Uprooting and Re-Routing a Settled Sense of Place: Reading Settler Literary Cartographies of Northwestern British Columbia

  • Author / Creator
    Brandsma, Nicole D.
  • The places of northwestern British Columbia, and the Indigenous and settler peoples who find work, build homes, establish communities, and sustain culture in these places, are often perceived as peripheral or overlooked, existing on the edge or outside of the notice, care, and understanding of the people and places seemingly at the centre of national or global significance. When attention is turned to northwestern British Columbia, it is often to report on issues related to the legacy and ongoing work of settler colonial dispossession of Indigenous peoples from their land, including missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, particularly along the infamous Highway of Tears; the successes and failures of the federal and provincial governments to respect Indigenous rights and title, such as in the landmark Delgamuukw-Gisdaywa court case; and First Nations’ acts of resistance, like the Unist’ot’en Camp, to resource transportation or extraction projects on their territories that they have not consented to. In this project, I turn to the work of writers and poets in northwestern British Columbia who portray and examine in their writing what it means—and what it could mean—for both Indigenous and settler peoples to call the same land home. In particular, I argue that the poetry and literary nonfiction of settler poet, essayist, and cultural geographer Sarah de Leeuw constructs creative narrative maps that unsettle readers from the certainty they might have in the success of settler colonialism. Additionally, her creative representations of personal experiences in the distinct physical and cultural geographies of the region call for reorienting ourselves in the way we think about and move through northwestern British Columbia so that we might envision other ways—potentially decolonial ways that respect Indigenous rights and title and dismantle settler privilege—of living, working, profiting, and building futures in these places. Each chapter in this dissertation takes up a significant theme in de Leeuw’s collections of literary nonfiction, Unmarked: Landscapes Along Highway 16 (2004) and Where It Hurts (2017), and her long poem, Skeena (2015), and locates my critical close reading of the texts at the intersections of scholarly and public dialogues, especially as they are unfolding in British Columbia, related to reconciliation and decolonization, settler colonialism, and literary cartography as a form and methodology of creative writing and reading practice. As the literary writing and culture of northwestern British Columbia continues to flourish and to grow its readership, I hope this critical analysis of the work of one of its emerging authors meaningfully contributes to and highlights the ongoing opportunity for examining the ways in which settler stories about the places they call home can collaborate in the work of creating and sustaining a more just world.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2021
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.