In Search of the Toxic Berry Patch


By Janelle Baker, McGill University §

In Memory of the late “Cibomb” Clement Auger

Cibomb. Photo by Janelle Baker.

Rattling down a dusty oil field road
in his little aqua truck
headlights on as company safety protocols mandate
Me, 8 months pregnant
nervously remembering
his accident last winter on the South Wabasca Lake ice
in which he lost sight in one eye
but I had been asking for weeks
to try and find the place with the sign
we visited years ago
the perfect camping spot
bushy jack pines
bright fine sand
thumb-sized iridescent blueberries
across from an oil and gas site
the bold white sign that told the grandchildren
these berries ARE NOT SAFE TO EAT

A few days earlier
Beth Ann kindly packed sandwiches
and set out to help me find the same berry patch from her Sandy Lake childhood
as we drove she told me that the young…

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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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No Significant Impact? TED Style Talk at the Global Environments Summer Academy 2015

How do oil sands affect the surrounding environment? Is the area already useless, to start with? On a different note, as researchers, what can we do to go beyond being part of the process of extracting indigenous knowledge into dusty shelves of libraries?

Listen to Janelle respond to these questions and connect oil sands to indigenous knowledge in her talk about First Nations’ Treaty rights and land use in Canada’s oil sands region.