Perspectives on the Environmental History of Northern Canada

Photo: Peter L. Albrecht

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Canadian environmental historians are heading north! Of course, they have always been there: northern Canada has long been of compelling historical interest. But there is a new momentum in the study of the region’s environmental history.

Perhaps this is a result of the prominence of the North in current affairs: the challenges of resource development and environmental protection in the region, melting Arctic ice and other signs of climate change, ongoing issues regarding security and sovereignty, and the turbulent and path-breaking evolution of northern indigenous politics.

But specifically historical questions are also attracting more attention. These questions explore, for example, how environmental changes have taken place across distinctive landscapes, often accompanied by political and social transformations; how relations between settler and indigenous societies and economies have shifted; how diverse ways of knowing and valuing the land have intersected; and how the contested identity of the North itself has evolved, in both its national and circumpolar contexts.

This growing momentum became evident at a workshop sponsored by NiCHE on northern environmental history held in Whitehorse, Yukon in June 2009. It was an exciting event. Since then, many of its participants, joined by others with strong interests and experience in the North, have formed a community of scholars engaged in a joint project: an edited collection that presents an array of perspectives on the environmental history of the region. This collection is slated for publication in the University of Calgary Press “Canadian History and Environment” series.

Over the next few months, contributors to the collection will post a series of reflections and research summaries on the NiCHE website, previewing their book chapters. Some of the exciting work that will be discussed explores the environmental, social, and cultural dimensions of abandoned mines; the intellectual landscapes of exploration and empire; the imposition of military and state control over northern territories; the evolving character of northern fisheries; the place of Canada in the circumpolar North; and the environmental health of the North in the face of industrial transformation and global change.

These postings are part of the lead-up to an authors’ workshop scheduled for October 28-30 at Trent University, in Peterborough, Ontario.

The focus of this northern environmental history project is on the twentieth century, and especially on how the North has been transformed during the postwar era. We’re very excited about it, and we look forward to sharing the collection with everyone interested in Canada’s environmental history!

Collection Introduction and Overview
Stephen Bocking and Brad Martin

The Environmental History of Arctic Contaminants
Stephen Bocking

Homeland or Playground: Wilderness Politics, State Conservation, and Northern Land Claims, 1940-1995
Brad Martin

Many Tiny Traces: Antimodern Anxieties and Colonial Intimacies in the Canadian North
Christina Adcock

A Circumpolar Approach to Environmental Issues in the Arctic: the Promise and Practice of the Arctic Council
Terry Fenge

Western Electric Turns North: Surveyors, Engineers, and the Transformation of the Cold War Arctic
Matt Farish and Whitney Lackenbauer

North to the Future: Warburton Pike’s Imperial Visions and Contested Places
Jonathan Peyton and Matt Dyce

North is Everywhere
Tim Ingold

Ghost Towns and Zombie Mines: The Historical Dimensions of Mine Abandonment, Reclamation and Redevelopment in the Canadian North
John Sandlos and Arn Keeling

‘To Mourn’: Emotional Geographies and Natural Histories of Exploration and Empire in the Canadian North
Emilie Cameron

Shaped by the Land: The Creation of the Canadian Bush Plane
Marionne Cronin

The Canadian Reindeer Project: Experimenting with Science and Development in Northern Environmental History
Andrew Stuhl

Environmental health in the North: The example of nutrition
Liza Piper

A View From Eeyou Istchee: Ecology, Politics, and History on Canada’s Resource Frontier
Hans Carlson

Hope in the Barrenlands: Sustainability’s Canadian History
Tina Loo

Boundaries Among Kin: Sovereign Territoriality, the Modern Treaty Process and the Rise of Nationalism Among Yukon First Nations
Paul Nadasdy

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