Mariko Molander, M.Sc. (2014)

Thesis Title:  Decolonizing the Mind: Centring Settler-Colonial Disposession and Mutually Contested Sovereignties in British Columbia’s Forestry Landscape and Narrative

Abstract:  In British Columbia (BC), the dominant narrative in forestry, particularly over the past four decades, has been largely framed by discourses relating to notions of progress and evolution with respect to improved forestlands management and, importantly, to Crown-Aboriginal relations. However, this narrative is worth re-framing, not only since the field of forestry has lagged behind other academic disciplines in explicitly opening up decolonizing and anti-colonial spaces, but because it has also been historically complicit in both entrenching and reproducing settler-colonial structures of domination on unceded Indigenous lands. This thesis therefore seeks to make a critical intervention in current literatures in BC’s forestry landscape by drawing attention to primary assumptions underlying the notion of “progress” in Crown-Aboriginal relations within the forestry context. To unmask these assumptions, a genealogical approach was taken up to construct a critical and effective history of the present, first situating the historical and ongoing dispossession of Indigenous peoples, lands, and lifeways at the centre of the forestry narrative rather than at its historical peripheries, and demonstrating how dispossession and the sustained, ongoing access to Indigenous lands by the Crown has been crucial for the forest sector’s overall success. Second, an in-depth exploration of deep-seated, historically contingent assumptions underlying the legitimacy of both Crown and Indigenous sovereignties in BC was conducted. Key discursive and material expressions of Western sovereignty and Indigenous conceptualizations of self-government and resurgent nationhood were explored, with the view that such an inquiry may bring about a necessary awakening and decolonization of the mind, and ultimately, of forestry. It is argued that a re-framing of the conventional forestry narrative is necessary for the transformation of settler-colonial relations, and for the interception and dismantling of sustained structures of dispossession and injustices that are reproduced through established organizational regimes and systems that exist today, such as BC’s forest tenure system.