PEN New Scholar conference prize awarded

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directions west

A New Scholar Conference Paper Prize in Environmental History was awarded on June 23 at the Directions West: Third Biennial Conference in Western Studies, at the University of Calgary.

Jon Clapperton, now completing his dissertation at the University of Saskatchewan, presented the award-winning paper entitled “(Un)Making a Hunter’s Paradise: Rocky Mountains Park, the Stoney Nakoda and Game Conservation.” The Prairie Environmental Network (PEN) of NiCHE sponsored the $1000 prize, which was given to the most outstanding paper based on master’s degree, doctoral or post-doctoral research. Environmental history was well represented at the conference with papers on natural resources, agricultural, landscape, parks, mountain, urban and ranching environmental history June 21-23, 2012.

Here was the abstract to Clapperton’s paper:

The creation of Rocky Mountains (Banff) National Park profoundly affected the area’s indigenous populations. Banff’s historiography, much like that of other national parks in Canada and the United States, is polarized. Popular histories produce a narrative wherein Natives and newcomers existed in an interdependent relationship, with compliant First Nations who adopted the park’s establishment and its conservationist agenda. A handful of historians have rightly exploded this uncritical metanarrative of Banff and the Stoney by emphasizing Aboriginal expulsion, exploitation and resistance. Yet the story of Native interactions with the park, as with most Native-newcomer histories, cannot be reduced to one of in- and/or exclusion. The theory of “ambivalence,” and related ideas of mimicry and mockery, provides a useful avenue for moving beyond this binary. Informed by this theoretical framework, I argue two points. First, Rocky Mountains Park’s creation itself – the reimagining of the environment and peoples’ relationships to it – entailed the import of a certain set of colonial race, gender and class ideologies. Second, as important as space within the park’s boundaries was, its greatest impact was to influence Native-newcomer relationships beyond its borders.


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George Colpitts teaches environmental history at the University of Calgary. His publications include Pemmican Empire: Food, Trade, and the Last Bison Hunts in the North American Plains, 1780-1882 (Cambridge University Press, 2015); North America’s Indian Trade in European Commerce and Imagination, 1580-1850 (Brill, 2014), and Game in the Garden: A Human History of Wildlife in Western Canada to 1940 (UBC Press, 2002).

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