Harvesting Ruins: The Im/Permanence of Work Camps and Reclaiming Colonized Landscapes in the Northern Alberta Oil Sands


Janelle Marie Baker, Anthropology McGill University §

*All photos taken by Janelle Marie Baker

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Abandoned work camp in Bigstone Cree Nation territory.

My Nehiwayak (Cree) friends who have the patience and kindness to take me out to the “bush” or Canadian subarctic boreal forest often ask me to film and photograph their activities, but on this particular summer day I am careful to not photograph or videotape anyone. My hosts are harvesting from their territory as they do regularly, in good spirits, speaking SakawNehiwayak (northern/bush Cree), laughing, sharing, and remembering to bring something for people back home. We have along the usual snacks of bannock and tea and moose meat. They talk about people who have been here before and who have taken more than they should have, and others who came here early and got the really good items (like TVs, generators, kitchen pots, and leather couches). It’s almost…

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One thought on “Harvesting Ruins: The Im/Permanence of Work Camps and Reclaiming Colonized Landscapes in the Northern Alberta Oil Sands

  1. Lauren Matheson

    “MOUS’s you say? I don’t believe they exist.” Nice article, lovely. I’m at my parents’ until the 28th, decluttering to downsize because their housing market (and my dad’s sudden and unceremonious retiring) made selling palatable/necessary. The con.stant fight to get stuff relocated to anywhere but the dumpster in the driveway is exhausting. And the house around the corner sold for over 800k and is now a lotline-to-lotline giant hole, which suggests that this place will share that fate. I encountered the Japanese word mottainai recently, meaning respect for the inherent dignity of objects. Not a lot of that in evidence around me here. How are you? How are your menfolk? Can I send you a new Guinea fowl and a book on Rocky mountain cooking? XO

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