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Environment and History

Desolate Viewscapes: Sliammon First Nation, Desolation Sound Marine Park and Environmental Narratives

Jonathan Clapperton

Environment and History 18 (2012): 529-559. doi: 10.3197/096734012X13466893037107

Desolation Sound Marine Park, just over ninety miles north of Vancouver, British Columbia, has been immortalised as a yachter’s paradise and a kayaking wilderness. BC Parks and tourist ventures describe the area as a pristine, uninhabited utopia removed from human interference. Such a portrayal is far from accurate. Indigenous peoples have occupied and altered this environment for millennia and forestry and mariculture are ongoing. This paper focuses on the tension between the lived reality of the Sliammon (Tla’amin) First Nation and the dominant construction of Desolation Sound as uninhabited wilderness, recreational area and protected space. Engaging with subaltern and postcolonial theory, I argue that viewscapes of Desolation Sound represent a microcosm of power relations in flux between competing dominant, colonial and subaltern, indigenous cultural constructions of the non-human environment in British Columbia. Specifically, Natives and newcomers here were (and remain) involved in a competition over who controls a master discourse of what made a ‘desirable desolation’, and by extension where, how and even if, different peoples fit into this space.

KEYWORDS: Tla'amin (Sliammon) First Nation, Aboriginal rights, British Columbia, parks, wilderness, recreation, postcolonialismParks, animals, management, wildlife, zoos, fisheries, hunting


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