Friday, October 29, 2010

John Lutz, Getting the Indians out of Town

On October 21, which seems a year ago now rather than simply a week, I attended the presentation by UVic's John Lutz in the "The City Talks" series at the Legacy Cafe in downtown Victoria, entitled "Getting the Indians Out of Town: Race and Space in Victoria’s History."

Lutz covered the 60-year effort of Victoria politicians and business leaders to move the Songhees First Nation out of downtown Victoria. Their primary reserve, between 1850 and 1911, was in what's now referred to as Vic West, where the Ocean Pointe Resort and the so-called Songhees developments now stand. As Lutz explained, there's a wealth of material evidence for the establishment of the reserve, for the persistence of the drive to boot the Songhees out, and for the complexity of the Songhees' integration into settler culture (which includes their complicated response to the ejection efforts). As recently as 1858, the settler community in Victoria was barely above vestigial, with considerably more First Nations residents and long-term visitors than there were settlers. Indeed, it's sometimes estimated that around 1860, between 5% and 10% of the entire North Coast First Nations population spent some time in Victoria, most of them making money through the roles they played in relation to the Cariboo Gold Rush. The at best callous (and at worst nearly murderous) response to the 1862 smallpox outbreaks meant that the North Coast connection took a significant hit, but the Songhees themselves remained.

During the question period, much of the discussion centred around the point of this research, and presenting it in this venue. Really, the consensus was that when the City of Victoria inevitably throws some sort of bash in 2012 for its 150th anniversary, the City needs to include the Songhees somehow in planning as well as in execution of the event; it needs to acknowledge the warts in its history; and it needs to remember just how short a time 150 years is, beside the duration of First Nations presence and history on the West Coast.

What about you? Been to anything interesting lately?

If you're in Victoria on November 24, by the way, I'm confident that the next one will be pretty great as well -- Michael Brown from the University of Washington, on the topic of "The Queen City Comes Out: An Historical Geography of Gay Seattle."

Under Western Skies

I was very disappointed not to be able to attend Under Western Skies, the super-conference hosted by the inestimable Rob Boschman this month at Mt. Royal University in Calgary. It's SO not like being there, certainly, but here's a gathering of links to assorted notes online about how people experienced the conference:
  • Holly Friesen's short note about her paintings exhibited there (with images!)
  • Rachel Ott, on the "hot and not" of UWS
  • Rachel Ott, on Andrew Nikiforuk's keynote address, "Canada Over a Barrel"
  • Frances Widdowson's summary of her own paper (plus link to the full text), "'Indigenous Ways of Knowing' and the Environment: Does Epistemological Relativism Contribute to the Protection of Western Lands?"
  • Catherine Szabo's brief news article in The Reflector
Anyone got another link out there?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Conferencing and the new eco-reality

We said before, during and after the 2010 ALECC conference in Sydney the same things that we said before, during and after the 2009 ASLE conference in Victoria: in the artistic, activist, and academic literature/environment community, it really has to matter that we're together. It's not enough to sit in a series of quiet rooms and listen to a series of papers being read aloud. If we're going to go to the trouble of getting together, there need to be real intellectual, material, and/or ecological benefits to doing so.

That said, I can see a few different approaches we might take to helping this come to pass:
  • First, we can follow the lead of the Network in Canadian History and Environment (NiCHE), that other Canadian-based eco/culture group, and embrace the use of technology to sustain conversations across long distances.
  • Second, we can travel shorter distances, intensifying the more local conversations and eco-communities through such means as colloquia, discussion circles, and workshops.
  • Third, we can make something special out of our big conference. (It's being planned for 2012. Drop us a note if you might be interested in hosting!).
I suspect that we'll be doing all these things, but in the short term, ALECC will be exploring the first two options in some detail, and working toward doing something pretty great with the 2012 conference. To that end, there are two things worth announcing at this point:
  1. Some of ALECC's executive will be participating in a webinar through the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, later in October, and others will be holding a somewhat informal online colloquium in November. Our hope is that these experiences will help the executive plan out how we might start using the available technologies for our benefit, so we'd appreciate any feedback you'd want to give us about that (either in the comments or by email).
  2. Individual ALECC members will be hosting small, local colloquia and other events this year, partially sponsored by ALECC. For example, I'm planning to hold one at UVic in late January that will place the research from separate disciplines beside each other, to talk about how we each approach the relationship between environment and culture. Details are still to be worked out for these sponsorships, but do contact us if you're interested in organizing such an event with an ALECC badge on it.
Happy autumn, all!