Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Oral Presentation Session
At first glance, regulated traplines in Alberta, introduced in the 1940s, appear to be an institution that draws Indigenous peoples into the norms of the market economy. In fact, over time traplines have become a middle ground that reinforces culture and connection to place. Traplines are an important center for land use and territorial authority for both First Nation and Métis families. Yet First Nations hold broader subsistence rights on Crown lands, while constitutionally protected rights of Alberta Métis individuals are limited to a 160-km range from their home community. This relative limitation renders the trapline a unique claim to place for the Métis. However, Métis traplines have been lost to changing wildlife regulations and environmental degradation from extractive industries. This paper draws on ethnographic fieldwork with Métis trappers around Fort McMurray. They describe how extractive industry destroyed ancestral spaces and government trapline regulations increasingly restricted land use practices, resulting in a sense of loss of culture and spirituality that sprung from land-based lifestyles, as well as a literal loss of Métis family trapline territories. Oil companies provide monetary compensation to trapline holders (but not to other land users), representing a mistranslation between economic and cultural values of traplines. However, Métis families adapt to and resist changes on the ground. In an era of reconciliation and emerging court articulations of Métis rights, I argue that there is a need to better understand this loss of Métis space and the ways in which families renew relationships with the land.