Hunters at the Margin: Native People and Wildlife Conservation in the Northwest Territories

By Laurie, Ben | Alternatives Journal, March-April 2008 | Go to article overview

Hunters at the Margin: Native People and Wildlife Conservation in the Northwest Territories


Laurie, Ben, Alternatives Journal


Hunters at the Margin: Native People and Wildlife Conservation in the Northwest Territories John Sandlos, Vancouver; UBC Press, 2007, 360 pages.

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That Canada's Northern peoples have experienced a long and painful history of misdirected control by external forces is well documented. That the wildlife conservation policies and practices of federal officials in the North were also motivated by imperialist and utilitarian objectives is a fresh message. In Hunters at the Margin, John Sandlos convincingly presents evidence of this history.

Sandlos, an assistant professor of history, employs an effective device to convey his thesis. He divides the book into three sections, each dealing with the relationship of indigenous people with one of three wildlife species: bison, muskox and caribou. Without refuting the success of government policies in stewarding these animals, Sandlos chal- lenges the reader to examine the effects these laws and practices have on the indigenous peoples whose traditional livelihood strategies were based on a nomadic existence unencumbered by static park and town boundaries.

In this rigorously researched text, Sandlos demonstrates that Ottawa's colonial approach to its relationship with the Dene and Inuit people extended to its conservation policies. They were part of a nation-building project that destabilized traditional indigenous economies, which were locally controlled and migratory in nature. In dealing with wildlife, as with humans, federal government policies prioritized national interests. They promoted utilitarian motives of production and sedentary pastoral economies.

Navigating the reader through park-warden notes, legal proceedings, federal policies and government records, Sandlos questions the introduction of industrial trade relations and firearms. …

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