UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Remembering forward : navigating the everyday of forced displacement with the Cheslatta T'en Wikler, Maia


Development in British Columbia has and continues to operate within an extractivist, colonial framework with little regard to environmental or community impacts. In 1952, the Cheslatta T’En were forcibly removed from their homelands for Alcan’s Kenney Dam. Because of the frequent flooding of Nechako Reservoir, the Cheslatta live in constant tension with a permanently changed landscape as the bones of their ancestors and memories of their way of life continues to wash ashore. The coordinated and intentional efforts of Alcan and the Department of Indian Affairs to remove all material traces of the Cheslatta from their lands had devastating impacts that reach into their ancestral past, continue in the present, and shape Cheslatta’s collective action for a more just future. The Cheslatta’s memories of their lands and forced displacement are the traces that Alcan and the settler state could not erase. Today, with approximately 140 band members resettled onto eleven different reserves, totaling 1,400 hectares and scattered over 170 miles apart, the Cheslatta navigate resettlement and efforts to reclaim their heritage in a land and space disconnected from what had been their homelands for thousands of years. Through an ethnohistorical and ethnographic analysis, I investigate the following: How are acts of resistance to displacement and dispossession informed by cultural meanings and memories of the land? What are the everyday experiences of dispossession and displacement? How do community members navigate “moving forward”? In this thesis, I analyze the individually narrated experiences of displacement; observations of reconciliation negotiations; community gatherings; Cheslatta community members’ interactions with the landscape; and, archival documents. My analysis coincides with theoretical frameworks of memory, space and place, and settler state reconciliation politics.

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