta from their lands had devastating impacts that reach into their ancestral past, continue in the present, and shape Cheslatta’s collective action for a more just future. The Cheslatta’s memories of their lands and forced displacement are the traces that Alcan and the settler state could not erase. Today, with approximately 140 band members resettled onto eleven different reserves, totaling 1,400 hectares and scattered over 170 miles apart, the Cheslatta navigate resettlement and efforts to reclaim their heritage in a land and space disconnected from what had been their homelands for thousands of years. Through an ethnohistorical and ethnographic analysis, I investigate the following: How are acts of resistance to displacement and dispossession informed by cultural meanings and memories of the land? What are the everyday experiences of dispossession and displacement? How do community members navigate “moving forward”? In this thesis, I analyze the individually narrated experiences of displacement; observations of reconciliation negotiations; community gatherings; Cheslatta community members’ interactions with the landscape; and, archival documents. My analysis coincides with theoretical frameworks of memory, space and place, and settler state reconciliation politics.
Non-profit social services targeting specific ‘vulnerable’ groups have become increasingly prevalent since the late 1970s. These services have flourished with the growth of neoliberal ideas that stress rolling back government services, using private institutions that operate on profit-driven models, and creating citizens who are self-sufficient, enterprising subjects. These organizations are an important element of Foucault’s ‘governmentality,’ the idea that independent institutions across society act in concert to regulate the population. This thesis questions the extent to which the goals of neoliberal governmentality are able to penetrate a non-profit organization that provides homeless shelters for women and children in the San Francisco Bay Area, and demonstrates how the organization acts as both a part of the system of neoliberal governmentality while simultaneously resisting its logic. This qualitative research project, which involved participant observation at the shelter site and 16 interviews with staff and clients of the organization, focuses on the ways in which shelter staff have become skilled at responding to the demands of neoliberal governmentality while using unique strategies to address client’s needs and create a home-like shelter environment. The organization employs service strategies that resist the construction of the neoliberal subject as consistently enterprising and rational. Harm-reduction and trauma-informed strategies acknowledge the personal and structural barriers to overcoming problems such as substance abuse and domestic violence, and stress that disciplinary institutional spaces often contribute to the stress and trauma that clients feel within the social services system. Staff members have used these official strategies, as well as their own personal understandings of how they would like the shelter to operate, to develop individual styles and challenge many of the rules within the shelter. This personal and compassionate approach stresses accommodation and is driven by a desire to make the shelter feel more like home.