The Resettlement of British Columbia: Essays on Colonialism and Geographical Change

The Resettlement of British Columbia: Essays on Colonialism and Geographical Change

The Resettlement of British Columbia: Essays on Colonialism and Geographical Change

The Resettlement of British Columbia: Essays on Colonialism and Geographical Change

Synopsis

In this beautifully crafted collection of essays, Cole Harris reflect on the strategies of colonialism in British Columbia during the first 150 years after the arrival of European settlers. The pervasive displacement of indigenous people by the newcomers, the mechanisms by which it was accomplished, and the resulting effects on the landscape social life, and history of Canada's western-most province are examined through the dual lenses of post-colonial theory and empirical data. By providing a compelling look at the colonial construction of the province, the book revises existing perceptions of the history and geography of British Columbia.

Excerpt

In the preface to a book on French rural life, one of the great French historians reflected on the village of his youth and the worn stone path, sculpted by the feet of centuries, that led from his house to the village brook. in a sense, he had followed that path through most of his scholarly life, tracing it back into an age-old peasant world and a material civilization remote from his own. the path left the industrial and the modern, and entered their own long European antecedents -- his own history leading from his own doorstep in the form of a worn stone path.

Few British Columbians can live with the past in this way. Most are immigrants, occupiers of spaces that recently belonged to others. Longer pasts are not here, and most ways have been brought from afar. Here was a place to make lives and futures, and yet in some basic way, I think, people live somewhat perched, far from various homes, in a place that is not quite their own. An immigrant society has hardly come to terms with where it is in the world, this Pacific corner of North America that just over 200 years ago no outsiders knew anything about, and that since has become a crossroad of colonialism and the modern world. Brought into outside focus so recently and then changed so rapidly, it is not an easy place to know.

In these circumstances, immigrant British Columbians fall back on simple categories of knowing and the exclusions they entail. They assume that British Columbia was wilderness and that they are bearers of civilization. Living within this imaginative geography, they associate colonialism with other places and other lives -- a racially segregated South Africa, Joseph Conrad's fear-ridden Congo -- where they can easily condemn its brutalities, yet are largely oblivious to its effects here. They turn the Fraser Canyon into a gold rush trail, a place where rugged land and sturdy miners met; a gondola gives them scenery and a touch of 'gold pan Pete.' the equation is simple and powerful, but leaves out thousands of human years and lives. the Fraser Canyon was not empty when the miners arrived; it . . .

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