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Film ‘Local Hero’ (1983) Resonates with the Land and Resource Disputes of Today

I saw an incredible film called Local Hero during a trip away from home in August. It is the story of a man from a Texas oil company sent to Scotland to buy up all of the property on an ocean bay for the construction of an oil refinery. It is presumed by the company that the task will be easy. To the man’s surprise, the people who live in the community on the bay are attached to their homes and to the bay on which they are located. And, perhaps more surprising, the oil man falls in love with the place too. Sorting out old loyalties to the oil company and new ones to the community by the bay further the plot of the film.

The performances in Local Hero are sweet. Burt Lancaster is terrific as an old oil man with a soft spot for the northern lights. There are subtle moments of British humour. And, the soundtrack by Mark Knoffler is fantastic. Together, the elements are magical and the trailer, below, does that magic justice.

I blog here about this film because I see in it parallels with resource-related disputes in British Columbia (and elsewhere). One scene in particular caught my eye. In the scene, the hero from the oil company approaches a man who lives in a run-down shack on the beach. He offers to buy the entire beach from the man AND throw in a famous beach somewhere else in the world. The presumption is that the impoverished beach dweller would prefer a bucket of cash and a new, famous beach, over his current one. The beach dweller’s turns down the offer, saying that his beach is irreplaceable and priceless because it’s his home. To go academic: this beach isn’t simply space; it’s a place imbued with experience, emotion, and passion. It makes me think of resource developers asking the Tahltan why they can’t move their hunting camps out of the way of coal and coal-bed methane exploration. (Part of the scene I describe appears near the beginning of the trailer, below.)

If I ever find myself teaching a ‘Space and Place’ course or an ‘Ethnography of Place’ course, this film will be on the syllabus.

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New Moose Hunting Regulations in Northwest BC

Update: has picked up the story: Province shortens hunting season following Tahltan blockades.

And, now has a discussion board related to the topic of new hunting regulations in the Klappan.

Original Post:

On the heels of last fall’s Tahltan aboriginal protests of the open moose hunt in the Klappan and elsewhere in northwestern BC, Tahltan Wildlife Committee and the British Columbia Ministry of the Environment have revised the rules for moose hunting. From the press release:

The Agreement develops a collaborative moose management program, including a moose inventory within the territory, a shortened hunting season and game checks …

It continues with five regulations, including shortened hunting seasons and compusory moose inspections. They are meant to control the unregulated harvest of moose from regions where the moose populations are in question.

To this point, there are no discussions related to these regulations on the message boards. I will update this post if that changes.


I blogged recently about the rhetoric that appeared on news stories and’s forums around last fall’s closures.

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Sea-to-sky Cultural Tour: Audio Edition

As you know, I am a huge fan of the new Skwxwū7mesh (Squamish) and/or Liĺwat7ul (Lilwat) Cultural Tour up the Sea-to-sky Highway. I’ve blogged previously about the tour and the Skwxwū7mesh Liĺwat7ul Cultural Centre in Whistler.

I now see on the SLCC website an audio accompaniment to the drive up the highway. The downloadable zip file contains 24 mp3 files. Each file includes information about the region, local knowledge narratives, songs, and stories related to the seven kiosks found along the Sea-to-sky Route. Comments about the landmarks between the kiosks and general facts about traveling the route, like distances, are also included. The files are narrated by youth ambassadors from the Cultural Centre. I’ve listened to only a few of the files so far, but my immediate sense is that these recordings will enhance greatly the highway tour and its map.

Here’s the audio tour page.

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Splatsin-Douglas College Field School

Splatsin Band Office, December 2008

Since I lasted posted about the field school I am putting together, I’ve made two trips out to the indigenous host community. Last week, I participated in a information meeting in which community members were introduced to the idea of having students living on their reserve next summer. The assembled group – small but supportive – asked several questions about the benefits of a field school. They then contributed to a growing list of topics they would like to see researched by field school students.

Because of the public meeting, and my current goal of making information about the field school available (particularly to community members), I am able to identify the Splatsin community at Enderby, British Columbia as the hosts of the Splatsin-Douglas College Field School.

The Splatsin are Sewepemc (Shuswap) speaking people. They are an interior Salish community in the north Okanagan, north of Vernon. Topics of research interest to them, as identified last week, include broad categories like culture, language, and identity. But, more specifically, there’s a push for research on topics related to ethnohistory and land use.

I am working with the members of the Splatsin Rights and Title Department to bring the field school together. We are aiming at May and June, 2011 for the first field school session. The program for students will include two weeks in the classroom at Douglas College, four weeks on the reserve at Enderby, and two more weeks at Douglas College.

Next steps for me: 1) ethics review for the field school course and 2) setting up a field school website that will be of interest and use to both students and community members.

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Double Ended, No Headed Moose and More from Congress

I had a great time at Congress10 in Montreal last week. More properly, I attended the meetings of the Canadian Anthropology Association (CASCA) which happened to be meeting with Congress. As previously noted, I was part of a round-table discussion of applied anthropology. Our panel discussed the following, pre-distributed questions:

1) What questions are being asked of applied anthropologists? Address this question with a vignette from your experience.
2) Where the ethical aspects of your research are not governed by the tri-council how are ethics managed?
3) How has your research influenced or created policy changes or legal outcomes?
4) What can CASCA do for applied/practicing anthropologists?

The answers to these questions evoked conversations about advocacy (or not) in applied anthropology. We learned too that CASCA is very committed to drawing applied anthropologists more directly into the group. I am excited about how that will manifest itself over coming months.

Double Ended, No Headed Moose, originally uploaded by TFM.

Montreal is a fantastic city – and one that makes Vancouver feel very young. The vibrancy of the night life is supported by a huge number of restaurants, bars and (frankly) large neighbourhoods devoted to ‘being out.’ The bixi bike system, providing people with short term, cheap bicycle rentals is remarkable.

And, to the photograph: I couldn’t stop seeing moose around town. They appear in art which is positioned centrally in shop windows. But, I was not prepared for a stop in an auberge in Old Montreal where I saw the pictured double-ended, no headed moose. A light bulb stands where both heads should be. How bizarre!

(My one disappointment with CASCA was the complete lack of a backchannel on twitter, or any other social networking site. Congress had a decent presence on twitter.)

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Canadian Anthropology Meetings (CASCA)

I’ll be attending the Canadian Anthropology Society meetings (CASCA) next week. I am part of a round-table discussion on practicing (applied) anthropology. From the session abstract:

This roundtable is aimed at sparking a dialogue with/between anthropologists who are practising largely outside academia or within academia but within a largely applied context … The roundtable will provide a space for practicing anthropologists to raise issues, share stories, describe our circumstances and otherwise ethnographically engage each other. This engagement will provide reflexive opportunity on this distinctive anthropological practice, its queries, its practitioners, its ethical stance, its position in relation to the production of knowledge and flow of capital, and the power relations that are wrapped up in these efforts.

I’m planning to talk about the creation of a ‘land and resource use management plan’ for parts of northwestern British Columbia targeted for coal and coal-bed methane extraction. My reflections will consider: 1) the disparate interests of developers and First Nations; 2) the varied perspectives that exist in First Nations communities; and, 3) the decisions around what kinds of information First Nations share with developers and governments.

I intend to describe an ‘ah-hah’ moment when, at a meeting of First Nations representatives and developers, an environmental consultant asked the native people why they could not move their hunting camps out of the way of the explorations. It’s a question that I have been considering for some time (and just begun to discuss publicly as this pdf poster shows). I’m trying to write more formally about these issues and I expect the CASCA session will further my progress towards that goal.

I look forward to seeing many of you at CASCA. Our session convenes on Wednesday morning, June 2, at 9am. I’ll also be tweeting (infrequently) with the hashtag #casca and/or #casca2010. I will also try to use #congress2010.

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Capilano U Archaeology Field School

I had the pleasure of visiting the Capilano University Archaeology Field School at one of their sites in the Seymour watershed (North Vancouver) this morning. In its twelfth year, and always under the direction of Bob Muckle, the Field School is unearthing a Japanese history in the forests of Vancouver’s north shore. The site is a logging camp which dates to the 1920s. There is increasing evidence that some people lived at the site through the 1930s and, presumably, to the internment of Japanese people in 1942.

Figure 1: Bob standing on logging road which runs through the site

Muckle runs a tight ship and if I learned anything about archaeology field schools today it’s that they are places for the stout and hearty (yes, Bob, beer words). They are not places for whining, as was evident by the keen and focused conversations during the pre-earth scraping chatter, the morning briefing, under the cozy tents (Figure 1). BC archaeologists work in the rain, I learned too, and often without the aid of rain gear. If only we cultural types were so driven.

But if whining is not permitted, enthusiasm certainly is – and it was in abundance at the site. Approximately every 4 minutes and 35 seconds something came out out of the ground. A hand up, a call for Bob, a quick but careful evaluation and a pronouncement: ‘Yes! It’s an artifact. Bag it separately.’ Or, ‘No! Another piece of glass. Put it it in the level bag.’ The moment by moment excitement of an historical archaeology dig was palpable, infectious, and has me considering broadening my anthropological training.

The Capilano Archaeology Field School is fun. It fosters team-work and camaraderie. Despite the gruff demeanor, Bob likes it that way. It gets the best out of the students, he tells me. Clearly there are messages here for the ethnographic field school I am developing: fun, educational, good-natured, no whining, enthusiasm, and a work ethic result in success. I can only hope to be so lucky.

Figure 2: Field School Crew at Work

(Thanks to the Crew for allowing me to visit. Congratulations on your efforts. I see in today’s post that I have been called a ‘pleasant visitor.’ I’ll take that as a complement and try and resist future references to unidentified archaeological artifacts as ritual implements. Be sure to read the Field School’s blog. And, check out a few more pictures on my flickr site.)

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Public Discussions of Hunting Protests in Northern BC

Figure 1: Moose in the Klappan River, June 1 2002

One of my summer projects is to learn more about public attitudes towards indigenous rights in British Columbia. I am also looking for current examples of the stigmas and stereotypes associated with indigenous hunting by non-native people (Figure 2, in which foraging is confused with pastoralism, for example). Conveniently, events surrounding a blockade in Tahltan territory last fall have provided me with a tremendous amount of data on this topic. Last September, Tahltan people blocked the only road into the Klappan watershed to non-native, resident hunters. The decision to blockade stemmed from a fear that the moose populations were declining too rapidly because of over-hunting. It was also related to the fact that there is an open season on moose in the Klappan; this is one of a very few areas in British Columbia where moose hunting is not regulated by limited entry licences. carried two news stories about the blockade and both stories generated a large number of comments by readers. The first article, titled “Natives blockade moose hunters” (Sept 24, 2009) generated 150 comments before commenting was closed. Eighty-nine comments were made on the second article, “First Nations warn of more blockades” (Oct 11, 2009). The comments are more interesting than the articles themselves because they reveal attitudes towards indigenous peoples and their hunting. Examples of two comments from the September 24 article are clipped (Figures 2 & 4). The fact that allows others to give a comment ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ adds another layer of interpretable data, or at least a way of gauging the overall attitude of the readers and discussion participants. (You don’t need to comment to ‘rate’ the comment with a thumb up or down.)

Just as interesting as the public discussions on the CBC’s website are the discussions about the blockades that erupted on chat boards within the forum. There, six different threads offered hunters – native and non-native – the chance to talk about the blockades, moose hunting and, indirectly, aboriginal hunting rights. Over 800 comments were made on these boards (eg. Figure 3). One of the boards offers a new thread around planning for the fall 2010 moose hunt.

Figure 2: Conquered natives comment from

Emerging Results

After capturing permanent copies of the articles and comments using Firefox’s Scrapbook and Fireshot add-ons, I’ve begun the process of coding the articles and comments using Atlas.ti software. A few generalities are emerging. The articles themselves identify the concerns of First Nations people around the over-hunting of moose and the open season. The articles cite the need for meat for sustenance and fear of the extinction of moose as the two main reasons for protesting the open hunt. The perception of some is that the fate of the moose will mirror that of the pacific salmon. In most cases, the comments of indigenous participants aren’t obviously marked. There are a number of comments scattered throughout the discussions which implore people to either keep on topic of sharing information about the blockades or to be respectful of participants in the discussion. Likewise, some people request that posters show respect to indigenous people in general (Figure 4).

Many different issues are raised by people who oppose the blockades. To be sure, it is not clear if these commenters are indigenous people or not although sometimes ancestry can be assumed (Figure 2). The issues include: the need for meat for sustenance by non-native hunters and their families, the illegality of the blockade, concern that resident hunters are as native as the natives, and a perception of unequal application of the law in favour of native hunters (Figure 3). Some are direct about their feelings citing the notion that indigenous people were conquered and therefore do not have special rights (Figure 2), that the government and/or the RCMP should be more involved in settling the dispute, and that indigenous people should stop receiving government monies in exchange for the moose.

Figure 3: Comment from discussion; click for larger view

I don’t know yet where the analysis is leading. I have dozens more comments to code and categorize. Still, I value the openness of the discussion – as promoted by the possibility of anonymity? – for frank opinions. They give me concrete examples of the variety of opinions around indigenous rights and BC history for sharing with students or referring to in my writings.

Figure 4: Request for civil discussion from story

To be sure, identifying anything about the commenters is problematic. The advantage of perceived honestly as promoted by anonymous forums is tempered by my inability to say much about the backgrounds of the participants. Sure, many details are apparent in lengthy comments. Presumably, the participants represent a community of hunters. But, identifying information is thin.

Can anyone point me to writing about who comments anonymously on the internet and why? Are comments like these representative of the feelings of demonstrable communities like hunters? Or, is it best to assume that these comments represent fringe opinions? Any suggestions are welcome.

Appendix: Discussions

The following is a list of forums discussing hunting in the Klappan on

Trouble on the Klappan‘ re letter from Northwest Fish and Wildlife Conservation Association to the BC Ministry of the Environment (letter is also here) (approx 500 comments)
Klappan Road Closure‘ (information about the road closure) (approx 100 comments)
Klappan Road Update‘ (largely information about the road closure) (approx 40 comments)
Spatzizi Provincial Park open discussion‘ (approx 40 comments)
Guide Wants Residents Out‘ (approx 90 comments)
Any New Info on First Nations Blockades?‘ (April 2010 – planning for fall 2010) (120+ comments)

Appendix: Related News Stories
Tahltan in Standoff with Province over Hunting Rules (Oct 13, 2009,
Moose population stats a shot in the dark: MLA (Oct 15, 2009, The Hook Blog;
Tahltan Agree to Meet with Minister to Resolve Wildlife Management Issues (Oct 15, 2009, Tahltan Central Council Press Release)

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Skwxwū7mesh Liĺwat7ul Cultural Centre

Figure 1: Main Entrance

“Through the tour, workshops, film, and hearing the Skwxwū7mesh language I was left with the sense that the Squamish and Lilwat peoples and their cultures are vibrant and thriving.”

The Skwxwū7mesh Liĺwat7ul Cultural Centre (Squamish Lilwat Cultural Centre) in Whistler is a fantastic culmination to the Sea-to-sky Cultural Journey (related post). I arrived at the Centre early on a Wednesday afternoon and was struck immediately by the stunning approaches to the building (Figures 1 & 2). Inside, the beauty of the Great Hall (Figure 3) was almost overwhelming. The very friendly staff helped me register as a local visitor which, for the price of a one day admission, gives access to the Centre for a year. They also set me up with an iPod-like device so that I could tour the centre with audio accompaniment.

The audio tour directed me through a series of exhibits. It is well-paced, not rushed but not plodding either. The exhibits are small cases, larger items, and video screens. They cover topics like stone tools, the use of trees and the technology of harvesting bark and other tree products, the seasonal round, and fishing. The weavings are spectacular. There are several carved canoes on display in the Great Hall too (Figure 3). The entire centre is illustrated with archival and contemporary photography and short videos. The Squamish and Lilwat territorial maps are detailed and present a convincing picture of the extent of the use of the territory (if one is still needed by this point).

Figure 2: Approach to the Lower Entrance with Istken (pithouse) at top of ramp

There are four small galleries beyond the Great Hall. There, cedar and wool regalia are shown. The mythology of the Wild Woman is presented along with a giant basket. A video and interactive touch screens allow visitors to explore traditional and contemporary culture. The tour concludes in a gallery of weaving. I was steered from there outside to pithouse and longhouse replicas.

Figure 3: Great Hall

But, for me, the highlights of the SLCC are the people and a film presentation called Where Rivers, Mountains and People Meet. The Centre is staffed by friendly and helpful young people from the Squamish and Lilwat Nations. Two women sang in Skwxwū7mesh for a small group of us. The film was introduced by a woman who made an extended presentation in Skwxwū7mesh, too. It was remarkable hearing the Skwxwū7mesh language used regularly throughout the Centre. David Baker gave a short workshop on cedar during which we were allowed to hold, feel, experience different types of cedar weaving. For each of the song, film, and workshop, I was approached by centre staff and politely invited to participate in the next event. Through the tour, workshops, and film I was left with the sense that the Squamish and Lilwat peoples and their cultures are vibrant and thriving.

Thanks again to Drew Leathem, general manager, for sharing a piece of bannock from the Centre’s Cafe with me. It was a treat hearing about the process of developing the Centre. I congratulate him and the staff for making such an informative and welcoming place.

Please visit the Squamish Lilwat Cultural Centre’s website and the website of the Cultural Journey along the highway. Also, check out my set of photographs from the SLCC and from my entire trip along the Sea-to-sky Highway.

Related Post: Sea-to-sky Cultural Journey (signage along Sea-to-sky Highway)

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Sea-to-Sky Cultural Journey

Figure 1: This kiosk above Horseshoe Bay is one of seven information kiosks along the Sea-to-sky Highway.

“The highway signs look official and authentic and, as such, present the Skwxwū7mesh (Squamish) and/or Liĺwat7ul (Lilwat) languages on equal footing with English all along the route.”

Inspired by Quentin Mackie’s recent blog post, rave reviews from friends of the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, and several recent drives to Whistler, I set out to explore the Cultural Journey along the Sea-to-sky Highway between Horseshoe Bay and Whistler (route map; pdf).

The journey is comprised of seven kiosks, each at a pull-out. Five of the kiosks are on the highway northbound and the other two are on the highway southbound. The kiosks are covered by a Coast Salish style cedar hat and each one has four 3-part sides (Figure 1). Two of the sides, describing the cultural journey and directing travelers to the Sqaumish Lilwat Cultural Centre in Whistler, repeat themselves. The other two sides are devoted to local oral history and mythology, archaeology (@bobmuckle, @qmackie), traditional culture, and contemporary Skwxwū7mesh (Squamish) and/or Liĺwat7ul (Lilwat) culture. Given that the Sea-to-sky Highway runs through Squamish and Lilwat territories, and territory shared by both of them, the signage project testifies to an enormous amount of cooperation between the two communities.

Figure 2: A series of signs, consistent with Ministry of Transportation signs, line the highway.

For me, the most significant aspect of this cultural journey are the signs that line the Sea-to-sky Highway (Figure 2). Using colours and proportions consistent with Ministry of Transportation highway signage, these creek crossing signs and mileage markers are notable because they don’t stand out as add-ons to existing markers (Figure 3). The signs look official and authentic and, as such, present the Skwxwū7mesh (Squamish) and/or Liĺwat7ul (Lilwat) languages on equal footing with English all along the route.

Figure 3: Creek crossing signs use standard provincial highway colours and shapes.

I’ve posted pictures of each of the kiosks. The are located at Horseshoe Bay, Britannia Beach, the Stawamus Chief, Squamish Adventure Centre (Figure 4), Brandywine Falls, the Tantalus Range viewpoint, and at Tunnel Point. I’ve also posted a set of pictures taken at the Squamish Lilwat Cultural Centre, although I’ll blog about that superb facility separately. The entire set of pictures from the route is here. (To read the detail on the sign boards, click on the ‘all sizes’ button on a photo’s flickr webpage.)

Figure 4: Kiosk and Inukshuk at the Squamish Adventure Centre.

Thanks to Squamish Lilwat Cultural Central general manager Drew Leathem who spent some time with me explaining the enormous process of bringing together the highway sign project.

Reference note: Many of the story boards and archival photographs used on the kiosk sign boards are published in a book called Where Rivers, Mountains and People Meet (Spo7ez Cultural Centre and Community Society). This book, and an associated DVD, present the history and the contemporary cultures of the Squamish and Lilwat peoples. The book and DVD were developed as part of the Cultural Journey project and are available at the Cultural Centre.

Related post: Skwxwū7mesh Liĺwat7ul Cultural Centre.

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