Melting Glaciers and Emerging Histories in the Saint Elias Mountains

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Event Date: Oct 22 2007
Event Website: Event Webpage
City: Kingston, ON
Country: Canada

Dr. Julie Cruikshank gave a talk at Queen’s University. Julie Cruikshank is Professor Emerita in the Department of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia where she also held the McLean Chair in Canadian Studies, 2001-2003. For more than a decade, she lived in the Yukon Territory where she worked with the Yukon Native Language Centre recording oral traditions and life stories with Athapaskan and Tlingit elders. Working closely with those elders, she prepared booklets under their authorship documenting family history, place names, land use, social history and other subjects largely absent from history books. Julie’s books include Life Lived Like a Story (1990) written in collaboration with three Yukon elders, Angela Sidney, Annie Ned and Kitty Smith; Reading Voices (1991) prepared for use in Yukon high schools, and The Social Life of Stories (1998). Her recent book, Do Glaciers Listen? Local Knowledge, Colonial Encounters and Social Imagination (2005) received two book prizes from the American Anthropological Association – the Victor Turner Prize and the Julian Steward Book Award, and also a 2007 Clio Award from the Canadian Historical Association.

Abstract: “Memories of the Little Ice Age in northwestern North America (roughly 1550-1850 A.D.) remain vivid in oral histories transmitted in indigenous communities near the Alaska-Yukon border. During the 18th and 19th centuries, enlarged glaciers in the Saint Elias Range provided travel routes for Aboriginal traders crossing from the Gulf of Alaska coast to the interior Yukon Plateau. In the 20th century, both Canada and the United States designated National Parks in this glaciated region, displacing indigenous residents from these territories; those parks are now encompassed within a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Melting glaciers are now revealing material evidence that reinvigorates longstanding oral traditions about human history and environmental change, posing new questions for cross-cultural and interdisciplinary collaborations. The talk discussed how recent discoveries and collaborations among Aboriginal peoples and scientists reinvigorate discourses surrounding science and politics, concepts of ‘nature’ and ‘culture,’ and how local knowledge is co-produced in such encounters.”

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