Bedrock stories: a critical geography of radium and uranium mining in the Sahtu region, Northwest Territories

Gray-Cosgrove, Carmella (2015) Bedrock stories: a critical geography of radium and uranium mining in the Sahtu region, Northwest Territories. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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This thesis is aimed at answering two questions: how did uranium mining in the Sahtu region of the Northwest Territories contribute to the normalization of northern industrialization in the Canadian imagination? And, how is this historical normalization iterated in current policy decisions and negotiations around health and environmental assessments near radioactively contaminated sites in the Sahtu? Through a critical geography of visual representations and the discursive production of an industrial north, and employing visual methodologies, I unpack the rise of an industrial discourse surrounding Northern Canada in the twentieth century. Through an anti-colonial and decolonizing theoretical framework I follow this discourse into current Sahtúot'ine (Sahtu Dene)-state negotiations around impact assessments of Port Radium and map the transactions of this controversy between the Délı̨nę First Nation and the Canadian government. In the first half of this thesis I examine how representations of uranium and the Sahtu have worked not only to paint the region as a terra nullius, but, more importantly, how these representations have worked to confine the Sahtu region within a discourse of industrial development. I conduct a close study of A.Y. Jackson's paintings of Port Radium and argue that the institutionalized dissemination of Port Radium minescapes has facilitated the emergence of a national discourse in Canada that privileges the interests of the mining industry, while marginalizing Sahtu Dene and 'non-scientific' knowledge systems and ways of being. In Chapter 3, I turn to a consideration of how these discourses are implicated in the ongoing controversy around the historical, environmental, and health legacies surrounding uranium mining in the Sahtu. I map the contours of the controversy around ionizing radiation and explore how scientific knowledge claims have collided with Sahtúot’ine experience and claims to knowledge throughout negotiations over mine site remediation at Port Radium and redress for the health impacts of the mine. The focal point of this controversy is the competing knowledge claims about the health effects of radiation exposure at Port Radium: while many Sahtúot'ine, former residents and workers at the mine attest to a drastic increase in cancer and death rates after living and working at Port Radium, government and third party reports continually discount these claims with epidemiological and statistical evidence. Examining both the historical origins and the contemporary iterations of industrial colonialism in the Sahtu, this thesis uses images, maps, and policy documents to understand the processes that have oppressed Sahtúot'ine knowledge in industrial development and in Sahtúot'ine-state negotiations around environmental and health assessment over the past century.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 9792
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references.
Keywords: Uranium, Port Radium, A.Y. Jackson, Deline, Great Bear Lake, Mining, Aboriginal, Remediation, Canada Deline Uranium Table, Group of Seven, Colonialism
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Geography
Date: August 2015
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Northwest Territories--Sahtu Region
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Uranium mines and mining--Environmental aspects--Northwest Territories--Sahtu Region; Industrialization--Northwest Territories--Sahtu Region; Radiation--Northwest Territories--Sahtu Region; Uranium mines and mining--Health aspects--Northwest Territories--Sahtu Region; Bearlake Indians--Health and hygiene--Northwest Territories--Sahtu Region

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