Indigenous ExtrACTIVISM in Boreal Canada: Colonial Legacies, Contemporary Struggles and Sovereign Futures
4.1. As Long As the Rivers Run?
4.2. Every Available Log
4.3. Mining the North
4.4. The Most Destructive Project on Earth
Extraction and assimilation go together. Colonialism and capitalism are based on extracting and assimilating...The act of extraction removes all of the relationships that give whatever is being extracted meaning. Extracting is taking. Actually, extracting is stealing—it is taking without consent, without thought, care or even knowledge of the impacts that extraction has on the other living things in that environment. That’s always been a part of colonialism and conquest. Colonialism has always extracted the indigenous—extraction of indigenous knowledge, indigenous women, indigenous peoples.
Conflicts of Interest
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- 1The term unconventional refers to recent technological innovations used to extract oil and natural gas from shale formations, sands, and coal seams.
- 2Taiaiake Alfred (Kahnawake Mohawk) and Jeff Corntassel (Cherokee) reflect on the meaning of settler colonialism today, stating that “contemporary Settlers follow the mandate provided for them by their imperial forefathers’ colonial legacy, not by attempting to eradicate the physical signs of Indigenous peoples as human bodies, but by trying to eradicate their existence as peoples through the erasure of the histories and geographies that provide the foundation for Indigenous cultural identities and sense of self…[Indigenous peoples] remain, as in earlier colonial eras, occupied peoples who have been dispossessed and disempowered in their own homelands” (, p. 598).
- 3While a description of research ethics and reciprocity falls outside the scope of this brief article, readers interested in learning more about my stance should consult my earlier work . In addition, Devon Mihesuah (Choctaw) and Luke Eric Lassiter have both published valuable guides on conducting research in Indigenous communities [16,17].
- 4These costs are typically (and conveniently) left out of industrial accounting. The term externality refers to impacts of commercial or industrial activities experienced by third parties and therefore not reflected in the pricing of produce goods or services.
- 5In a 2013 editorial, for example, environmental political scientist Thomas Homer-Dixon wrote that oil and gas extraction “is relentlessly turning our society into something we don’t like. Canada is beginning to exhibit the economic and political characteristics of a petro-state” .
- 6In October 2015, Canadian citizens elected Justin Trudeau of the Liberal Party as Prime Minister. While the implications of this leadership change for extractive industry are still uncertain, Trudeau campaigned on promises of more stringent environmental regulation and fuller participation in the fight against global climate change.
- 7I have elsewhere presented a detailed treatment of the land-based self-determination concept as it relates to contemporary Indigenous counter-mapping practices .
- 8The majority of Canada’s boreal region is overlain by 11 “numbered treaties” signed between 1871 and 1921 . Although articulated in various manners, these treaties generally promise that Indigenous signatories would retain the right to engage in land-based subsistence throughout ceded tracts of land. Readers interested in learning more about Canada’s treaties and their relationship to contemporary questions of Aboriginal rights can consult books on the topic by J. R. Miller and Michael Asch [33,34].
- 9Coon Come later led the Grand Council of the Crees and went on to become National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
- 10Signed on 7 February 2002, this agreement is formally known as the “Agreement Respecting a New Relationship between the Cree Nation and the Government of Quebec” .
- 11From the author’s fieldnotes dated 9 October 2004.
- 12Annual logging rates in Canada’s boreal forests increased from 1.6 million acres in 1970 to 2.5 million in 2001 . Northwestern Ontario was no exception to this trend.
- 13Treaty Three clearly states that signatory Indians would “have right to pursue their avocations of hunting and fishing throughout the tract surrendered” .
- 14The third largest source of diamonds in world, Canada’s diamond industry constitutes roughly 3 percent of the gross domestic project .
- 15Because it is so costly to produce, profitable tar sands production requires high oil prices and is therefore tied to the vagaries of the global market.
© 2016 by the author; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Willow, A.J. Indigenous ExtrACTIVISM in Boreal Canada: Colonial Legacies, Contemporary Struggles and Sovereign Futures. Humanities 2016, 5, 55. https://doi.org/10.3390/h5030055
Willow AJ. Indigenous ExtrACTIVISM in Boreal Canada: Colonial Legacies, Contemporary Struggles and Sovereign Futures. Humanities. 2016; 5(3):55. https://doi.org/10.3390/h5030055Chicago/Turabian Style
Willow, Anna J. 2016. "Indigenous ExtrACTIVISM in Boreal Canada: Colonial Legacies, Contemporary Struggles and Sovereign Futures" Humanities 5, no. 3: 55. https://doi.org/10.3390/h5030055