ThesisPDF Available

The Kaska Dene: A Study of Colonialism, Trauma and Healing in Dene Kēyeh


Abstract and Figures

This research contributes to an emerging field of literature examining cultural disjunctures in which traditional and contemporary ways of life and perceptions of cultural knowledge are being disassociated from each other. This study examines the disjuncture associated with the perception of Dene Kēyeh, ‘The Peoples Country’, a region of Kaska Dene traditional territory, as contemporary neoliberal ideologies compete with traditional Dene K’éh philosophies and worldviews. Employing an ethnographic and indigenous framework using participatory observations and in-depth interviews, I explore this disjuncture through my own personal experience as well as the knowledge of other members and stakeholders of Dene Kēyeh. In exploring the causes and effects of this disjuncture, my thesis develops a specific history of colonialism, trauma and healing among the Kaska Dene of Dene Kēyeh. I utilize theories of discourses of power, affective emotion, post memory and postcolonialism to illustrate how the outcome from one example of the oppressive processes of colonialism, Indian Residential Schooling, has contributed to multigenerational trauma and cultural identity loss and contesting landscape perceptions of Dene Kēyeh. The study identifies the affective outcomes of trauma from colonization and its transmission across generations while also exploring indigenous relationships to the land as being essential for the healing of such trauma and the prevention of its future transmission. Through this investigation of residential schooling in Dene Kēyeh and its impacts on landscape perception, I argue that past and present day experiences of Dene Kēyeh are essential to such intergenerational healing and should be used to reframe the existing dialogue about how we, as a people, should interact with Our Land – Degun.
Content may be subject to copyright.
The Kaska Dene: A Study of Colonialism, Trauma and Healing in Dene Kēyeh
Gillian Farnell
B.A., The University of Northern British Columbia, 2010
The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies
April 2014
© Gillian Farnell, 2014
This research contributes to an emerging field of literature examining cultural
disjunctures in which traditional and contemporary ways of life and perceptions of
cultural knowledge are being disassociated from each other. This study examines the
disjuncture associated with the perception of Dene Kēyeh, ‘The Peoples Country’, a
region of Kaska Dene traditional territory, as contemporary neoliberal ideologies
compete with traditional Dene K’éh philosophies and worldviews. Employing an
ethnographic and indigenous framework using participatory observations and in-depth
interviews, I explore this disjuncture through my own personal experience as well as the
knowledge of other members and stakeholders of Dene Kēyeh. In exploring the causes
and effects of this disjuncture, my thesis develops a specific history of colonialism,
trauma and healing among the Kaska Dene of Dene Kēyeh. I utilize theories of
discourses of power, affective emotion, post memory and postcolonialism to illustrate
how the outcome from one example of the oppressive processes of colonialism, Indian
Residential Schooling, has contributed to multigenerational trauma and cultural identity
loss and contesting landscape perceptions of Dene Kēyeh. The study identifies the
affective outcomes of trauma from colonization and its transmission across generations
while also exploring indigenous relationships to the land as being essential for the healing
of such trauma and the prevention of its future transmission.
Through this investigation of residential schooling in Dene Kēyeh and its impacts
on landscape perception, I argue that past and present day experiences of Dene Kēyeh
are essential to such intergenerational healing and should be used to reframe the existing
dialogue about how we, as a people, should interact with Our Land – Degun.
This research was approved by the University of British Columbia Behavioural Research
Ethics Board. Ethics certificate H11-03047. The principal investigator is Dr. Patrick
Moore and the co-investigator is Gillian Farnell.
None of the parts of this MA thesis have been previously published.
ABSTRACT ........................................................................................................................ ii!
PREFACE .......................................................................................................................... iii!
TABLE OF CONTENTS ................................................................................................... iv!
LIST OF FIGURES ............................................................................................................ v!
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ............................................................................................... vi!
DEDICATION .................................................................................................................. vii!
CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION ................................................................................. 1!
CHAPTER TWO: THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK ........................................................ 9!
CHAPTER THREE: METHODOLOGY ......................................................................... 18!
CHAPTER FOUR: ANALYSIS ....................................................................................... 25!
CHAPTER FIVE: CONCLUDING REMARKS ............................................................. 39!
BIBLIOGRAPHY: ............................................................................................................ 44!
Figure 1.1 Dene Kēyeh Region……………………………………………….. 3
This thesis would not have been possible without the support of many people. I wish to
express my gratitude to my tireless and patient supervisor, Dr. Patrick Moore, whose
guidance was not only essential in this thesis process but whose willingness to share his
lifetime of work and insight has helped me develop a deeper learning about my culture.
Dr. Moore’s knowledge, care and passion for the Kaska people inspired me to go to
graduate school and study under him and motivates me to contribute to my community.
My appreciation also extends to Dr. Shaylih Muehlmann whose knowledge and
gracious assistance as a member of my supervisory committee was essential in the
formation of this thesis. A special thank-you is reserved for those many professors, in
both my graduate and undergraduate years, who saw my passion and, in the finest
traditions of academic service, shared with me their literature, advice and personal stories
of encouragement.
I must also express my love and thankfulness to my beloved family for their
understanding and endless love through my studies and thesis work: my cultural
ambassador, Linda McDonald; my devoted listener and mother, Janet McDonald; and
most importantly my caring and insightful husband, Jeremy Staveley, who so willingly
provided me with an emotional and physical foundation from which to do this work.
Finally, a special contribution and mention to the person who, in his own way, gave me
the time to complete this thesis while giving me joy every single day: Jackson Stone
Souga Sinla
Mussi Cho
Jackson Stone Staveley, my Ciyah
Remember who you are, Remember where you come from
We are approaching Sheep Creek in the Toad River Valley; an area that is
surrounded by towering peaks labeled on the map after men prominent in European
history with names such as Mount Aristotle or Mount Churchill. As we quietly hike on
past a road sign notably proclaiming that this area is a ‘pure wilderness’, my Auntie,
who needs no map and is a wayfinder, suddenly points “our people are buried there on
that hill overlooking the river. There is nothing more powerful than that Gillian. This is
Dene Kēyeh: our country. Just like your Uncle George McDonald used to say ‘our
people are the trees, we are part of this land. We live, grow and die here like a tree. We
come back knowing this is where we come from. We are the trees; we are Degun our
land’” (field notes May 21st 2012).
As a Kaska person, I have a deep sense of belonging in Dene Kēyeh, the Kaska
First Nations traditional territory. Today, even in a supposedly post-colonial era, Dene
Kēyeh is not known as such but is mostly recognized as a provincially managed park
landscape encompassing an area of 6.4 million hectares. Within this managed area there
are no roads and the region is viewed as the largest remaining parkland within the Rocky
Mountains. At various times, this region has been labeled a fur trading territory by early
Europeans traders, an uninhabited wilderness by arriving European settlers, a hydro
development dream by capitalist policy makers, and the Serengeti of the North by
environmentalists. To the people and my family who still dwell there, it is Dene Kēyeh –
their homeland. For the Kaska, Dene Kēyeh continues to be experienced as a spiritual,
cultural and physical landscape, albeit one from which our views as Kaska Dene have
been minimalized and marginalized in a colonized Canada.
The process of colonization hybridized the meaning of this landscape, Dene
Kēyeh, to different Kaska generations and created disjunctures that affect the fabric of
contemporary Kaska society. Yet, Dene Kēyeh as a cultural and spiritual center for the
Kaska people also offers powerful avenues of healing from the trauma of the colonization
process. While working with the Kaska Dene, I began to unravel the experiences,
tensions and locations that have produced Dene Kēyeh as a contested social field. A
profound linkage exists between the trauma experienced by the Kaska Dene as a result of
colonialism and the effect on their contemporary relationship to Dene Kēyeh and the
Kaska value systems with which it is united. This thesis is intended to identify that
linkage, understand the means of transmission by which the traumatic effects of
colonialism have and continue to be conveyed, as well as the avenues of healing that are a
response to the ongoing trauma and disjunctures in Kaska communities.
The Kaska Dene are an Athabaskan speaking First Nations group residing in
Northern British Columbia, the Southeast Yukon and the Southwestern corner of the
Northwest Territories (Moore 1999: 313). The Kaska First Nations in British Columbia
are the Dease River First Nation at Good Hope Lake, the Daylu Dena Council in Lower
Post and the Kwadacha First Nation in Fort Ware, while the Yukon Kaska Dene reside in
the communities of Ross River administered by the Ross River Dena Council and Watson
Lake under the Liard First Nation. There are approximately 1240 Kaska Dene in the
Yukon and approximately 400 Kaska Dene in BC (Statistics Canada 2006), most of them
living in the five communities of the Kaska Dene traditional territory. As a community,
they are artificially split by colonially drawn boundaries into separate bands and are
forced to negotiated separately with two different provincial/territorial authorities both of
whom want ‘land settlements’ so that economic development of ‘their’ respective regions
can continue. To date, the Kaska Dene have not signed a land-based treaty in the Yukon
or British Columbia. Having so-called ‘unsettled land claims’, these bands have ‘lands
set aside’ under the Indian Act. The small amount of land allotted to them by the Crown
is contested as there is no comparison between it and the 240,000 square kilometers of
land encompassing traditional Kaska territory (Kaska Dena Council 2013).
Figure 1: Dene Keyeh Region
(Kaska Dene Council 2013)
Until the last 50 years, the Kaska Dene lived as dispersed groups moving across
the landscape to fish, trap, hunt and harvest berries according to the season (Johnson
2010b: 95). Similar to other northern Dene, the Kaska still lived in small family groups
even after the arrival of the early Hudson Bay traders (Johnson 2010b: 95). With the
building of the Alaska Highway, the traditional daily-lived experience began to change
for Kaska communities as they moved into the wage economy and were placed on
reserves (Johnson 2010b: 96; Meek 2010: 18). The building of the Alaska Highway in
1943 therefore represented the first significant cultural transformation that changed the
way people moved throughout the landscape (Meek 2010: 18; Coates 1991; Cruikshank
The landscape through which the Kaska Dene journeyed for countless generations
is known as Dene Kēyeh which translates as ‘the people’s country’. As described by
Catherine McClellan, the Kaska, similar to many Yukon First Nations, spoke of
themselves as being ‘part of the land and part of the water’ (1987). The Kaska
relationship to Dene Kēyeh is bound to a profoundly personal feeling of belonging to a
place as defined through a sense of experience, a phenomenology of locality, which
serves to create the ideals and structures of Kaska society. Dene Kēyeh, as a landscape,
is therefore intimately intertwined to a system of Kaska ontology, epistemology and
values called Dene K’éh. Dene K’éh is not an abstracted system of written European-
style philosophy but is rather expressed in traditional oral narratives about Dene Kēyeh
which are used as a guiding tool for appropriate cultural behavior. These narratives form
the basis of understanding ā́’ī (commonly referred to as taboos) and represent guiding
principles which generate notions of appropriate cultural behavior and respect (Meek
2010: 30). Young Kaska Dene are still taught ā́’ī to understand social structures and
authoritative roles such as those of their elders. These Kaska narratives about ā́’ī
establish the bonds between the Kaska people and features of a landscape that reflect
Basso’s identification of a geospatial understanding of the world and their relation to it
(1996: 34). Many Kaska, and particularly elders, continue to live according to this
traditional ontology and epistemology despite the continuous social and economic
pressure to assimilate into more dominant cultural ideologies (Moore 1999: 281). The
Alaska Highway and other effects of colonization have increasingly created generations
that are removed from the traditional Kaska practices and skills that were once part of
everyday life in Dene Kēyeh. The knowledge and memories of that way of life are
centered in a generation of elders. The Kaska elders therefore should be viewed as a
generational bridge from a traditional relationship with Dene Kēyeh to a younger
generation of Kaska either growing up in their small communities, or in a diaspora to
various Canadian towns and cities. Within this context, the landscape of Dene Kēyeh is
becoming contested from hegemonic discourses which are creating pressure on the Kaska
communities within Dene Kēyeh.
The Kaska Dene have been increasingly disenfranchised from their cultural and
physical landscape as a result of these ideological clashes arising from concepts of both
ecological governance and also neoliberal ideologies about the need to develop and
exploit the resources in our natural environment. Concepts of ecological governance are
to be found in various elements of the loosely labeled ‘environmental movement’ which
range from those of the preservationists to those of the conservationists who oppose
environmental degradation that is caused by the negative impacts of anthropocentric
drivers of capitalist systems (Glaser 2006: 124). Neoliberal ideologies entrenched in the
capitalist perspective can be found embodied in notions of resource development such as
mining, oil and gas exploration or hydroelectric expansion as well as in its emphasis on
consumerism and materialism where the environmental becomes a product to dominate
for our own material well-being (Glaser 2006: 128). Given the limitless appetites of
global markets and Eurocentric concepts of property ownership, these forces and their
rhetorical arguments exacerbate any existing disconnection the Kaska Dene have between
traditional views of the landscape and new interpretations of what the landscape means.
As a result, the need for a balance between traditional values towards the land as a source
of identity, history and knowledge and the conversion of land to access natural resources
has become an urgent discourse for First Nations (Johnson 2010a: 107).
The Kaska Dene of northeastern British Columbia and southeastern Yukon must
inevitably become part of this discourse as they are now being confronted by a hegemony
created from a period of colonization challenging the Kaska Dene to establish their future
relationship to the land within the context of a euro-centric system. First Nation’s
landscapes (such as Dene Kēyeh) have therefore become value laden and political and
have propelled First Nation people in Canada to find their own political visions of the
landscape. The meanings and the ideological ownership of these places are thus
constantly being re-negotiated. Environmental anthropologists and political ecologists
both recognize that in order to understand human-environment relations we must first
understand how people internalize, narrate, structure and explain the world in which they
live. In order to achieve such understanding, we also need to trace concepts about nature
and the environment backwards to their historical roots in order to deconstruct these
contemporary claims and discourses about the environment (Robbins 2004: 124).
For the Kaska Dene the historical roots to the emerging disjuncture in their
traditional relationship to Dene Kēyeh comes from their experience of colonialism.
Colonialism represents a principal force of displacement and shifts the connections of
people to places through the spatial distribution of hierarchical power relations (Gupta
and Ferguson 1992: 8). The oppression of First Nations people in Canada by colonialism
is historically evident and has been researched to a certain degree. This hegemonic
culture continues to form the conceptual base by which we manage, use and label our
landscapes (Glaser 2006: 122). Contemporary discourses about Dene Kēyeh focus on
‘land rights’ and ‘development strategies’. Yet, Dene K’éh, an ontological and
epistemological belief system established through a relationship to Dene Kēyeh, as a way
of viewing Dene Kēyeh continues to be embodied in many Kaska Dene elders but
remains marginalized and is increasingly perceived as belonging to a disconnected
historical past. Postcolonialty further problematizes the relationship of the Kaska Dene
between their sense of Dene Kēyeh and that of the prevailing hegemonic culture. While
mainstream postcolonialty finally acknowledges the abuse of an entire generation of
Kaska Dene, it does not consider any of those colonial effects as being relevant other than
as historical factors to be apologized for. Yet for indigenous people, traditional
embodied landscapes are under threat of being erased (Gupta and Ferguson 1992: 11).
The marginalization of indigenous ontology and epistemology was a significant effect of
a colonial Canada. Ironically, a cultural and personal connectedness to the landscape by
indigenous peoples is still not highly valued in the hegemonies and superstructure of a
supposedly postcolonial Canada.
As anthropologists, we have much to offer about a more reflective understanding
of personal connectedness to place, how we constitute place as a people and its meaning
in our cultural and spiritual lives. In advocating for the importance of understanding the
role of personal connectedness with landscapes, Keith Basso states that the discipline of
anthropology is missing an interest in how people dwell in the landscape and “an
understanding of the way in which people constitute their landscapes and connect with
them” (1996: 106). As an aboriginal academic and as a Kaska Dene citizen, this thesis
attempts to explore the profound personal connection that the Kaska Dene have to
‘Degun’: their land. The thesis identifies the trauma inflicted by colonialism on a
generation of elders’ connectedness to Degun and how the transmission of trauma from
that Kaska generation to the next generation has taken place. If we can more fully
understand that personal connectedness to Dene Kēyeh which is an essential part of
Degun then we can understand the need to empower the Kaska people to help determine
the future of Dene Kēyeh as an essential part of the required healing for elders and youth
1 Degun, a Kaska Dene word for ‘our land’ differs from Dene Kēyeh meaning ‘the people’s country’,
which refers to Kaska Dene traditional territory as a whole.
“I remember your Great Auntie telling me a story one time about 200 or so Cree
that came into Kaska Territory for women or war. They came through our family’s
country at Muncho Lake and met Old Man Stone your great, great grandfather. He was
by the fire cooking beaver fat; he held it over the fire and cooked it with his bare hands.
The Cree were amazed and decided they could not fight with a people who were as tough
as he was, so they left. To go from that to three generations later where we now have no
strength left is truly sad. Our people are now just getting social payouts; they don’t know
their language and they are not going out on the land.” (Gūdzı
̨̄hmā: May 18th 2012) 2
Prevailing hegemonic discourses often reinforce a notion that colonization of First
Nations people is a regrettable behavior of an historical past and that such behaviour no
longer exists in Canada. Much is made of government apologies, truth and reconciliation
commissions, and educational and economic opportunities being made available to First
Nations. However, colonization is not a legacy of the past. The effects of colonization
manifest themselves every day for aboriginal people trying to live within euro-western
legal, social, spiritual and economic frameworks that continue to marginalize and
encroach on First Nations people’s knowledge and beliefs (Bennett and Blackstock 2002:
4). An imbalance of power and influence between First Nations people and the euro-
centric hegemony that was initiated by colonial domination continues in Canada.
Political, epistemic, racial and cultural hierarchies that were set in place during the
colonial era still remain entrenched in power relations and subjectivities today and
represent contemporary coloniality (Middleton 2010: 2).
2 Gūdzı
̨̄hmā is not only a close personal informant but she is also a well-known advocate for her people, an
educator, a fluent Kaska speaker, and a land-steward to our territory.
For the Kaska Dene, coloniality is present in our contemporary discourses about
our land, language and culture as well as in our history. Coloniality has impacted many
Kaska generations and continues to place oppressive hegemonic forces on our people.
Paulo Freire could indeed be referring to the Kaska Dene when he describes the culture
of the silenced as being the culture of the dispossessed whose situation results from
economic, social and political domination (1997: 12). In the face of such oppressive
colonial forces, subaltern communities have been traumatized through a superstructure of
authority that is rooted in coloniality (Turner 1974). However, there is hope that the
future can offer a different outcome. Paulo Freire observes that the healing from the
trauma of colonial oppression should be understood within the context of an emerging
response to the effects of such oppression (1997: 30). The crucial role of such healing is
to create a new cohesion among fractured cultural elements and reclaim autonomy and
control over both individual and community identity (Kirmayer 2004: 42). This thesis
will argue that, for the Kaska Dene, such a healing process is ultimately closely bound to
their relationship to the landscape that they know as Dene Kēyeh.
Clifford Geertz states that postcolonial representations of place and culture are
best understood by those theories that logically provide the specifics of power relations
and the struggle around such power relations (1983: 119). This chapter examines
theories of the coloniality of power to explain the way coloniality has operated
oppressively in Kaska Dene communities, how coloniality of power has created trauma
with harmful social and cultural outcomes, and how that trauma is transmitted to current
generations of Kaska and the nature of the healing process that is emerging in response to
colonialism and its ongoing residual presence.
2.1 The Coloniality of Power
The concept of the coloniality of power was developed by Peruvian sociologist
Anibal Quijano who uses the term to account for “the entangled and mutually constitutive
relations between the international division of labor, the global racial/ethnic hierarchy,
and the hegemonic Eurocentric epistemologies in the modern/colonial world-system”
(Grosfoguel and Cervantes-Rodríguez 2002: 205). An understanding of coloniality of
power allows us to recognize how the “colonized were subjected not simply to a
rapacious exploitation of all their resources but also to a hegemony of euro-centric
knowledge systems” (Alcoff 2007: 82). Walter Mignolo identifies the effect of such
euro-centric epistemologies on identity and sense of place, as being “among its most
damaging, far-reaching, and least understood” (Alcoff 2007: 80). These all too powerful
epistemologies are part of colonialist discourses which are imposed from a position of
power and a division of knowledge that places subaltern subjects on the subordinate side
of the colonial difference (Grosfoguel and Cervantes-Rodríguez 2002: 209).
To understand how coloniality of power was and is produced, neo-Marxian
scholars draw upon systems theory and concepts of development and underdevelopment
to emphasize the global unequal distribution of resources as part of a global political
economy of domination and subjugation (Middleton 2010:17). These scholars point to
epistemologies, formed from the prevailing ideologies of the ruling class, as prime
determinants in establishing hegemonic worldviews that helped develop capitalist, racist
and overall colonial perceptions of the world. Marxist theory also offers insight into the
mechanism by which ideologies are transferred into epistemologies that in turn create
racial hierarchies and hegemonic systems that become oppressive. Such theory
emphasizes that social structures act as agents in determining a person’s consciousness,
or sense of personal and social identity and such social structures include concepts of
classes (Marx and Engels 1994 [1846]: 125). The ruling class creates and benefits from
the legal, institutional and political superstructures of the society (Marx and Engels 1994
[1846]: 125). In effect, the ideas of the ruling class control both the material and
intellectual forces of society (Marks and Engels 1994 [1846]: 64).
In the context of the Kaska Dene’s encounters with coloniality of power, the
European colonialists established themselves as a ruling class and quickly founded the
superstructures that then reinforced their ideologies. In such situations, Sahlins identifies
that subaltern groups are inevitably destined to lose their cultural coherence as well as the
pristine innocence of their indigenous knowledge systems (2005: 45). The final
conditions for the oppression of the Kaska Dene were created when the incoming
European ruling class also established its discourse of class differences in the form of
racial differences. Race rather than social class is the key axis for understanding the
oppression in the First Nation context (Grosfoguel and Cervantes-Rodríguez 2002: 204).
Mignolo states “race was in the colonies and before the industrial revolution, what social
class became after the industrial revolution in Europe” (2007: 479). Ramón Grosfoguel
identifies such racism as being epistemic in its “systematic, institutionalized devaluation
of knowledge and ways of knowing of the oppressed” (2007: 213). Oppression through
the coloniality of power operating from the mutually reinforcing dyad of a racial
hierarchical system and the dominance of the European discourses over epistemologies is
particularly evident for the Kaska Dene. Eduardo Duran describes such colonization of
First Nations individuals and communities as a set of dehumanizing policies focused on a
psychological process of internalization (2006: 16). Colonial oppression should therefore
be understood as a process operating on self-identity that breaks down a person’s
connection to landscape, belief systems and ways of being.
2.2 Colonialism and the Processes of Oppression
Michel Foucault’s discursive production of power provides a framework for
studying the oppressive force applied by coloniality of power. Foucault describes a ‘bio-
political’ mechanism of social power which utilizes segregation and social hierarchies to
create societal relations based on domination by a hegemonic system (1990:140-141).
Foucault also identifies and further articulates the disciplinary figures used in bio-politics
such as schools, governments, and military institutions as well as the regulatory controls
which are directed towards the health and wealth of the people (1990: 93).
One of the principal forms of bio-political regulatory control over First Nations by
the Canadian government is embodied in the Indian Act which identifies power
relationships that then also became a struggle over place (Harvey 1989: 237-238). The
Indian Act of 1869 was inherited from an imperial regime and then transformed into
contemporary federal policies of control that eliminated self-governing power of First
Nations peoples in all of Canada (Milloy 2008: 3). The next Indian Act of 1876 created a
power relationship in which all First Nations people would lose effective control of
almost every aspect of their communities including land holding, education, resources
and financial management (Milloy 2008: 8). In just one egregious example, Sections 113
to 122 of the Indian Act legally removed the rights of Aboriginal parents to their children,
giving the Federal government total control over aboriginal children’s lives
(Chansonneuve 2005: 43). These mechanisms of bio-political power were an
indispensable element of colonialism in subjugating First Nations people in Canada.
Designed by a euro-centric hegemony and under the guise of being a governmental
responsibility to safeguard and better Canada’s indigenous people, educational policies
were developed to control an entire generation of aboriginal children so as to absorb
future aboriginal populations into mainstream society (Chansonneuve 2005: 34). The
combination of such colonial discourses along with their superstructures resulted in the
destruction of alternative ways of knowing and living that obliterated collective identities
and memories in order to impose a new order (Tuhiwai-Smith 2008: 69).
2.3 Trauma as an Affective Outcome
The human relationship to landscape is an elemental one. Lefebvre states that it is
“by the means of the body that space is perceived, lived and produced” (Lefebvre 1991:
162). However, we do not experience physical space in a solitary capacity but rather as a
shared lived experienced with others that then becomes acculturated. Further, as humans,
we are capable of transmitting that experience through memory and emotion to others
including across generations. As a core phenomenological element of human experience,
emotion enriches and makes our daily lives and our most significant moments meaningful
(Tarlow 2012: 180). Places are affective and sticky with emotion, fixing important
memories to place, which can sometimes be transmitted over multiple generations
(Tarlow 2012: 174). As affective responses, the mind and body are therefore filled with
social meaning and are historically situated (Lock 1993: 141). These elements of
memory, emotion and shared lived experience are vulnerable to disruption and
For the Kaska Dene elders, Dene Kēyeh is historically culturalized and imbued
with emotion. Their memories of Dene Kēyeh as a place are based on lived experience
within the landscape of Dene Kēyeh. It was a trauma from colonization events that
impacted the Kaska Dene people’s affects, emotions and their ‘habitus’ which inevitably
caused a disjuncture in their relationship to Dene Kēyeh. Contemporary discourses, as
seen in government apologies, now acknowledge that this trauma was transformative for
the Kaska Dene elders while the concept of ‘loss’ has also become an essential feature of
the discourse about colonization and the aboriginal experience (Kirsch 2001: 167).
However, less acknowledged is the colonial debris from the various forms of disjunctures
of the environment and culture that remain today in the physical and emotional
experiences of children whose grandparents and parents were exposed to such direct
trauma. Deborah Chansonneuve argues that the urgent health and social problems of
many aboriginal people in Canada today are directly related to multiple generations of
children who were abused in residential schools and disconnected from their families and
communities (2005: 40). Chansonneuve also views residential schools as the primary
source that taught aboriginal children to feel shame in their heritage, language, customs
and spiritual traditions (2005: 40).
In her work with post-holocaust memory studies, Marianne Hirsch discusses how
memories of traumatic events can be transmitted to those who were not actually there to
live that event (2008: 106). Memory plays a central role in the transmission of trauma
since “individuals are part of social groups with shared belief systems that frame
memories and shape them into narratives” (Hirsch 2008: 110). Hirsch identifies the
mechanism for the transmission of such traumatic experience collectively felt across
generations as being ‘post-memory’. Post-memories are memories passed down to a
subsequent generation as “powerful, often traumatic, experiences that preceded their
births but that were nonetheless transmitted to them so deeply as to seem to constitute
memories in their own right” (Hirsch 2008: 103). Such memories are powerfully
intertwined with emotions and are best described as ‘emotional memories’. The affective
capacity of emotional memories is a way of re-describing historical interactions between
people and the resultant impacts of such interactions (Beasley-Murray 2010: 127-131).
Historical trauma is therefore best understood as a cluster of traumatic events in which
collective memories are a mechanism that transmits the trauma from generation to
generation as well as being shared emotionally across generations in the form of many
different social disorders such as a sense of helplessness (Wesley-Esquimaux and
Smolewski 2004: 65). These intergenerational echoes of colonial trauma can also be felt
through the complicated social devastation within many aboriginal communities which
Sara Mohammed describes as “self destructive behaviors, mental illness and emotional
disorders, suicide, conflicts with the law, violence, internalized racism, poverty and
under-education” (2010: 1). The current generation of youth and young adults among the
Kaska Dene is experiencing what Hirsch describes as a transfer of knowledge involving
language and landscape from elders who are a “generation of survivors passing into
history” (2008: 104). For decades, elders kept the disruptive effects of their deeply
personal wounds to themselves and only recently feel permission to talk about them as a
community. First Nations people are now looking inwards within their own communities
to find resources to relieve the trauma and help heal traumatized spirits (Episkenew 2009:
2.4 Healing in a Postcolonial Context
healing!and!wellness.!Healing for the Kaska Dene should be understood as a distinct
form of holistic health that differs from western models. Healing of trauma produced by
colonial systems must incorporate traditional, holistic and community driven therapies
unlike western medicine models (Mohammed 2010: 2). Members of minority groups
have very little input into the social systems that govern them which reflects their lack of
opportunity, access and participation which in turn affects their health status (Loustaunau
and Sobo 1997: 29). They discover that without freedom from this oppressive structure,
they cannot exist authentically and even healthily (Freire 1997: 30). Poka Laenui
proposes a distinct healing model of post colonialism which occurs in five stages:
rediscovery, recovery of indigenous history and culture; mourning; dreaming;
commitment and action (Mohammed 2010: 2). Laeuni’s healing model begins with an
understanding (a rediscovery) of the historical context that stresses the important role
played by colonial institutions and the resultant transmission of intergenerational trauma.
For First Nations people, the act of seeking to reclaim autonomy and control over their
nations and communities is also understood as a form of healing both for individual and
collective wounds traced back to the violence of colonization (Kirmayer 2004: 41).
Therefore, such community-led healing as a holistic health model facilitates the process
of decolonizing through reclamation of culture. !
Where are the Kaska Dene?
Dusty skies; another gas truck rolls by.
From Gold rush trails to World War roadways, this town is now silent.
Signposts marking the center of this highway rest stop.
Where are the Dene who call this their home?
Sitting outside the band office gossiping about what never will happen;
Walking down the long road to where they were told to go live 2 miles from town;
Praying in the Catholic Church;
Their children learning French and German in school.
But. If I look hard enough. I can see.
An Elder teaching her nephew how to set traps in the forest;
Kids excitedly collecting cans for their grandpa to get gas money to take them out to the
If I listen enough. I can hear.
Laughing coming from the community hall where women have gathered to make
“ Dénht’ā? Kolā Entie?” (How are you, are you good?)
At an elder’s meeting in 2009 on traditional ecological knowledge attended by
various environmentalists, lawyers and academic researchers, an elder suddenly stood up
and quietly expressed her frustration about how research was being conducted in her
community by simply stating that “the Kaska people are being studied to death”. The
ensuing discussion revealed a gap in expectations between researchers and the
community they researched. An industry of research and vested interests has been built
from indigenous knowledge without directly addressing, or at best ignoring, community
concerns, issues and ambitions.
Growing up, I was immersed in Dene K’éh. This ‘way of being’, intimately
linked to my experience of Dene Kēyeh, defines and permeates my identity and
relationships with others. I have also attempted to understand Dene K’éh by exploring
my heritage through the academic understanding that anthropology can partially provide.
Born into a politically charged First Nations family, I was raised with intimate knowledge
of the Dene Keyeh region even though I did not grow up in the Kaska communities.
Raised in Whitehorse, Yukon I frequently visited the town my mother grew up in,
Watson Lake, and made personal connections to many of the Kaska citizens in this region
based on my family background. As a Kaska anthropologist who straddles two cultures, I
feel compelled to speak both for and from my experience when attempting to understand
the contemporary effects and healing of the trauma created by colonial processes.
Lila Abu-Lughod coins the term ‘halfie anthropologist’ to describe a “bicultural
individual who can move between worlds and identities, disrupting traditional
anthropological boundaries between self and other” (1993: 41). Abu-Lughod also
contends that culture really exists in embodied experience where the experiences and
knowledge of a ‘halfie’ anthropologists, can also help write against the grain of western
hegemonic discourse (1993: 41). Joseph Raelin further argues that to effectively
deconstruct such dominant hegemonic discourses, an emancipatory discourse analysis is
required to expose and alter unjust power relations (2008: 520). To expose unjust power
relations, methodologies in postcolonial research must therefore create spaces for
narratives of emancipation (Venn 2006: 1). This thesis reflects emancipatory
ethnography as my overarching method.
Ethnography as a method has a well substantiated and researched approach. The
objective of western ethnography is to “describe the lives of people other than ourselves,
with accuracy and sensitivity honed by detailed observations and prolonged first-hand
experience” (Ingold 2011: 229). To effectively conduct ethnography, researchers must
perform fieldwork where there is a repetitive act of immersing and then removing oneself
from the setting. These repeated observations with varying levels of participation provide
the means by which ethnography “makes the strange familiar and the familiar strange”
(Caines 2010: 432). The assumed power embedded in a so-called objective researcher
lays claim to their authority as the legitimate “teller of literal truths” about indigenous
knowledge and heritage (Battiste and Henderson 2000: 32). This epistemological
hegemony of knowledge dominated the ethnographic field until the late 20th century
when ethnographic genres of postmodern, feminist, post-colonial and deconstructionist
ideologies confronted these traditional views (Caines 2010: 432). Indigenous
anthropologists have also raised concerns about the interpretations of non-indigenous
academic researchers who write about their culture (Given 2008: 467).
To address such power inequalities, postmodern ethnographies have emphasized
the need to articulate multiple realities and alternative worldviews while incorporating an
awareness of how as individuals we can occupy a multiplicity of positions (Sikes 2006:
350). These multiplicities of positions also come in the form of an ethnographer’s
positionality in their research which is formed by reflexivity that influences their research
questions (Hopkins 2007: 387). When making representations of culture, the
ethnographer’s self-awareness of his or her perspective, political alliance, and cultural
influence is a significant responsibility (Mutman 2006: 159). My method, therefore, also
included an essential component of self-examination and awareness of my own
positionalities. As an indigenous fieldworker who can cross academic and communities
based boundaries, I committed to trying to be aware of this power asymmetry. My
positionality was always of great concern to me and I therefore dealt with a number of
insider problems including lack of privacy, self-silencing, issues of representation and
vulnerabilities of engagement.
Postmodern ethnographic accounts of culture still tend to produce static
homogenous representations and ignore the important connections between different
groups and the effects of sociocultural change in the way people experience their daily
lives (Abu-Lughod 1991: 149). Knowing I was infused with an emotional attachment to
the issue I was studying, I also focused on a establishing both a collaborative and
community based approach to further moderate the risks of my positionalities and also
reduce the risk of writing a static homogenous representation. I consciously tried to apply
Arturo Escobar’s anti-essentialist model so as to find the multiple ways an experience is
socially constructed depending on one’s social position and how various groups produce
social constructs differently over time (1999: 5).
Community-based research is viewed as an alternative research method designed
to overcome various forms and degrees of oppression by exposing and altering unjust
power relations (Raelin 2008: 520). Sean Markey et al. argue that all research in
indigenous northern communities should be grounded upon a commitment to better
understand and foster community-based development (2010: 164). In northern Canada
many researchers are collaborating with indigenous communities to deconstruct
knowledge that is necessary to transform those communities which are on the margins
(Iseke and Brennus 2011). Community-based research is therefore especially well suited
for conducting research in indigenous communities because it provides flexibility and
sensitivity in areas that are undergoing economic, social, cultural and environmental
challenges (Markey et al 2010: 159). Guided by these principles, I followed protocols
developed for decolonized approaches in First Nations communities.
Within the framework of this ethnographic approach, I applied two methods of
inquiry: narrative analysis and participant observation. I performed a narrative analysis
of all the ethnographic semi-structured interviews I pursued during my fieldwork. These
investigative narratives are needed for a politically committed and morally engaged
ethnography. The Kaska Dene continue to fight for aboriginal title in a hegemonic land-
claims negotiation system. Within my community the national issue of resilience and
vulnerability of First Nations people is also a significant local issue. I therefore wanted
to collect as many narratives as possible from Kaska Dene citizens, land stewards,
frequent visitors to Dene Kēyeh, as well as Yukon First Nations youth, to represent a
voice that I believed was not being fully heard. From this oral history, I wanted to invoke
what Renato Rosaldo describes as telling stories about the “stories people tell about
themselves” (1980: 89). Sensitive to issues of my own positionality and risk of
interpretation, I tried to capture each of my informants’ voices with authenticity and
recognize that each provided a different contextualized narrative. Accordingly, I did not
‘find’ or impose a collective homogenous narrative for the community. Instead, I used
narrative analysis to show the particular ways in which the Kaska Dene could best be
understood in what Rosaldo describes as a historical and contemporary perspective
(1980: 91).
I interviewed ten research participants in depth who discussed their attitudes and
beliefs concerning human-environment relationships in their community, impacts of
colonialism and residential schools, traditional education strategies for youth, and the
importance of cultural identity and indigeneity. The participants were between the ages
of 21 and 85. Four were residents of the town of Watson Lake and one was a resident of
Ross River. The other five were either part-time (summer) residents of those
communities or individuals who have a personal history in those communities. Six
participants identified themselves as Kaska Dene. I met with each research participant
for an average of one hour in an informal discussion and interview format.
The application of a participant observation methodology was more problematic
for me given that my fieldwork was in a community in which my extended family lives
and which I had frequently visited as I grew up. Traditional fieldwork protocols of
engagement require more of an ‘outside researcher’ stance. Yet, I felt I was already
immersed in my culture and if I attempted to treat myself as an ‘outside researcher’ then I
would be attempting to abstract the information and become an interpreter of knowledge.
I acknowledge that continued future work on problem-focused participatory research in
working with the community to understand and address problems of mutual concern is
needed (Johnston 2010: S235). Nonetheless, there is no such thing as innocent
anthropology (Khalili 2011: 72). Instead we should contend for an active and politically
committed and morally engaged anthropology (Scheper-Hughes 1995: 415). Barbara
Rose Johnston further proposes that, as anthropologist citizens, we should be keenly
aware of our obligation and responsibilities to assert individually and collectively our
critical insights (2010: S245). This form of participatory action research is designed to
validate and disseminate community based knowledge to challenge social
marginalization and structures of oppression that is relevant in societies that are engaging
in a process of post-colonial transformation (Lundy and McGovern 2006: 56).
As I participated in and observed the daily lives of the communities I worked
with, there was no specific formula for the type of engagement I produced. I became
quite literally a cab driver, mediator, teacher, therapist/healer, carpenter, babysitter and
even an accountant and financial adviser. To many community members I was able to
provide friendship, support and sharing of collective experience. I also collaborated on
multiple local research projects, took community meeting minutes, and put together
actions plans for a local non-for-profit organization. This close distance between my
engagement and the outcomes of my research also gave me as a stronger sense of
responsibility and comprehension of the social impacts of doing anthropology (Johnston
2010: S238).
“You know one day all of the good land for camping and living will be
gone for development or tourism; we are going to have to pay to be on a lake.
Our land values are not the same anymore.‘Tu Dena’- (The River Man), told me
that we need to all get together and start building cabins; open up the trails so
we have a presence on our land. If we are out on the land together the language
will come to us naturally; that's where we need to start” (Gūdzı
̨̄hmā May 18th
The Kaska Dene feel they have the right to protect their land, their Degun, that is
based on a way of thinking that originates well before euro-centric concepts of
conservationism or managing ecological footprints. The land to the Kaska Dene is not a
commodity but a heritage of the Kaska community – what Brian Ballantyne calls a
dwelling place of countless generations (2010: 109). In its relationship to the landscape,
each generation represents the collective identity that is present in the creation of the
Kaska culture. This culture is present in the embodied perspective or ‘inside landscape’
through which the Kaska Dene hold “a series of named locales, a set of relational places
linked by paths, movements and narratives” (Tilley 1994: 34; Johnson 2010b: 99). This
human-environment relationship is encapsulated in Dene K’éh: the “People’s Way”.
Dene K’éh is not an abstract concept but an epistemology and ontology about the actual
place called Dene Kēyeh which corresponds to Clifford Geertz’s notion of such belief
systems as a concept of nature, of self and of society (1970). As a perception and a way
of life using respect and reverence for the landscape and environment, Dene K’éh is a
form of knowledge that clearly derives from and is transmitted by means of a sense of
belonging to Dene Kēyeh. Nadia Lovell describes the importance of such a relationship
when she states that “the feeling of belonging to a place is defined through a sense of
experience, a phenomenology of locality, which serves to create ideals. It is through
belonging to a place that creates collective identities and where through the interaction of
these localized individuals culture is created in place” (1998: 1-3).
This type of lived experience leaves an historical mark on a person’s memory and
guides their action into the production of places (Gordillo 2004: 6). The production of
Dene Kēyeh as a place and its intersection with colonial history has left a lasting imprint
on the memories of many Kaska Dene today. Our beliefs and expectations about places
are intimately linked to a synthesis of the past and present experiences of our spatial
environment (Downs and Stea 1977: 4). This environmental memory and cultural history
contributes to the disjuncture from the affective response to contemporary experiences
and their frequent disassociation from Dene K’éh philosophies and disconnect from
direct experience with Dene Kēyeh. !
4.1 Kaska Dene Historical Context
The synthesis of the past with the present must begin with an understanding of the
context of the colonization of the Kaska Dene. The mid 19th century colonial regime in
North America was characterized by colonial concepts such as frontiers, and expansion
of a territorial concept through the exploration, conquering and exploitation of the
environment. By the end of the 19th century, all native affairs were under settler-state
control in the guise of colonial discourse about protection, improvement of aboriginal
living conditions and eventual assimilation. First Nations people in the North were
categorized, classified and reduced to ‘bands’ and placed on limited, delineated reserves
where their title to land became dependent on federal legislation (Knafla and Westra
2010: 6).3 As the Fur Trade gave way to an industrial economy focusing on concepts of
land that supported mining, forestry and hydro-development, a restless formation and
reformation of the geographical landscape into a capitalistic spatial framework was
occurring that enforced new relationships between the Europeans and First Nations
people and further detached First Nations people from their former lands (Harris 2004:
This detachment of First Nations people from their land is a disjuncture that is not
a mere historical event for which an apology can be issued and then reconciliation
applied in an effort to help people ‘move on’. The psychological internalization
processes, as described by Eduardo Duran (2006), create distinct transformations in a
community’s culture. Existing First Nations relationships and their perceptions of their
land were continually denied in what Willems-Braun has characterized as an explicit
form of environmental racism delivered through a silent form of colonial violence (1997:
19). This environmental racism is so powerful that it is still manifest in today’s debates
about who ‘owns’ the subsurface access rights to mineral deposits or who makes
decisions about ecological policies and hunting rights and the ongoing debate between
industrial development and conservation. If we are to fully understand how, with all the
post-modern scholarship on the effects of colonization that such a situation still arises,
then we need to examine the bio-political mechanisms that fuelled this disjuncture and its
means of transmission across generations.
3 In the Yukon Territory today, the Kaska Dene First Nation has not been subjugated to the reserve system
of land classification, as we are not a settled nation under land claims policies.
4.2 Residential Schooling and Post Memory!
Within the confines of a thesis, it is not be possible to discuss all of the significant
bio-political mechanisms of colonization that contributed to the disjunctures experienced
by the Kaska Dene. However, one of the most significant mechanisms of the Kaska
Dene experience was the implementation of residential schooling and this thesis focuses
on that event as being illustrative of a much broader array of such colonial processes.
Residential schooling isolated aboriginal children from their culture by placing
them into English Euro-Canadian schooling in an attempt to steep them in Christian
Eurocentric ideology and behaviors and thus became a means for the internalization of
colonial knowledge and ideology (Mohammed 2010; Milloy 2008). The Indian
Residential School in Kaska Dene territory was located in Lower Post, British Columbia.
For 25 years from 1950-1975, the Oblate Order of the Roman Catholic Church operated
the school along the banks of the Liard River until its operation was transferred to the
Department of Indian Affairs (Coates 1991: 155, 205). Many Kaska Children from
Watson Lake, Ross River and family groups in Northern BC were sent to the Lower Post
Indian Residential School during its operational years. Many other children were also
sent to the Grouard Indian Residential School in northern Alberta, The Indian Baptist
School in Whitehorse and the Chooutla Anglican Residential School in Carcross (field
notes July 12th 2012). In the Lower Post Residential School, the principal assimilationist
tactic by French speaking nuns and Spanish speaking priests was to restrict the children
from speaking their first language (Meek 2010: 19).
The trauma experienced by students while attending residential schooling, in
particular the prohibitions on the use of their language and the physical disconnection
from the land itself, caused a major loss of embedded knowledge in place names and
confusion about the ontological beliefs and socio-cultural guidance which are essential
mediums through which to learn Kaska history (Johnson 2010a: 61). Residential
schooling, in conjunction with other colonial processes, therefore disrupted the normal
transmission of such belief and cultural systems and cultural identity from one generation
to the next. Residential schooling and its imbalances of powers also inflicted an
individual trauma which broke down elements of personal identity and trust (Aucoin
2008). These traumas continue to be experienced and transmitted across generations by
way of post-memories.
In the summer of 2012, I talked to Kaska women from the communities of
Watson Lake and Lower Post in the Two Mile Hall as they were discussing a truth and
reconciliation event, called “Gathering Around the Fire”, that had taken place at the site
of the former Lower Post Residential School, some 37 years after the residential school
closed its doors. The Kaska, Tlingit and Tahltan who went to this school had called for
this ceremony to wrap up the truth and reconciliation process that was then underway in
the Yukon. About 800 people from around the Yukon and British Columbia attended the
event as part of an attempt to include a multi-generational healing journey. The site of
the school is now a grassy field as the building burned down some years ago. Yet, the
site still invokes powerful memories that are still present in the land and I heard many
people say ‘there are ghosts everywhere’. The Lower Post Indian Residential School was
considered one of the most abusive in the Yukon system and the community in which it
was built still suffers the effects of that abuse (Aucoin 2008). The stories about the
residential school told at the event are horrific; beatings and public humiliation were not
uncommon. One person who spoke at the event described a needle being put through his
tongue when he spoke the only language he knew. So regimented were the lives of these
students that some, coming to Lower Post for the first time since they left, were surprised
to see that there was a river behind what was once the site of the school (Forsburg, [YN]
15 August 2012).
The attitudes and cultural responses among current Kaska youth reflect this
transmitted trauma from a previous generation. While there is a justifiable focus on
Indian Residential School survivors who are finally starting to emerge out of the darkness
of their experience, their children’s and grandchildren’s trauma continues as they live
with their own very real anger about what they have been put through in their own lives
as well as the pain they witness in the survivors (Aucoin 2008). These Kaska youth are
experiencing what Tlingit film-maker and story-teller Duane Gastant Aucoin calls his
own private Lower Post. For Kaska Dene youth, growing up immersed in the narratives
that preceded their birth or their consciousness is to experience what Hirsch describes as
“having one’s own stories and experiences displaced, even evacuated, by those of a
previous generation” (2008: 107).
A growing body of literature examines abuse at First Nations’ residential schools
as a manifestation of colonial violence and its intergenerational effect of further abuse
and neglect in aboriginal communities. Such literature in linking to and emphasizing the
psychological harm of abuse and wrongdoing tends to medicalize issues that are in fact
political and, as such, overshadow the reality of aboriginal resilience in the face of trauma
and healing (Blackburn 2012: 292). As a result, when extending the discussion of the
effects of colonization to contemporary Kaska youth and children, there is a risk that such
discussion will be perceived as statement of victimhood that can never be remedied.
However, such a perception would be an injustice to the process of renewal that I believe
is also taking place in the Kaska community. Within the context of healing,
Aboriginality should not be seen as a site of injury requiring western style medical
intervention but alternatively as a state of being from which restorative measures can
occur based upon indigenous traditions and values. !!
Increasingly, there are signs of changes in our traditional relationships towards
colonial management and its superstructures through a restoration of indigenous values.
The Kaska are re-learning a sense of identity that was weakened through the coloniality
of power through such events as the Gathering Around the Fire, which allowed Kaska to
gather on the land to proclaim and identify the worst of past colonial practices. They are
re-learning their own history so as to be able to move forward and are sharing their
collective experiences that they have historically had on the land. This emergence of the
past with its ties to Dene K’éh is essential to the concept of healing. As one elder put it
“our songs, our prayers, and our ceremonies are our medicine” (field notes August 30th
The 2012 Gathering Around the Fire event was viewed by the Kaska women I
talked to as a political act in which they were given the opportunity by the federal
government to take ‘trauma training’ to help their people. These women, who within
their communities are already viewed as healers, chose instead to look at this event as a
positive setting for them to become reinvigorated and empowered again to help their
people in a great time of need. One of the women who attended said “look out because
when the women start to pray; there will be a fire, we are a strong people”. Many of the
Kaska women I interviewed believe that we need to focus on community health and
education before we worry about economic stability. This type of healing and the re-
shaping of identity and cultural connections within the Kaska community are essential for
not only profoundly personal reasons but also because there is an urgency that arises due
to pressures for economic development within traditional Kaska lands.
4.3 Contesting Ideas of Dene Kēyeh!
Tilley states that place is “regarded as a medium for actions, a resource in which
actors draw on in their activity and use it for their own purposes, it therefore becomes
value laden and political” (1994: 20). Dene Kēyeh has been and still is a value laden and
political place. Outside of the Liard First Nations Band Office, I observed a group of
protestors who were gathered in response to an internal community conflict over the
division between people with rights of power in the chief and council’s office and local
people who want their voices to be heard (field notes June 4th 2012). As stated by one of
the protestors “there is no respect and ā́’ī isn’t being used in the community” (field notes
June 4th 2012). Pressures from government and mineral resource companies seeking and
promoting economic development are causing political tensions within the Kaska
community. Such an economic pressure point about control over land ownership,
mineral resources and access should be considered as an extension of colonial thinking.
Once again, hegemonic colonial epistemologies, such as concepts of economic
development of the land, are set up in opposition to traditional Kaska approaches of
understanding their land through a more holistic worldview. Such an extension of the
coloniality of power is particularly painful given the history of colonial oppression of the
Kaska community and runs the very real risk of further traumatizing and dividing the
community. Many young Kaska Dene still continue to deeply value Dene Kēyeh as it
holds important experiences and histories for both themselves and the older Kaska that
are rooted in Kaska ontological and epistemological views.
The concept of chiefs and councils is an imposition of European concepts of
governance and practice which replaced indigenous decision-making structures (Nadasdy
2003: 2). One of the outcomes of this imposition of Eurocentric practice has been the
emergence of gender bias in contrast to a society that was traditionally matriarchal. In
her discussion with me, EstūGah indicates the gender-based divisiveness that has been
created “when we are talking about the land the men are the ones at the table and when
we talk about our culture and language it is the women at the table, this is the way it has
always been and there will never be unity and a consensus until we start sitting together”
(field notes October 11th 2011). Many elders in Kaska Dene communities describe
themselves as “saddened by the lines being drawn in the land, splitting the territory up for
ecological reserves and development areas. These elders see themselves as caretakers of
the land for future generations and feel it unfair to make drastic decisions around land
management that others will have to live by. On the other hand, others in the community
support the fracturing of land to promote some areas as unique while fostering others for
resource extraction” (Nogha Dena June 4th 2012/January 19th 2014).4
The elders are equally concerned that there is the potential for significant inter-
generational conflict over Dene Kēyeh as younger generations become more removed
from traditional activities within Dene Kēyeh (field notes June 4th 2012). Kaska Dene
youth are growing up exposed to powerful neoliberal mechanisms tied to a hegemonic
4 Nogha Dena has been my life-long friend, a First Nations activist, an environmentalist, and a life-long
learner of the Kaska Language and the Dene Kēyeh Landscape.
culture focused on individualization, consumerism and scientific materialism: all of
which marginalizes their identity as indigenous people. Because of the pervasiveness of
modern media networks and social media, a Kaska youth in the southeast Yukon is no
more immune to these cultural forces than a child growing up in one of Canada’s major
cities. Kaska Dene youth are growing up in a materialist neo-liberal capitalist economy
where many principles of Dene K’éh and ā́’ī do not seem to relate to their daily lives
within such an economy. The domination of hegemonic culture in tandem with the
reoccurring narrative of an oppressive past often inhibits Kaska youth from accessing the
large unspoken and undocumented knowledge of Kaska culture and traditional
knowledge held by their elders in their communities (field notes June 8th 2012). Given
the cumulative effects of the loss of language and their narratives as well as the
pervasiveness of hegemonic discourses and their devaluation of traditional Kaska values
and relationships with the land, it should come as no surprise that ‘traditional ways’ are
increasingly being challenged by today’s youth.
4.4 Dene Kēyeh as an Essential Place of Healing
Our cultural understandings of past landscapes provide the basis of our collective
identity and land rights in the present (Lydon 2008: 654). Many Kaska Dene that I
interviewed believe that even though the tradition of “living on the land” is no longer
economically viable, such a tradition does ensure the continuity of a language and culture
and they seek a way to integrate and revitalize the value of Dene Kēyeh into
contemporary life (field notes June 8th). The women elders that I talked to believe that
without restoring First Nations pedagogy to the younger generations, the language loss
and related effects on knowledge retention will cause what Alyce Johnson describes as a
“loss of identity and disassociation from the landscape that no amount of reading can
restore” (2010ba: 27). This understanding is frequently articulated as Kaska Dene youth
not knowing ‘the bush’ in the same way that their elders do (field notes June 8th 2012).
In contrast to elders, the current generation of youth, including myself, considers the
traditional lifestyle of the bush as being uncertain: as offering a life of poverty in
comparison to the benefits of a cash economy (field notes June 8th). The cumulative
effect is a profound contemporary inter-generational disjuncture in the Kaska relationship
to Dene Kēyeh.
Gordillo advises us that “landscape knowledge is an embodied practice that
people regularly articulate in their assertion of control over space” (2004: 185). Dene
Kēyeh is an essential place for the Kaska to be able to embody practices that will renew,
revitalize and contemporize Dene K’éh. Yet, if Dene Keyeh is allowed to become just
another place experienced in neoliberal economic terms serving a cash economy then a
generation of Kaska may no longer believe that they have a stake in preserving their own
culture. Protecting, revitalizing and contemporizing traditional relationships with Dene
Kēyeh is therefore essential if the Kaska culture is to thrive in the future. Ingold also
states that, a future generation would have to become completely disassociated from their
history to lose their culture (Ingold 2000: 147). The trauma of colonial oppression in
conjunction with post-memory transmission poses the risk of just such a disassociation
within the current or next generation of Kaska youth. It is within this greater context of
the essential role of Dene Kēyeh that I understand those Kaska women who say that there
is no safe place to heal. Sitting around a fire at a women’s meeting on Frances Lake, a
Ross River elder told us that “it has to start from inside the family, we have to be healthy
first and we need to have faith. Start with a mother to be and see what a difference she
can make by raising her child with Dene K’éh, ā́’ī and land based skills. Let them learn
through experience” (field notes August 28th 2012).
The Kaska Dene are responding to the need to heal their disassociation from Dene
Kēyeh, which is one of the most damaging outcomes of the trauma of colonialism.
Kaska Dene elders have encouraged such restorative acts as returning to the land and
taking their children and grandchildren with them. For an elder, Dene Kēyeh is still an
essential site of resilience that has enabled them to endure missionary social control and
exploitation as well as being a physical place of health and healing that counter-acts the
hardships experienced as a colonized people. A significant consideration in healing past
and current trauma and reducing assimilation into mainstream culture is for the current
generation of Kaska Dene youth to become aware of all the alternate Kaska views that
inhabit their landscape. Having activities tied to cultural beliefs and identities are of vital
importance in establishing such a relationship with the land (Johnson 2010a: 105). The
Kaska Dene are achieving these alternate ways of knowing by having increasing
opportunities for youth and young adults to go out on the land with elders so as to
enhance their connection to Degun. These camps aim to address this historic and
contemporary disjuncture with land and traditional culture by having youth and elders
learning from each other.
Marion Glaser advocates for the rediscovery of mental and spiritual
connectedness with nature in postmodern life and asserts that a deep ecological
understanding and relationship can influence our contemporary thinking of landscape
(2006: 123). Tilley states that the praxis of a landscape is learned and it is this learning
process that makes a landscape meaningful to an individual (1994: 22-24). Kaska
initiatives targeted at cultural belonging are therefore intended to provide participants
with indigenous ecological knowledge and a route by which individuals can become
future stewards of the land in accordance with long standing traditions of Dene K’éh.
These initiatives are intended to reconnect youth with the transmitted knowledge of
elders so they can develop their own sense of cultural belonging within the landscape in
effect creating new revitalizing and positive post-memories.
Knowledge of Dene Kēyeh is not just embedded in traditional landscape skills
such as hunting but is also reflected in art and other activities of traditional Kaska culture.
̨̄hmā eloquently describes the many different kinds of existing relationships to Dene
Kēyeh when she states “some youth are artists, singers, dancers, drummers, hunters and
that might be all the Kaska they know, but at least they are engaging with one aspect of
the culture. They are carrying it on, which is important in these times of culture
preservation due to the loss of elders and knowledge. It is important for these youth to
have some sort of cultural identity otherwise they will not understand that part of them
and it will always be lost. Anyone can go shoot a moose in the forest but it’s about the
knowledge that is lost through place names and our stories that is integral to the language
and culture. Culture camps can work and they need to otherwise how can we expose the
youth to the land? We also cannot discount the new ways of interacting with the
landscape. Your cousins use four wheelers and jet boats to go up the rivers, but at least
they are still doing it and hunting for their elders. We need to realize that we will never
go back to the traditional ways; there has been integration of some values and not others”
(May 18th 2012).
The Kaska integration can also be seen in various outdoor culture programs held
where elders focus on sharing their knowledge on drum making, moose skin boat
building, tanning and fleshing hides, hunting and survival skills, traditional medicines,
Kaska language, storytelling, stick gambling, beading and sewing, ethno-botany and an
environmental respect for the natural world (Kaska Dene Council 2004). By offering
opportunities for youth to connect or re-connect with elders and learn the culture, stories,
traditional knowledge and skills from individuals who actually lived on the land, these
youth can then develop their own connection to the landscape. Tilley describes this
process as the embodiment of intimate personal experience which no substitute can
possibly match (2008: 274). The culture camps in Dene Kēyeh provide just such an
experiential learning opportunity in environmental and cultural stewardship. These
cultural camps effectively apply Tilley’s experienced-based strategies of becoming
familiar with the landscape by walking within it, visiting places of significance and
approaching places from different directions by following paths so as to develop
observations on how people in the past made sense of, lived in and understood their
landscapes (Tilley 2008: 274). Without these memories of our elders and re-creating our
own memories within Dene Kēyeh, there is a risk that we will lose a part of being
indigenous to this landscape. By creating such memories through experiential learning
and direct lived experience of Dene Kēyeh, the current generation of Kaska including
myself can hope to find a renewal of our culture that balances some of the disconnection
created by the rhetorical competing arguments of traditional and neoliberal worldviews.
̨̄hmā says, “The elders need to heal and the youth need to have
experiences”. Growing up, I was told that we were the river people; we travelled up and
down our country by waterways. Using the river we were able to walk everywhere in
Dene Kēyeh. Every place in Dene Kēyeh had a Kaska name. Today, an elder will sit on
the floor and make dozens of traditional drums talking about the bush while his grandson
playing video games will only offer a occasional glance over to him. The river this elder
describes to him cannot be understood by the grandson because he has not experienced
it. I ask myself, if we as a people are to move forward, how are we to know our history?
(Field Notes May 21st 2012)
Today one of the more significant contradictions in the northern landscape is the
simultaneous desire for exploitation and preservation. Krista Harper has argued that the
ecological environment has now become the master narrative of our societies (2001:
101). Yet, despite the differences in the rhetoric and practices of both extractive
capitalism and environmentalism, common to both is that First Nations voices are still
being marginalized (Willems-Braun 1997: 25). However, First Nations people, like the
Kaska Dene are starting to contest what Bruce Willems-Braun identifies as the buried
colonial epistemologies that enframe their land (1997: 25). First Nations groups in
Canada need to challenge their buried colonial epistemologies in order to generate an
essential healing process that reduces the disassociation from their culture, their
indigenous identity, their language and their landscape in which they have always lived.
For Dene Kēyeh, the buried colonial epistemologies have been constructed from
dominant historical-colonial processes which culminated in traumatizing an entire
generation. The colonial narratives that position Dene Kēyeh as either an unoccupied
wilderness or otherwise as a region in need of development should and can be contested.
These narratives need to be dismantled and a new conceptual space within political
discourses be created where past and present forms of native territoriality can be made
visible (Willems-Braun 1997: 18).
The Kaska Dene are at a critical juncture in their lives as a people, as multiple
communities and as a culture. To ensure that they can maintain aboriginal title to their
land, they are forced to argue for territorial independence through land-claims
negotiations. Yet, they also need to have the conceptual and political space to be able to
portray what Dene Kēyeh truly means to us as an aboriginal people as an elder quietly
told me Dene Kēyeh is “a land where we live, have survived and created a culture” (field
notes August 28th 2012). Our experiences of a place, held in our memories and emotions,
are made through a collective experience in which our linguistic devices, such as
directionals, establish spatial, social and temporal points of view describe our perception
of the landscape (Moore 1999: 305). Embedded in language, our narratives associated
with that place then act to convey and share that spatial orientation of a place within and
across generations. Our perceptions of the environment are strongly connected to our
personal narratives and how we choose to engage with the world, which is a reflection of
our individual histories and our cultural paths (Tilley 1994: 15). It is this spatial
awareness and place, as being a organized world of meaning, that renews and revitalizes
Dene K’éh and which is in danger of being lost if we fail to re-establish traditonally
based connections to Dene Kēyeh. Language loss, cultural degeneration and social
diffusion will continue to raise concerns about western’s society’s impositions that
denigrate traditional ways of life (Johnson 2010a: 9).
I accept that within a post-colonial Canada, being indigenous and valuing an
ideological ownership of one’s landscape is inherently political and constantly being re-
negotiated. Yet as a Kaska Dene for whom Dene Kēyeh is more than just a ‘place’, how
my land is characterized, represented and labeled in contemporary discourses is essential
to my sense of being Kaska and to the future well-being of my people. Through both the
thick description that I have acquired through lived experience in Dene Kēyeh and also as
a ‘halfie’ ethnographer, I have come to realize more fully the importance of how spaces
and places are made, imagined, contested and enforced. Gupta and Ferguson advise us
that changing the ways we think about the relations of culture, power and space opens us
to the possibility of change (1992: 18). If there is to be positive change and outcomes, I
believe that the Kaska Dene voice is still in much need of embodiment and articulation
within contemporary discourse.
I am greatly encouraged that such change is coming to my community by way of
healing through experiential learning and direct lived experience. This healing process
allows the contemporary Kaska to address some of the disconnection and disjunctures
created by the rhetorical competing arguments of traditional and neoliberal worldviews.
We cannot take back time and the pain of the past cannot be undone. Yet, we do know
that such trauma adopts a powerful means of transmission of its affects across
generations through post-memory. A postcolonial recovery and healing must therefore
focus specifically on countering the devaluation of indigenous identity, knowledge, and
life-ways that came with colonialism and its attendant, the coloniality of power. Well-
intentioned efforts to revive language or traditional relationships to the landscape will fail
in the face of the onslaught of contemporary neo-liberal discourses and epistemologies
about economic development, material wealth and individualism unless there is a healing
process that affirms a Kaska Dene identity. In order to achieve lasting change, the goal
of any healing process must be a recovery of awareness, a reawakening to the sense, and
a re-owning of one’s life experience. For First Nations groups, like the Kaska Dene,
seeking to reclaim autonomy and control over their land, culture and communities;
restoration comes from healing both the individual and the collective wounds traced back
to the violence of colonization (Kirmayer 2004: 41). To recover from these oppressive
forces, many Kaska Dene believe that healing through the land is the first step to cultivate
action. Gūdzı
̨̄hmā told met that revitalizing Kaska culture must take place 'on the land'
because it is where Kaska culture is most often expressed. “Kaska society's primary goal
is cultural revitalization and renewal, which is a necessary condition, some say
precondition, to improved health, political dynamics, wealth generation, social
advancement and general well being. The Kaska social and cultural leaders calling for a
return to 'the land' know that their individual and societal well being and health relies
upon replenishing what colonial policies attempted to eradicate: aboriginal culture
(August 31st 2012).
Neoliberal ideologies are spawning global processes and their economic, social
and political consequences for indigenous communities like the Kaska Dene require
activism in scholarship. Given the colonial history of the Kaska Dene, contemporary
postmodern ethnography as a methodology supports the need to make connections
between the past and the present and understand the contemporary re-negotiations of how
people dwell within a landscape. I believe that community-based research, such as fully
understanding the implications of the colonial abuses of residential school victims, can
act as a means to permit previously unheard voices to emerge into the public realm and to
help reshape the future.
By connecting with our past strengths and journeys and the affective
representations they produce and the cultural interactions happening in the present, we
can heal our people and our landscape. My sincerest wish is that a deeper ongoing
understanding of the colonial context and the effects of coloniality of power will
empower the collective consciousness of our people during our current dispute over
aboriginal title in our traditional territory. Such an understanding offers hope that our
relationship with each other and with Dene Kēyeh can revitalize our communities.
As aboriginal academics, we are increasingly in a position to present our
communities’ histories through ethnographies and formal scholarship. Much future work
remains to further define indigenous methodologies and decolonized approaches in our
research that produce understanding of indigenous epistemologies that will lead not only
to better ways of doing research but also leave a lasting benefit to the communities who
invite us into their lives. It is my hope that this thesis contributes to the scope and depth
of such future work. ! !
Abu-Lughod, Lila
1991 Writing Against Culture. In Recapturing Anthropology: Working in the Present,
edited by R. G. Fox. School Of American Research Press, Santa Fe. Pg: 137-62.
1993 Women Writing Worlds: Bedouin Stories. University of California Press,
Los Angeles.
Alcoff, Linda M.
2007 Mignolo's Epistemology of Coloniality. The New Centennial Review 7(3): 79-102.
Aucoin, Duane Gastant
2008 My Own Private Lower Post. Electronic document,, accessed August 13th 2013.
Ballantyne, Brian
2010 Beyond Aboriginal Title in Yukon: First Nations Land Registries. In
Aboriginal Title and Indigenous People’s: Canada, Australia, and New
Zealand, edited by Louis Knafla and Haijo Westra. Vancouver, UBC Press.
Pg. 108-124.
Basso, Keith
1996 Wisdom Sits In Place: Landscape and Language among the Western Apache.
University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.
Battiste, Marie and James Youngblood Henderson
2000 Protecting Indigenous Knowledge and Heritage: A Global Challenge.
Purich Publishing Ltd, Saskatoon.
Beasley-Murray, John
2010 Posthegemony: Political Theory and Latin America. University of Minnesota
Press, Minneapolis.
Bennett and Blackstock
2002 First Nations Child and Family Services and Indigenous Knowledge as
Framework for Research, Policy and Practice. Paper presented at the Positive
Systems of Child Welfare Conference, Waterloo.
Blackburn, Carole
2012 Culture Loss and Crumbling Skulls: The Problematic of Injury in Residential
School Litigation. PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review, 35(2):
Caines, Karen E.
2010 Ethnography. Neil J. Salkind (ed) Encyclopedia of Research Design. SAGE,
Thousand Oaks.
Chansonneuve, Deborah
2005 Reclaiming Connections: Understanding Residential School Trauma among
Aboriginal People. Aboriginal Healing Foundation, Ottawa.
Coates, Ken S.
1991 Best Left as Indians: Native-White Relations in the Yukon Territory, 1840-1973.
McGill-Queens University Press, Montreal.
Cruikshank, Julie
1990 Life Lived Like a Story: Life Stories of Three Yukon Native Elders. University of
British Columbia Press, Vancouver.
Downs, Roger M. and David Stea
1977 Maps in Minds: Reflections on Cognitive Mapping. Harper & Row, New York.
Duran, Eduardo
2006 Healing the Soul Wound: Counseling with American Indians and Other Native
Peoples. Teachers College Press, New York.
Episkenew, Jo-Ann
2009 Taking Back Our Spirits: Indigenous Literature, Public Policy, and Healing.
University of Manitoba Press, Winnipeg.
Escobar, Arturo
1999 After Nature: Steps to an Antiessentalist Political Ecology. Current
Anthropology, 40 (1): 1-30.
Freire, Paulo
1997 Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Continuum Publishing, New York.
Forsburg, Tor
2012 Ceremony Helps Survivors Recover from Hellish History. Yukon News 15
August: Whitehorse, Yukon. Electronic Document, http://www.yukon- accessed
on August 20th 2012.
Foucault, Michel
1990 The History of Sexuality. Volume 1: An Introduction. Vintage Press, New York.
Geertz, Clifford
1970 Ethos, Worldview and the Analysis of Sacred Symbols. In Man Makes Sense: A
Readers in Modern Cultural Anthropology, edited by Eugene Hammel and
William Simons. Little, Brown and Company, Boston.
1983 Local Knowledge: Further Essays in Interpretive Anthropology. Basic Books,
New York.
Given, Lisa M.
2008 The SAGE Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research Methods. SAGE Publications,
Thousand Oaks.
Glaser, Marion
2006 The Social Dimension in Ecosystem Management: Strengths and Weaknesses
of Human-Nature Mind Maps. Human Ecology Review 13(7): 122-136.
Gordillo, Gastón R.
2004 Landscapes of Devils: Tensions of Place and Memory in the Argentinean Chaco.
Duke University Press, Durham.
Grosfoguel, Ramón and Cervantes-Rodríguez, Ana Margarita
2002 The Modern/Colonial/Capitalist World-System in the Twentieth Century: Global
Processes, Antistystemic Movements, and the Geopolitics of Knowledge. Praeger,
New York.
Grosfoguel, Ramón
2007 The Epistemic Decolonial Turn: Beyond Political Economy Paradigms.
Cultural Studies 21(2): 211-23.
Gupta, Akhil and James Ferguson
1992 Beyond “Culture”: Space, Identity and the Politics of Difference.
Cultural Anthropology, 7(1): 6-23.
Harper, Krista M.
2001 Introduction: The Environment as Master Narrative: Discourse and Identity in
Environmental Problems. Anthropological Quarterly. 74(3): 101-103.
Harris, Cole
2004 How Did Colonialism Dispossess? Comments from an Edge of Empire. Annals
of the Association of American Geographers, 94(1): 165-182.
Harvey, David
1989 The Condition of Postmodernity. Blackwell Press, Oxford.
Hirsch, Marianne
2008 The Generation of Post Memory. In Poetics Today 29(1): 103-128.
Hopkins, Peter E.
2007 Positionalities and Knowledge: Negotiating Ethics in Practice.
ACME E-Journal for Critical Geographies 6(3): 386-394.
Ingold, Tim
2000 The Perception of the Environment: Essays in Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill.
Routledge Press, New York.
2011 Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description.
Routledge Press, New York.
Iseke J. and Brennus B.
2011 Learning Life Lessons for Indigenous Storytelling with Tom McCallum.
In G. J. S. Dei (Ed.) Indigenous Philosophies and Critical Education.
Peter Lang, New York. Pg. 245-261.
Johnson, Alyce
2010 a Mnemonic Maps, Talking Landscapes: Spatially Narrated Kaajèt-Crow Clan:
An Examination of K’àma Dzêa-Ptarmigan Heart as Geospatial Narrative.
Ph.D. Dissertation, Trent University, Peterborough.
Johnson, Leslie
2010 b Trail of Story, Traveller’s Path: Reflections of Ethnoecology and Landscape.
AU Press, Athabasca University.
Johnston, Barbara Rose
2010 Social Responsibility and the Anthropological Citizen. Current Anthropology
51(2): S235-S247.
Kaska Dene Council
2004 Muskwa-Kechika Environmental Youth Camp 2004 Report October,
accessed April 1st 2012.
2013 Our Land. Electronic Document,
dena/our-land, accessed on July 20th 2013.
Khalili, Laleh
2011 The Ethics of Social Science Research. In Critical Research in the Social
Sciences: A Transdisciplinary East-West Handbook, edited by Roger Heacock
and Edouard Conte. Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Centre for International
Studies, Palestine. Pg.65-82.
Kirmayer, Laurence J.
2004 The Cultural Diversity of Healing: Meaning, Metaphor and Mechanism.
British Medical Bulletin. 69: 33-48.
Kirsch, Stuart
2001 Lost Worlds: Environmental Disaster, “Culture Loss” and the Law.
Current Anthropology 42(2): 167-198.
Knafla Louis A. and Haijo Jan Westra
2010 Aboriginal Title and Indigenous Peoples: Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
University of British Columbia Press, Vancouver.
Lefebvre, Henri
1991 The Production of Space. Blackwell Press, Oxford.
Lock, Margaret
1993 Cultivating the Body: Anthropology and Epistemologies of Bodily Practice
and Knowledge. Annual Review of Anthropology 22: 133-155. University of
Toronto Press, Toronto.
Loustaunau, Martha O. and Elisa J. Sobo
1997 The Cultural Context of Health, Illness, and Medicine. Bergen & Garvey,
Lovell, Nadia
1998 Introduction: Belonging in Need of Emplacement? In Locality and Belonging.
Routledge, London.
Lundy, Patricia and Mark McGovern
2006 The Ethics of Silence: Action Research, Community ‘Truth-Telling’ and Post-
Conflict Transition in the North of Ireland. Action Research 4(1): 49-64
Lydon, Jane
2008 Contested Landscapes. In Handbook of Landscape Archaeology, edited by Bruno
David, Left Coast Press, California. Pg. 654-660.
Markey, Sean, Greg Halseth and Don Manson
2010 Capacity, Scale, and Place: Pragmatic Lessons for doing Community-Based
Research in the Rural Setting. Canadian Geographer 54(2): 158-176.
Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels
1994 (1846) Marx: Early Political Writings. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
McClellan, Catherine
1987 Part of the Land, Part of the Water: A History of the Yukon Indians. Douglas and
McIntyre, Vancouver.
Meek, Barbara
2010 We Are Our Language: An Ethnography of Language Revitalization in a
Northern Athabaskan Community. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.
Middleton, Elisabeth
2010 A Political Ecology of Healing. Journal of Political Ecology. 17: 1-28.
Mignolo, Walter
2007 The Rhetoric of Modernity, the Logic of Coloniality and the Grammar of De-
Coloniality. Cultural Studies, 21(2-3): 449-514.
Milloy, John
2008 Indian Act Colonialism: A Century of Dishonor, 1869-1969. Research Paper for
the National Centre for First Nations Governance, Vancouver., accessed October 1st 2013.
Mohammed, Sara
2010 Historicizing Health Inequities: Healing the Vestiges of Residential
Schooling. Indigenous Policy Journal 21(2): online.
Moore, Patrick
1999 Dene Gudeji: Kaska Narratives. Kaska Tribal Council, Whitehorse.
Mutman, Mahmut
2006 Writing culture: Postmodernism and Ethnography. Anthropological Theory
6(2): 153-178.
Nadasdy, Paul
2003 Transcending the Debate over the Ecologically Noble Indian: Indigenous People
and Environmentalism. Ethnohistory. 52(2) pp: 291-331.
Raelin, Joseph A.
2008 Emancipatory Discourse and Liberation. Management Learning 39 (5): 519-540).
Robbins, Paul
2004 Political Ecology: A Critical Introduction. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford.
Rosaldo, Renato
1980 Doing Oral History. Social Analysis 4:89-99.
Sahlins, Marshall
2005 On the Anthropology of Modernity, or, Some Triumphs of Culture over
Despondency Theory”. In Culture and Sustainable Development in the Pacific
(ed) Antony Hooper. ANUE Press, Australia.
Scheper-Hughes, Nancy
1995 The Primacy of the Ethical: Propositions for a Militant Anthropology. Current
Anthropology 36(3): 409-440.
Sikes, Pat
2006 Review Essay: Decolonizing Research and Methodologies: Indigenous Peoples
and Cross-Cultural Contexts. Pedagogy, Culture & Society 14(3): 349-358.
Statistics Canada
2006 Kaska Nation: Member Bands, Accessed
September 10th 2013.
Tarlow, Sarah
2012 The Archaeology of Emotion and Affect. Annual Review of Anthropology, 41:
Tilley, Christopher
1994 A Phenomenology of Landscape: Places, Paths and Monuments. Berg, Oxford.
2008 Phenomenological Approaches to Landscape Archaeology. In Handbook of
Landscape Archaeology (eds) David Bruno and Julian Thomas. Left Coast Press,
Tuhiwai-Smith, Linda
2008 Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. Zed Books, New
Turner, Victor
1974 Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors: Symbolic Action in Human Society. Cornell
University Press, Ithaca.
Venn, Couze
2006 The Postcolonial Challenge: Toward Alternative Worlds. Sage Publications,
Wesley-Esquimaux, Cynthia and Magdalena Smolewski
2004 Historic Trauma and Aboriginal Healing. Aboriginal Healing Foundation,
Willems-Braun, Bruce
1997 Buried Epistemologies: The Politics of Nature in (Post) Colonial British
Columbia. Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 87(1) pp: 3-31.
Full-text available
Digital E-Book Access: Today, First Nations peoples living in Yukon, Canada are reviving and practicing their cultural traditions in exciting ways. At the same time, there has been an influx of newcomers to the territory who want to learn more about Yukon's Indigenous peoples and their cultures. With hundreds of references for those wanting to delve deeper into particular topics, ECHO is a handbook that provides the most current research pertaining to Yukon First Nations peoples. Topics include archaeology, ethnology, and lifeways, relationships with newcomers (in the past and currently), the arts, and modern-day land claims. The volume also includes interviews with research collaborators who discuss the importance of community-based research. Castillo, Schreyer, and Southwick's solidly researched handbook serves as an important tool, both for teachers and students, seeking accurate information pertaining to the Indigenous cultures of Yukon.
Full-text available
Posthegemony is an investigation into the origins, limits, and possibilities for contemporary politics and political analysis. This book presents accounts of historical movements in Latin America, from Columbus to Chávez, and from Argentine Peronism to Peru’s Sendero Luminoso. Challenging dominant strains in social theory, the book contends that cultural studies simply replicates the populism that conditions it, and that civil society theory merely nourishes the neoliberalism that it sets out to oppose. Both end up entrenching the fiction of a social contract. In place of hegemony or civil society, the book presents a theory of posthegemony, focusing on affect, habit, and the multitude. This approach addresses an era of biopolitics and bare life, tedium and terror, in which state control is ever more pervasive but something always escapes.
Full-text available
What does it mean to be an advocate, to conduct research and assert findings in public ways with obvious and concerted purpose? Voicing what concerns? On whose authority? For what purpose, and to what effect? Can such work produce credible scientific outcomes? These questions and the underlying ethics and praxis issues of participatory action anthropology are explored here through a reflexive lens. In this article, I argue that anthropological praxis based on collaborative and participatory engagement produces credible research outcomes, allows informed consent, and fosters equity in the science-subject relationship. Because it is both problem and remedy focused, collaborative and participatory engagement allows the identification, and ideally the implementation, of meaningful remedy. When such work is the product of or is endorsed by professional disciplinary organizations, the opportunity for peer review further strengthens the scientific integrity, enhances the credibility of findings, and amplifies the power of any subsequent advocacy effort. To illustrate, I detail some of my own efforts and after-the-fact insights on advocacy-oriented anthropology. The primary point is that to work in the public interest is an honor, a duty, and at times an intensely problematic burden that demands explicit attention to the social terms and potential ramifications of engagement.
Indigenous claims about “culture loss” pose a problem for contemporary definitions of culture as a process that continually undergoes change rather than something which can be damaged or lost. This issue is examined in the context of hearings at the Nuclear Claims Tribunal in the Marshall Islands, which was established to adjudicate claims regarding damage and loss to persons and property resulting from United States nuclear weapons testing during the 1940s and ’50s. The concept of cultural property rights is used to identify the referents of discourse about culture loss, including local knowledge, subsistence production, and connections to place. The problems caused by the taking of inalienable possessions are also considered. At issue is whether indigenous relationships to land are of ownership, belonging, or both. The definition and significance of culture and loss are increasingly debated in legal contexts ranging from tribunals and truth commissions to land rights hearings and heritage legislation around the world.
Review: "Sobo and Loustaunau have done a splendid job in providing a concise, engaging, informative, and very readable introduction to the fields of medical anthropology and medical sociology. This is a valuable text that I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend for use in undergraduate courses; medical, nursing, and public health schools; and other health professions training programs that are interested in transformative education that makes a difference."
The theoretical underpinnings of various analyses of the social dimensions of ecosystem management are closely related to our mental models of human-nature relations. This article presents examples of eco- and anthropocentric, interdisciplinary and complex system mind maps of human-nature relations. It shows that the interpretation of the social dimension in ecosystem management in each mind map advances the study of human-nature relations in a particular way. However, the dysfunctional reductionism of eco- and anthropocentric mind maps and the weak capacity of interdisciplinary mind maps to analyse intersystem and cross-scale linkages is only overcome by complex system approaches. Different types of complex systems mind maps are found capable of comprehensively operationalising the social dimension of ecosystem management for monitoring purposes and also of linking a variety of knowledge types in integrative analyses to support resilience-oriented management. The participation of system stakeholders in transformative and adaptive transdisciplinary work is central in these endeavours.