Indigenous Way of Life under Threat in Siberia

Khanty children pose in front of a reindeer sledge near Lake Numto, Khantia-Mansia, Russia. Source: ugraland / Irina Kazanskaya from Moscow, Russia – Flickr.

The Reindeer Herder Struggling to Take on Oil Excavators in Siberia

By Alec Luhn, March 17, 2017

Sergei Kechimov, an indigenous Khanty reindeer herder, lives in a one-room cabin with no running water more than 20 miles from the nearest village in Western Siberia. But his home is not as silent as you might think.

Across the swampy woodlands the beeping and rumbling of excavators are audible as they search for oil to prop up Russia’s slumping economy. Environmental protection for indigenous lands has recently been abandoned.

Kechimov, who has been appointed by his community as the guardian of holy Lake Imlor, remembers the lakes and rivers being so packed with fish that he could catch them by hand, but he believes that oil drilling has severely damage the ecosystem.

The compensation the regional oil giant Surgutneftegas gives to the reindeer herders can’t make up for the harm done to their traditional way of life, he said. “They poison us with this filth and trick us.”

On Friday, the United Nations mechanism for the rights of indigenous peoples will travel to the Khanty-Mansi autonomous region where Kechimov lives to observe what the government calls “the sustainable development of indigenous minorities”, but the real story is an escalating conflict between extraction companies and vulnerable native peoples – similar to battles in the US over the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, in the Peruvian Amazon and in the Queensland region of Australia.

Expert mechanism chairman Albert Barume said that the trip was not meant to “provide any endorsement of the practices in the region.”

Imlor is not the only area under threat. In October, the regional government re-zoned the nature reserve around the holy Lake Numto, a habitat of the endangered Siberian crane, to allow oil drilling in these wetlands, despite objections from local indigenous residents. The Khanty-Mansi region is Russia’s hydrocarbon heartland, producing more than half of the country’s oil…

“It’s classic colonialism, like at the end of the 19th and start of the 20th century,” said Mikhail Kreindlin of Greenpeace Russia. Indigenous people can only negotiate “small compensation that doesn’t compare to the wealth the oil companies make on these territories”. …

Read the rest of this article at:

Canada’s Largest World Heritage Site under Threat from “Unfettered” Development

Map of threats to Wood Buffalo National Park. UNESCO, 2017

Canada Risks International Embarrassment Over Mismanagement of World Heritage Site: UNESCO

By Judith Lavoie, March 13, 2017

Canada’s largest World Heritage Site is under threat from unfettered oilsands development and hydro dams on the Peace River — where the B.C. government is now planning to build the massive Site C dam — says a hard-hitting report by a United Nations agency.

While contaminants from the oilsands are affecting water and air quality, water flows through Wood Buffalo National Park are being strangled by dams, according to the highly critical report by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and International Union for Conservation of Nature

The report warns that, if there is not a “major and timely” response to its recommendations the organization will recommend that Wood Buffalo National Park be included in the list of World Heritage in Danger, a list usually reserved for sites in war-torn countries or those facing other disasters.

The park, made up of 4.5 million hectares of boreal plains in northern Alberta and the southern Northwest Territories, has been affected by decades of massive industrial development along the Peace and Athabasca Rivers, along with poor management and lack of overall consideration of the effect of projects, it says.

“The scale, pace and complexity of industrial development along the critical corridors of the Peace and Athabasca Rivers is exceptional and does not appear to be subject to adequate analysis to underpin informed decision-making and the development of matching policy, governance and management responses,” says the executive summary, which adds that the park is also subject to the additional stress of climate change.

If the development approach of the last decades continues, the future of Wood Buffalo National Park is uncertain at best and several current project proposals add severity and urgency to the message, says the report, which singles out Site C and the Teck Frontier project, which would bring oilsands development closer to the southern boundary of the park and encroach on the habitat of the Ronald Lake Wood Bison Herd.

The park is home to the largest free-ranging buffalo herd in the world and includes the only known breeding ground for endangered whooping cranes.

UNESCO inspectors concluded that oilsands development near the park is affecting the water, land and air while putting human health at risk.

“There is long-standing, conceivable and consistent evidence of severe environmental and human health concerns based on both western science and local and indigenous knowledge,” it says, pointing to evidence that toxins such as mercury are showing up in fish and bird eggs.

The report includes 17 recommendations, including working more closely with First Nations, better monitoring of the Peace-Athabasca Delta, a systematic risk assessment of tailings ponds and strengthening of Parks Canada’s conservation focus and management of the park.

UNESCO also wants to see an environmental and social impact assessment of the Site C dam. …

Read the rest of this article at:

For more on Site C:

Is Site C Really ‘Past the Point of No Return?’ by Zoë Ducklow | March 15, 2017

The Startling Similarities Between Newfoundland’s Muskrat Falls Boondoggle and B.C.’s Site C Dam, by Emma Gilchrist | March 14, 2017

VIDEO: Site C Dam an ‘Economic Disaster,’ Says Former Premier Mike Harcourt, by Carol Linnitt | March 2, 2017

2018 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference

April 4th-6th, 2018
Washington State Convention Center
Seattle, Washington

The Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference is the largest most comprehensive event of its kind in the region. The purpose of the conference is to assemble scientists, First Nations and tribal government representatives, resource managers, community/business leaders, policy makers, educators and students to present the latest scientific research on the state of the ecosystem, and to guide future actions for protecting and restoring the Salish Sea Ecosystem. To accomplish its purpose, the conference will feature plenary sessions with keynote speakers, concurrent sessions featuring oral presentations, poster presentations, workshops, frequent opportunities for informal networking, and related off-program events.

Conference website:

Conference poster:

Climate Change to Transform Vancouver into San Diego

By Larry Pinn | February 26, 2017

A major climate-change study (PDF) predicts temperatures in Metro Vancouver [British Columbia, Canada] will exceed those of present-day Southern California in the coming decades.

Frost and ice will become virtually a thing of the past, heating bills will drop, and farm crops will flourish virtually year-round in the Fraser Valley.

[The] region can expect: air-conditioning costs to soar; worsening smog and associated health problems; increased forest fires and water shortages; summer droughts followed by severe fall rain events; and an influx of invasive species threatening forests and agriculture.

[The] study predicts that day-time high summer temperatures in the region will increase 3.7 C by the 2050s and 6 C by the 2080s. Indian summers are virtually guaranteed to linger into fall.

The bottom line is that “Vancouver would be warmer than present-day San Diego by the 2050s.”

The report notes that savings in heating costs due to rising temperatures will be offset by the need for air conditioning. Areas of lower elevation, where most buildings are located, will see more demand for air conditioning than present-day Kamloops by the 2050s….

Read the rest of this article at the Vancouver Sun:

B.C. Government Payments Divide Gitxsan Nation, Called ‘Bribery’

By Trevor Jang | February 7, 2017

Earl Muldon sits at his kitchen table surrounded by family, sipping coffee. His wife Shirley brings over a plate of cream cake topped with huckleberries. They’re hand-picked from the land surrounding his two-storey home in Gitanmaax, a village of about 800 people from the Gitxsan Nation in northwestern British Columbia, near the town of New Hazelton.

To the Gitxsan people, 80-year-old Muldon is known by another name: Delgamuukw. That name — a symbolic ancestral chief name passed down from generation to generation of Gitxsan people — is also one of the most well-known chief names in the rest of Canada. Delgamuukw was the lead plaintiff in a historic court case that confirmed that Aboriginal title, ownership of traditional lands had not been extinguished by any colonial government.

“It’s a name that’s greatly respected. We’ve earned respect for it,” says Muldon, who was one of three people to hold the Delgamuukw name during the court proceedings.

The 1997 Supreme Court win against the B.C. government was important to Indigenous people across Canada because it provided a new test to prove ownership over their traditional lands and waters. It was monumental to the Gitxsan because they seemed poised to assert self-governance over their 33,000-square-kilometre territory.

Fast-forward to the fall of 2016, when it emerged that Muldon was among a group of nine Gitxsan chiefs who had accepted money in exchange for their support of a controversial liquid natural gas (LNG) pipeline without consulting all of their nation’s members. Some Gitxsan people say that decision broke “ayook,” traditional Gitxsan law — and could undermine what the nation fought to prove in court 20 years ago.

So how did Muldon, who holds the hereditary name, Delgamuukw, that represented the unified Gitxsan Nation in their fight for their land, come to be among the group supporting resource development and spurring internal conflict among the Gitxsan? …

Read the rest of this article at DeSmog Canada:


CFP=Heritage Crime=ACHS.2018

Call for Papers


Association of Critical Heritage Studies
4th Biennial Conference
1-6 September 2018
Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China

Session title:
Heritage Crime

Session organizers:
Richard Hutchings & Marina La Salle, Vancouver Island University, and Institute for Critical Heritage and Tourism, British Columbia, Canada

Session abstract:
What is heritage crime and who perpetrates it? Who are its victims? What are the implications for those victimized? For the perpetrators? For society at large? Taking a critical approach to both heritage and crime, contributors to this cutting edge interdisciplinary session explore the emerging field of heritage crime studies. Suggested subject areas covered include:

State-sanctioned heritage crime
Heritage crime across borders
Crime against Indigenous and ethnic minority heritage
Heritage crime and international law
Crime against state heritage
Heritage crime and war
Looting and trafficking
Fakes and forgeries
Heritage crime as resistance
Policing and prosecuting heritage crime
Crime against intangible heritage and intellectual property
Cultural resource management (CRM) / cultural heritage management (CHM)

Please submit title and 200-word abstract by 27 March 2017 to icht.bc[at]

Association of Critical Heritage Studies 2018 Conference

Association of Critical Heritage Studies, 4th Biennial Conference

1-6 September 2018

Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China

Call for Session Proposals (link): Deadline 31 March 2017

Theme: “Heritage Across Borders”


The global rise of heritage studies and the heritage industry in recent decades has been a story of crossing frontiers and transcending boundaries. The 2018 Association of Critical Heritage Studies conference, held in Hangzhou, China, thus takes ‘borders’ as a broadly defined, yet key, concept for better understanding how heritage is valued, preserved, politicised, mobilised, financed, planned and destroyed. Thinking through borders raises questions about theories of heritage, its methodologies of research, and where its boundaries lie with tourism, urban development, post-disaster recovery, collective identities, climate change, memory or violent conflict. Held in the city of Hangzhou, China, Heritage Across Borders will be the largest ever international conference in Asia dedicated to the topic of heritage. It has been conceived to connect international participants with local issues, and in so doing open up debates about the rural-urban, east-west, tangible-intangible and other familiar divides.

Borders tell us much about the complex role heritage plays in societies around the world today. Historically speaking, physical and political borders have led to ideas about enclosed cultures, and a language of cultural property and ownership which marches forward today in tension alongside ideals of universalism and the cosmopolitan. More people are moving across borders than ever before, with vastly different motivations and capacities. What role can heritage studies play in understanding the experiences of migrants or the plight of refugees? And what heritage futures do we need to anticipate as the pressures of international tourism seem to relentlessly grow year by year?

Heritage Across Borders will consider how the values of heritage and approaches to conservation change as objects, experts, and institutions move across frontiers. It will ask how new international cultural policies alter creation, performance, and transmission for artists, craftspersons, musicians, and tradition-bearers.

What are the frontiers of cultural memory in times of rapid transformation? How can museums engage with increasingly diverse audiences by blurring the distinctions between the affective and representational? And do digital reproductions cross important ethical boundaries?

One of the key contributions of critical heritage studies has been to draw attention to the role of heritage in constructing and operationalising boundaries and borders of many kinds-national, social, cultural, ethnic, economic and political.  In what ways do international flows of capital rework indigenous and urban cultures, and reshape nature in ways that redefine existing boundaries?

We especially welcome sessions and papers that challenge disciplinary boundaries and professional divides, and explore cross-border dialogues. What lessons can be learned from Asia where the distinctions between the tangible and intangible are less well marked? And how can researchers bridge cultural and linguistic barriers to better understand these nuances?

Organised by Zhejiang University this major international conference will be held in Hangzhou, China on 1-6 September 2018.

Conference website:

Natural World Heritage Sites Face Threat From Humanity

Areas shown in yellow, orange and red show the amount of forest lost in natural World Heritage Sites around the globe.

More Than 100 World Heritage Sites Face Threat From Humanity

By Nick Visser | January 31, 2017

Almost half of the planet’s natural World Heritage Sites, areas designated as holding “outstanding value to humanity,” face growing threats of destruction due to human activity that has already caused lasting damage to places like Yellowstone National Park, a new report says.

The study, published Monday in the journal Biological Conservation, found more than 100 internationally protected sites around the globe are “rapidly deteriorating and are more threatened than previously thought.” Natural World Heritage Sites are selected by UNESCO for their beauty and biological importance, and include famed areas like the Congo’s Virunga National Park, the Galapagos Islands and the Everglades.

“These sites have been inscribed by the United Nations as some of the most important, beautiful places on earth,” James Watson, a professor at the University of Queensland and a senior author of the study, said in a video release. “They hold incredible numbers of species, they are the jewels of the crown when we think about nature.” …

Read the rest of this article at the Huffington Post:

State of Canada’s Natural and Cultural Heritage Places 2016


Nearly Half of National Park Ecosystems Rate as ‘Fair’ or ‘Poor’ in Parks Canada Report

By Susan Lunn | January 26, 2017

A federal report by Parks Canada shows that almost half of the ecosystems in the country’s national parks remain in fair to poor condition, five years after a previous report with similar concerns.

The report, called State of Canada’s Natural and Cultural Heritage Places, was tabled in the House of Commons in mid-December.

It contains a table rating the condition of forests, freshwater lakes, wetlands and coastal areas in all national parks across the country.

The report finds that 29 of the 41 national parks and reserves measured had at least one ecosystem rated as fair or poor. Twelve of the parks or reserves had all of the areas measured rated as good. […]

Canadians currently have an opportunity to tell the minister directly what they want done with federal parks.

[Federal Environment Minister Catherine] McKenna has been holding in-person and online consultations with stakeholders and the general public. The consultations wrap up Friday.

More than 1,700 people have submitted comments, many of them urging the minister to put nature before development.

Woodley isn’t surprised.

“I think it’s important for this government to understand Canadians do love our national parks. They are one of our top symbols of national identity.

“But they love them because they’re natural. Because they’re wild spaces that are places where wildlife can live and where there’s pristine natural beauty,” Woodley said. …

Read the rest of this article at the CBC:


State of Canada’s Natural and Cultural Heritage Places

2016 Report
HTML version
PDF version (8 MB)

2011 Report
HTML version
PDF version (2.4MB)

Trump Makes Dystopian 1984 Bestselling Book

First edition – Secker & Warburg, London, 1949.

Trump Makes Dystopian 1984 Bestselling Book

Richard M. Hutchings | January 25, 2017

Slate reports Donald Trump’s first days in office has made George Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty-Four (aka 1984, published 1949) the bestselling book on Amazon, and Salon says the books publisher has already ordered a new printing. According to the Associated Press,

With “alternate facts” the latest catchphrase, George Orwell’s “1984” is No. 1 on and the publisher has ordered an additional 75,000 copies.

Other than being “dystopian” (undesirable), a theme that long-preceded Trump (see also here), what does this mean?

I take a visual approach to answering that question, examining book jacket covers through time. My survey, which utilizes Emily Temple’s 2011 George Orwell’s 1984: A Visual History, reveals three key aspects of Orwell’s future (today’s present):

  1. Anxiety and Fear (dystopia)
  2. Control
  3. Modernity

Scroll down to see the examples I have selected of each theme on book covers dating from 1954 to present.

Controlling heritage is a vital function of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth, where the slogan is “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”

It is this aspect that I think most people are connecting with Trump. From Wikipedia:

The Ministry of Truth is the propaganda ministry. As with the other ministries in the novel, the name Ministry of Truth is a misnomer because in reality it serves the opposite: it is responsible for any necessary falsification of historical events.

As well as administering truth, the ministry spreads a new language amongst the populace called Newspeak, in which, for example, “truth” is understood to mean statements like 2 + 2 = 5 when the situation warrants. In keeping with the concept of doublethink, the ministry is thus aptly named in that it creates/manufactures “truth” in the Newspeak sense of the word. The book describes the doctoring of historical records to show a government-approved version of events.

However, as with dystopia, Donald Trump did not invent Newspeak; recall, for example, George W. Bush’s persistent problems with “truthiness.” This, I suggest, is more evidence that Trump is being scapegoated by a nation already in crisis. Nevertheless, Trump is, I believe, triggering anomie on a national scale.

1. Anxiety and Fear

Anxiety and fear (and love and betrayal!) – Signet edition, 1954. Note the use of slogans (“Freedom is Slavery, “Ignorance is Strength, “Big Brother is Watching You”) and ethnicity (white slaves, “ethnic” Big Brother and guard). Note also the “heritage” landscape.
Anxiety and fear – Signet edition, 1959. Note also the heritage landscape.

2.1 Surveillance as Control

Surveillance and anxiety – Argentinian edition, 1954.
Surveillance and anxiety – French edition, 1980.
Surveillance – Penguin edition, no date.
Surveillance – Swedish edition, no date.

2.2 State Control

Police state – Penguin, 1978.
Bureaucratic state control – Penguin, no date.
Corporate state control – Indonesian edition, no date.

3. Modernity

Modernity – Swedish edition, 1959.
Modernity – Penguin UK edition, 1989.

For more on Trump and Orwell, see: