Indigenous labor and the Witsuwit’en in northern Canada

29 Jan. 2018

Tyler McCreary is an assistant professor in the Department of Geography at Florida State University.  Among other interests certain to overlap with ours, Dr. McCreary focuses mostly on geographies of race and indigeneity, colonialism, and environmental justice.  Recent publications include The Burden of Sovereignty, and  A Political Ecology of Sovereignty in Practice and on the Map. McCreary gave a short talk and led a discussion around the theme of indigenous labor and the Witsuwit'ed in Nothern Canada.

"Indigeneity and urbanity are often conceptualized as binary opposites; however, close inspection of the history of municipal development in the Canadian north highlights a more complex relationship. Showcasing the history of Indiantown, an informal Indigenous community along the municipal fringe, this paper highlights how Witsuwit’en people made a distinct space for themselves in Smithers, a northern British Columbia resource town first incorporated in 1921.  Indigenous labour was essential to the northern economy until the 1960s, when automation, post-war immigration, and labour formalization facilitated the development of segmented northern labour markets privileging the white industrial labourer. Rendered surplus to labour market needs, Witsuwit’en residents of Indiantown were then targeted for displacement, as municipal authorities sought to remove the trace of Indigenous presence from the northern settler town." - Tyler McCreary