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No wilderness to plunder: Process thinking reveals Cree land‐use via the goose‐scape

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Using process thinking and an eye to movement, I argue that the Canadian First Nations people of Wemindji, James Bay, Quebec modify their environment much more than physical landscape measures show. Wemindji Cree live in a dynamic coastal setting where land rises up having been weighed down during the last glaciation. Rising land causes plant and animal habitats to shift and with them, prime goose hunting locations. As part of their resource management system, Cree cut large forest corridors, dike wetlands, and are experimenting with prescribed burnings to facilitate hunting geese, an important subsistence and cultural resource. While large by any reasonable definition (some corridors are a kilometre long), these changes pale against the vast boreal forest. Through corridor cutting, Cree modify, by rough calculation, less than 1 percent of the coast. Seen this way, Wemindji may look to some like an unused wilderness, ripe for development. But Cree affect geese, the target resource, dramatically more than land‐change metrics show by altering key nodes that reverberate through the goose‐scape. My analysis provides a novel view of Cree land and resource use and helps affirm Cree stewardship and occupation of their territory against Quebec's development plans.
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Keywords: Cree; Cris; changement d'occupation des terres; droits fonciers; land‐change; land‐rights; mouvement; movement; nature sauvage; wilderness

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2015

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