Coll Thrush

Prospective Graduate Students / Postdocs

This faculty member is currently not actively recruiting graduate students or Postdoctoral Fellows, but might consider co-supervision together with another faculty member.


Research Classification

Research Interests

Indigenous history
settler colonialism
Pacific history
Northwest Coast

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs

Affiliations to Research Centres, Institutes & Clusters

Research Options

I am available and interested in collaborations (e.g. clusters, grants).
I am interested in and conduct interdisciplinary research.
I am interested in working with undergraduate students on research projects.

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Sovereign futures : indigenous and settler prophecies in two nineteenth-century American “northwests” (2023)

This dissertation argues that settler colonialism unfolded in various North American Wests through a clash of prophetic visions, each of which expressed fundamentally different modes of relationality. Through two case studies—the “Old Northwest” of the early nineteenth-century Ohio Valley, and the “new” Northwest of the Columbia Plateau region later in the century—I explore how Indigenous prophecies and settler prophecies articulated divergent visions of the future in language that was declarative, often couched in future perfect tense: what will have come to be. Scholars have long framed Indigenous prophetic movements as either religious or political, traditionalist or innovative, as autochthonous or existing only in reaction to contact and colonialism. I move beyond these binary formations by reframing Indigenous prophecy through Indigenous ontologies and epistemologies. Through these frameworks, Indigenous prophecy can be seen as a diagnostic tool, a theoretical and critical apparatus, and a guide for either maintaining or refusing relations with humans and other-than-human beings. Accompanied by new prescriptions and ceremonies on how to live properly with other beings and thus renew a world of interdependent relationships, Indigenous prophecy may be seen as simultaneously legal, political, and religious even as it resists these categories. It is oriented toward a future on and with the land against, or despite, the presence of settler colonial jurisdictional claims. For their part, settlers prophesied a future free from vulnerability and dependences, of technological perfection and environmental mastery. For this future to come to pass, the interdependent relations carefully forged by generations of Indigenous communities on and with the land had to be severed and reoriented toward an ever-expanding market. Settlers confidently proclaimed the immanent fulfillment of a “manifest destiny,” yet they simultaneously expressed anxiety when a future of technological progress, flourishing republican institutions, market connectivity and private land ownership seemed compromised. Settler prophecy was always in reaction to the continued presence of Indigenous peoples who professed their own temporal sovereignty. With the constant specter of Indigenous endurance, settler future imaginaries have always been fragile and doomed to fail.

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Looking for the killer: a history of orca encounters, 1861-1964 (2022)

This dissertation examines the emergence of the killer whale in popular and scientific discourses (1861-1964). Today, the orca is beloved, a potent symbol of nature and a marker of the tenuous future of our oceans in an age of climate catastrophe and ecological precarity. However, for much of western history, the orca has been a pariah, vilified for their predations and cast as a monstrous glutton. The dissertation seeks to understand the historical roots of the orca’s terrible reputation through an analysis of public discourses, fictional works, and scientific texts. This study traces discrete pieces of knowledge related to the orca’s character, seeking to understand how embodied experiences of both orcas and humans shaped the representations of the species over time. The dissertation features a set of case studies: a dissection of an orca in Denmark (1861), Antarctic encounters with orca in the early twentieth century (1910-1929), and a wayward orca who took up residence in a slough near Portland, Oregon (1931). The project employs a large-scale gathering of news coverage related to the orca, showcasing the possibilities of animal-centered history in the age of mass digitization. The dynamics of orca-human encounters are a crucial thread for this project. Special attention is paid to the embodied dynamics of these encounters, integrating historical sources with our present-day understanding of orca behaviors and cultures. The dissertation traces how first-hand encounters with orca were packaged – as scientific facts or wild animal stories – and, ultimately, how accounts of human-orca interactions were either incorporated into the orca’s folk-biological reputation or lost to the past. The dissertation considers how specific stories became canonical to understanding the species. The interplays – between belief and encounter, expectation and interaction, intimate first-hand encounter and second-hand recounting of the events – are reoccurring themes of the dissertation, speaking to the uneven record of human interactions with the killer whale and the historical contingency of human attitudes towards orca.

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Distance and difference: seamen and maritime communication in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and the Atlantic World, 1730-1800 (2021)

Historians say that common seamen communicated news during the eighteenth century. However, this commonsense belief remains mostly untested for regions other than the Caribbean and periods before the 1790s. This study tests whether such communications were new during the Age of Revolutions. It applies interpretive, qualitative, and digital history methods to the print, manuscript, oral, and musical communication of Massachusetts and Rhode Island mariners and demonstrates how all sorts of seamen communicated with each other and people on shore about politics, gender, and race.This study argues that transformations in maritime communication during the 1760s made America seem different from and opposed to imperial Britain in various ways. Indeed, maritime communications connected everyone in port to the larger British Atlantic because all ranks of men worked at sea. Thanks to them, other early Americans did not have to rely on printers and postmasters for information. During the Imperial Crisis, early Americans made avoiding postage on ship letters a way to protest imperial taxation. Rumors and news overlapped for early American mariners when they used maritime communication to resist what they saw as the tyranny and despotism of navy impressment and French captivity. Massachusetts provincials adopted mariners’ complaints about naval impressment, and seamen generalized their complaints about impressment to object to British rule. Moreover, expressions of mariners’ attitudes about women, courtship, and marriage appeared in sea songs, where differences increased between American-composed verses that expressed new, sentimental opinions about women and marriage and British-composed verses that expressed Anglicized, patriarchal opinions. Furthermore, as Governors attempted to use maritime communications to regulate British subjects who voyaged to the fisheries and Inuit trade of Labrador in the north, Massachusetts provincials resented and resisted these regulations that they believed were an imperial encroachment. Finally, on slaving voyages to the Upper Guinea Coast and the West Indies in the south, news about slave ship uprisings indicated how these American maritime communications had become redundant and robust, even over long distances. This suggests that even before early national newspapers and the federal post office, early Americans imagined how America differed from Britain when they chattered with seamen.

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Dark Mimesis: a cultural history of the scalping paradigm (2018)

This thesis examines the history of scalp bounties, i.e., the payment of money or trade goods in wartime to volunteers, militias, and mercenaries, for the scalps of indigenous North Americans in the British North American colonies and the post-Revolutionary United States, from the mid-1630s to the end of the 19th century. Out of a general Euro-American colonial backdrop of military alliances with indigenous peoples against indigenous third parties and rival European colonies, and the offering of bounties for captives and proofs of death to indigenous and European volunteers, British colonists parted ways with other Europeans by grafting a specific request for scalps, per eastern North American practice, with a broader policy of ethnic cleansing against indigenous peoples, and the outsourcing of this work to frontier populations with a vested interest in seizing indigenous land and resources. Synthesizing and surveying primary and secondary sources, I argue that Euro-American scalp bounties and the pursuit of those bounties, popularly known as scalp-hunting, were informed by 16th-century designations of indigenous Americans as illegitimate combatants, cross-cultural misreadings of indigenous warfare as a primordial or dysfunctional version of Europeans’, and a broader context of genocidal intent towards indigenous peoples collectively. Imagining themselves as the potential victims of Indian uprisings, Anglo-Americans invoked scalping to metonymize nightmare images of indigenous warriors as merciless and cruel; in turn, scalping was invoked to justify vigilante killings, pre-emptive violence, slave trading, and scorched earth campaigns of extirpation. Whites scalping Indians, on the other hand, was imagined as historically inevitable, and portrayed in art and culture as exemplifying their inheritance and supersession of indigenous lands, resources, and ‘American’ identity. I argue that scalp bounties among Anglo-Americans, and their justification as historically inevitable, is best understood as mimetic re-enactment of the dehumanizing stereotypes which rendered indigenous peoples as illegitimate combatants and the negative mirror image of Euro-American settlers. I refer to this bundle of ideas, truisms, stock images and narratives as “the scalping paradigm.”

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The eloquence of things: indigeneity and the 1925 Pontifical Missionary Exposition (2018)

Assembled in the heart of the Vatican, the 1925 Pontifical Missionary Exposition (PME) included specially designed pavilions showcasing art and artifacts taken by missions across the Americas, Asia, Oceania, and Africa. Sponsored by Pope Pius XI, and with the cooperation of the city of Rome and Italy’s fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, the exhibition featured over 100,000 objects and attracted over one million visitors during its 13-month run. Despite the exhibition’s success, drawing in pilgrims and tourists from across the globe, this potent and revealing example of the entanglement of Indigenous art and Catholic missionary history remains under-examined. The dissertation focuses on the Hall of Americas section of the exhibition, which held over 4,000 material things including photographs, textiles, diorama displays and statuary. The prehistory of the PME compares the vision of German artist Ferdinand Pettrich, and his statuary of Indigenous Americans that featured prominently in the Hall of Americas, in conversation with Edmonia Wildfire Lewis, an Anishinaabe artist working in Rome. The dissertation then examines the visitors’ experience of the PME and the prevalent fissures in the Rivista Illustrata, the illustrated journal of the exposition. Specifically focusing on misconstrued photographs of Indigenous peoples in the Rivista Illustrata, the dissertation offers a detailed analysis of the space of the Hall of Americas as an allochronic one that denied the contemporary reality of the diversity and modernity of Indigenous nations across Turtle Island, a process of colonial unknowing. Through the allochronic space of the Hall of Americas, and especially in encounters with dioramas and children’s games, visitors also participated indirectly in denying the realities for Indigenous children at Residential Schools in the 1920s. The final chapter then focuses on how First Nations cultural belongings sent in for the PME illuminate the diversity and complexity of Indigenous arts and Indigenous ontologies across Turtle Island. Presenting a new historiography that focuses on the intertwined nature of Indigenous Americans in Vatican City through visual culture—statuary, children’s games, Indigenous cultural belongings, and archival materials—this study showcases the mobility of First Nations art and artists in the Eternal City, an ongoing but under-studied relationship.

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Nakona Wasnonya Yuhabi / Assiniboine Knowledge Keepers: Indigenous Archiving From the 19th to the 21st Century (2014)

This dissertation investigates the ways that Assiniboine peoples have kept bodies of cultural knowledge alive for their people from the reservation period in the U.S. and Canada in the late nineteenth century to the present. I intend to contribute to the archival turn with what I would call a nascent theory of Indigenous archiving. By focusing on Assiniboine people, I describe five Indigenous methods of keeping knowledge alive for their communities, including oral tradition, ceremony, sacred sites and territoriality, written texts, and artwork, as distinct from the Western methodologies of archiving. I contrast Assiniboine perspectives of archiving with what settler society collected and said about Assiniboine culture and history, and then explicate the differences between these settler and Indigenous points of view. This historical investigation of archiving Assiniboine knowledge illustrates relationships that range from animosity to reciprocity between Assiniboine and settlers regarding what it means to archive Assiniboine knowledge. This dissertation examines archives as bodies of cultural knowledge, archiving as an action of preservation, and Assiniboine cultural practitioners as archivists or what I call keepers of cultural knowledge. Throughout this dissertation I examine Assiniboine archiving as a set of interrelated processes. I suggest that the Assiniboine have employed a constellation of Indigenous archival processes that, in particular instances, worked in synchronicity in sustaining a degree of Assiniboine cultural identities, cosmologies, and a sense of peoplehood that has both undergone change and experienced continuity over time. I show that this constellation of archival processes mitigated previous damage caused by the ways of collecting by settlers, including those methods used in the disciplines of Anthropology and History, the universities that house them, and colonial museums and national archives. I demonstrate that these ways of archiving show the potential for Indigenous peoples to work with settler archives to support their own cultural preservation and to decolonize settler efforts through reciprocal relations (repatriation, managing or working with exhibitions), such as tribally managed archives and museums. This dissertation is based on extensive archival research and oral interviews with Assiniboine people on reserves in Montana, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

"The mound long antedates the present tribes": the moundbuilder myth in Canada, 1855-1963 (2022)

This thesis examines nineteenth and twentieth-century research on mounds and associated burial sites in Canada, specifically Manitoba, Ontario, and British Columbia and the role of the moundbuilder myth generated by non-Indigenous anthropologists in the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries. What I term the “moundbuilder myth” was a theory held by settlers that claimed Indigenous people had not constructed burial mounds in Canada. Instead, settlers claimed a distinct, separate race—one skilled in agricultural, industry, and other traits settlers saw as positive—had constructed them. Settlers also claimed First Nations had driven out this moundbuilder race. Through examining journals such as the Canadian Naturalist, the transactions of societies such as the Royal Society of Canada and the Manitoba Historical Society, writings of settler anthropologists such as Charles Hill-Tout, George Bryce, and James Coyne, newspaper articles, and physical items such as site markers and plaques, I pose that the moundbuilder myth is demonstrative of and complemented settler-colonial ideology and policy in Canada. The thesis looks at the moundbuilder myth in three ways. First, it considers how settlers wrote about the moundbuilder myth within nineteenth-century academic circles in ways that intersected with government policy and Canadian expansionism. These men were tightly connected across societies such as the Royal Society of Canada and many held financial and ideological interests in the expansion and settlement of Canada. The moundbuilder myth complemented their views. Second, the thesis then examines how the settler public interacted with mounds and myths about them. The settler public learned about moundbuilder myth in schoolbooks, newspapers, and lectures. The settler public aided museums by digging up mounds in their towns. The moundbuilder myth slotted neatly into the everyday life and views of the settler public. Third, the thesis turns in conclusion to the ways in which Indigenous peoples challenged settler anthropologists: through protest, everyday resistance, and ethnographic refusal. 

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From pre-colonial to colonial forms of engagement with Punjabi pasts: a study of some var texts (2022)

In Nādir Shāh dī vār, which was first compiled in 1916 and narrates the historical battle between Nadir Shah of Persia and Mughal King Muhammad Shah, the time operates in a cyclically destructive form through figures like Delhi and Kal. Interconnectedly, this time/ past occupies an all-powerful, all agential role of a divine in the text. This time/past/divine is frequently invoked and praised as the ultimate cause during the narration of the battle. These powerful, divine oriented roles of the time/past have been shared by some other well-known vār texts as well; these include vār texts written by Gurus and Bhai Gurdas, Čaṭẖeyā dī vār and Sikẖā dī vār, all of which were well known in the print and cultural milieus of late nineteenth century Punjab. Such cyclical, divine oriented renditions of the pasts shared by these pre-colonial texts were, however, gradually marginalized by colonial discipline of history writing. Under such colonial works as SM Latif’s History of the Panjab (1889), the past was no longer a source of invoking and praising a destructive, powerful, cyclical time/ divine. Instead, it was recounted in a linearized, human-oriented form. Such a changed relationship with the past, when moving from vār texts to the colonial discipline of history, is not without its social consequences. The imposition of the discipline of history is deeply entwined with our colonial-modern and religio-communal identities that we are inhabiting today. With the marginalization of such pre-colonial forms as vār texts, the past has become a sign of anachronism, on the one hand, which has to be shed off in order to enter the modernity, and a battleground for asserting Hindu, Muslim and/or Sikh communal identities, on the other. These vār texts are few surviving examples of precolonial forms which are no longer widely available for us today, but which can help us critically analyze our contemporary, colonized, modern, religious identities.

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"the shrine of their memory:" settler colonialism and the construction of American Heritage at Metini-Fort Ross, 1845-1906 (2019)

This paper argues that during a broader California Heritage Movement, American colonists physically and discursively constructed a singular Fort Ross Story in an effort to claim Metini, a Kashia Pomo homeland. In making this argument, this paper considers two broad historiographical questions: why did a heritage movement emerge in late nineteenth-century California, and how does a consideration of the Heritage Movement reveal longer settler colonial processes. This look at heritage work makes two contributions to scholarship about American colonialism in California. First, it provides a history of Metini-Ross after the Russian American Company’s departure (1842-1906). Second, this paper considers the meaning of heritage work in settler colonial California. Analyzing heritage work at Fort Ross within a longer history of settler colonialism reveals how the colonizers intentionally constructed stories of settler innocence and belonging, with the intent to justify their theft and resulting possession of Pomo and Miwok land. From 1845-1885, the first forty years of American colonialism in California, settlers had little interest in history. Instead, they worked to physically take Metini-Ross from the Kashia Pomo, who had lived there for at least 12,000 years. From the late 1840s to the 1870s, American settlers poured into California and seized vast tracts of Indigenous land, initiating what has been called the California Genocide. While genocide did not end in the 1870s, colonialism took a new shape after this. One new settler colonial tactic was heritage work. It is not a coincidence that the Heritage Movement began immediately after the most violent period of colonialism in California. At Metini-Ross, it was only by 1893 that settlers became interested in its history. After this, two interweaving threads constructed a powerful story: writers wrote and preservationists built. Novelist Gertrude Atherton and made Fort Ross discursively significant, journalists reproduced and built upon her ideas, and heritage groups, led by the white nationalist heritage organization The Native Sons of the Golden West, physically stamped these narratives on the ground. Together, they made histories to obfuscate and consume a Kashia homeland beneath imagined layers of colonial history.

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Looking to Vancouver's Elders: The 1960s and 1970s food counterculture story and how it informs the contemporary incarnation of Vancouver's food sustainability movement: an interdisciplinary qualitative study (2017)

This interdisciplinary research is grounded in the Land and Foods Systems Faculty. It combines the Disciplines of Food Systems Research with that of History to investigate the intersection of the 1960s and 1970s Vancouver counterculture movement with food activism. This qualitative research is based on the belief that we must understand history to plan the future. The dominant food system is unsustainable. Thus, sustainability research is imperative regarding that steps that must be taken to move our dominant food system to one that does not compromise the long-term survival of our species or countless others. This research is a modified oral history of Vancouver’s 1960s and 1970s food counterculture movement. It contributes to the explanation of the events in Vancouver food activism in the 1960s and 1970s and communicates the advice, perspectives and experiences of activists from that time with respect to Vancouver’s food sustainability challenges today. This research specifically asks elders in Vancouver’s food activist community to help guide a current and new generation of food activists in that same city.

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Pest panic in the American West: the San Jose scale as change agent in American agriculture, 1880-1900 (2017)

The San Jose scale – a miniature, armoured, sap-sucking insect which preys promiscuously on all manner of deciduous fruit trees - became one of a host of accidentally-introduced bugs to plague American agriculture in the late nineteenth century, particularly in the West. However, despite its significant repercussions and contemporary prominence, scholars have relegated the scale to passing asides in studies of invasive species, American agriculture, and economic entomology. As such, it has little modern-day popular notoriety nor has it engendered the scholarly attention devoted to other contemporary pests like the boll weevil or gypsy moth. Yet the San Jose scale was a formidable change agent in Western agriculture, and also nationally. Its ravages stimulated the development and expansion of agricultural bureaucracies more than any other single insect, while also sparking numerous quarantine and inspection laws at both the state and national level. Meanwhile, the fecundity and tenacity of the scale forced technological innovation, driving entomologists, inspectors, and agriculturalists to pursue chemical solutions. Thus the scale played a key role in making pesticides hegemonic in American agriculture beginning in the 1890s, and also in the growth of government characteristic of the era.That said, the efforts of officialdom to promote pesticides against the scale ran into opposition throughout the West. I explore this backlash to illuminate both the early history of systemic pesticide use as well as its discontents, subjects which remain understudied. Moreover, the turmoil the scale caused - costing Western farmers millions of dollars in ruined produce, dead trees, and the expense of spraying their orchards – and the apocalyptic, fear-mongering language in which contemporaries discussed it, offers a lens into contemporary mores about nature, suggesting that nineteenth-century Americans understood nature as vulnerable, not endlessly bountiful. Finally, the scale’s depredations pushed some to question the promise of the West as the “Garden of the World,” and the system of industrial capitalism which opened up far-flung markets but also introduced exotic insects. In all this, the rhetoric about the scale serves as a vivid reminder of what Ann Stoler has called the “epistemic anxieties” at the heart of colonial enterprises.

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Colonial encounters, narrative production, and the possibilities of the personal: Exploring historical memory and meaning in Central North Dakota, 1911-1955 (2013)

In the winter of 1804-1805, the men of the United States Corps of Discovery or Lewis and Clark Expedition resided with the Mandan and Hidatsa Indians at their villages in present-day North Dakota. The hospitality the expedition received from these Indigenous residents in the form of material aid and the guide Sacagawea helped establish their critical role in what would become one of America's premier foundation myths by the early twentieth century. This thesis argues that both the Three Affiliated Tribes (the modern Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara nation) and the Euro-American settler residents of Mercer County, North Dakota deployed the narratives of hospitality in the Lewis and Clark story to further their own community interests in the early twentieth century. For the settlers this meant progress and a prosperous settler future while for the Three Tribes it meant stopping progress, in the form of Garrison Dam. The first section explores the long history of colonial interaction between the Three Affiliated Tribes and numerous non-Indigenous visitors to their homeland on the upper Missouri River. These personal encounters with the Lewis and Clark Expedition and later settlers resulted in both positive and negative experiences for the Indigenous residents. The second section analyzes booster rhetoric, published histories, and a Lewis and Clark themed historical pageant produced by leading citizens of the settler community in Mercer County, North Dakota. It demonstrates how a colonialist discourse of progress, Manifest Destiny, and a vanishing Indian race rendered Indigenous people as historic helpers in the establishment of a colonial state (despite their acknowledged contemporary presence). The third section shows how representatives of the Three Affiliated Tribes deployed their own narrative of hospitable colonial encounters during U.S. Senate hearings to try and block the construction of the Garrison Dam that threatened to flood out their reservation. In the end, this thesis argues that despite a tradition of hospitality and respect expressed in historical narratives, a stronger colonialist discourse determined both the main message of the settler narratives and the decision to construct Garrison Dam.

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The Indian Shaker Church: colonialism, belief and resistance (2013)

The Indian Shaker Church is an indigenous spiritual tradition that incorporates Christian-in-origin elements into its practice that began in 1882 near Shelton, Washington. The existing academic literature on the church emphasizes how features of colonial contact between Euro-American resettlers and Indigenous peoples in the late-nineteenth-century, such as epidemic diseases, demographic changes and intense missionization, created a crisis of faith in Indigenous peoples’ spiritual beliefs. In these explanations, the emergence of the Indian Shaker Church is conceived of as a moment where Indigenous people “turned” to Christianity after having lost faith in the validity and efficacy of their own spiritual beliefs, supposedly rendered meaningless by colonial incursion and rapid cultural change. This paper argues instead that these same features of colonial contact in late-nineteenth-century southern Puget Sound, especially the presence of epidemic diseases, actually affirmed Indigenous peoples' spiritual beliefs. It further argues that one product of this affirmation was the Indian Shaker Church. The Shakers adopted Christian-in-origin practices, concepts and elements of material culture and turned them into spiritual resources in a fight against epidemic diseases, which they believed were a spiritual problem. At the same time as these Christian-in-origin elements in the Shaker Church became spiritual resources in a fight against epidemic diseases, they also expressed longstanding Coast Salish spiritual beliefs. The way in which the Indian Shakers expressed their longstanding spiritual beliefs through the religious concepts of the colonizer was an effective means of resistance to a campaign of persecution by American missionaries, Indian agents and lawmakers, who sought to stamp out the Shakers altogether. This paper draws attention to how the incorporation of Christian-in-origin elements into the spiritual practices of Indigenous people has consistently been made into a “conversion” moment by contemporary observers and historians of Indigenous Christianities. The ways in which the Shakers selectively adopted Christian-in-origin elements into their practice and re-interpreted them as expressions of Coast-Salish spiritual beliefs calls into question the historically-rooted assumption that the presence of Christian-in-origin elements in Indigenous peoples’ spiritual practices can be read simply as evidence of a “conversion moment,” in which Indigenous spiritual customs are replaced by Christian ones.

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What the Whale Was: Orca Cultural Histories in British Columbia since 1964 (2011)

My thesis argues that indigenous historical narratives demonstrate an understanding of the killer whale subjectivity that settler society is only beginning to comprehend. Set in the late 20th century, a period when human relationships with killer whales were undergoing a fast-paced reconfiguration, my research explores the spaces of orca-human encounter in regards to three killer whales: Moby Doll, the world’s first orca held in captivity; Skana, the first orca showcased at the Vancouver Aquarium; and Luna, the orphaned orca of Nootka Sound. Each example speaks to the common process by which humans project culturally-specific narratives and beliefs onto the lives of the whales. In the case of Moby Doll, I argue that the dominant discourse regarding the whale conformed to a strict gender script that functioned to silence other narratives and realities of Moby’s captivity. In my following chapter, I look at how the close relationship between Paul Spong and Skana inspired the scientist to abandon his most fundamental assumptions about orcas in favor of new affordances for orca subjectivity. Furthermore, I argue that the scientific research of John Lilly, a scientist who had a similar conversion experience with dolphins, inspired whole new literatures and imaginations of intelligent dolphins in New Age culture. Finally, I return to the recent story of the orphaned whale Luna to explore how these changing understandings of killer whales accompany an emergent recognition of the validity of indigenous ways of relating to both animals and the past. I argue that the conflict that arose between the Department of Fisheries and the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation over the relocation of Luna is an instance of the informal negotiation of differing conceptions between settler and indigenous society over what is natural, what is right, what is history and what is the killer whale.

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