The Ecology of Possession: A Kin Study of Elk Island National Park

  • Author / Creator
    Long, Keara
  • This thesis introduces the theory of possessive ecologies, offering a critical alternative to the dominant paradigms of knowledge integration in environmental science, grounded in Moreton-Robinson's ontology of possession and Whyte's Indigenous ecologies. I argue that the field of environmental science plays a crucial role in shaping our understanding of race and property in the colonial context, especially in how landscapes extensively managed by Indigenous peoples have been depicted as untouched or natural. This narrative distortion, along with physical changes made to ecosystems during colonial times, has effectively hidden the rich history and current practices of Indigenous management of these lands.
    I challenge the widely accepted split that places Indigenous knowledge on one side and scientific knowledge on the other as largely separate. Instead, I argue that these forms of knowledge as they exist today are deeply intertwined within the colonial context. I stress the significance of Indigenous governance and futurity to critique the way Indigenous knowledge is often oversimplified and romanticized, a result of a knowledge integration approach that keeps Indigenous and scientific knowledge in separate spheres. The knowledge integration approach often avoids questioning or altering either body of knowledge and also limits Indigenous influence to areas deemed cultural or spiritual, thereby limiting their potential material impact on land stewardship and governance.
    I delve into case studies in the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS), advocating for what Todd calls "kin study" as a methodology for Indigenous STS. By incorporating Cree ideas, as well as Indigenous and feminist theories, I examine how landscapes and Indigenous roles are portrayed in the environmental plans and interpretative frameworks at Elk Island National Park, viewing these documents as narratives with historical depth. I compare how relationships with soil and fire are understood through Indigenous viewpoints of kinship versus the dominant ecological narratives of cultivation and disturbance/succession. Through stories and research on Indigenous connections with soil and fire, I confront the inaccuracies in how Indigenous roles are depicted in management plans, uncovering the overlooked stories of Indigenous environmental care.
    The thesis wraps up with thoughts on how Indigenous peoples might use the language of science strategically to strengthen Indigenous governance in managing the environment. I advocate for a reshaping of environmental science that truly appreciates Indigenous systems of knowledge and governance, and which tackles the often implicit narratives about race and property rights by addressing the impacts of colonialism on how we talk about the environment.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2024
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • 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.