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Background

Background

Sacred Site Documentation After over 100 to 150 years of industrial production, the effects of activities such as mining, smelting, pulp-and-paper production, and other industrial processes had severely impacted on the land. Urban sprawl also saw the best agricultural land under cities, towns and highways. Beginning in the 1950s, air, water and soil pollution became major issues and this resulted in the establishment of organizations with the mandate to protect the environment. Pollution not only negatively impacted on natural resources but also made people sick. Academics such as Pierre Dansereau began to look at the way human beings impacted on the environment and he coined a term - ecosystem - to suggest the interaction between the human and the natural, and their interdependence.

In the 1960s and 1970s in Canada, "mega projects" such as the James Bay hydro power development (Quebec and Labrador) and the oil sands development in Fort McMurray, Alberta, prompted senior levels of government to enact legislation and develop environmental and social impact assessment processes. Academics in the sciences and humanities developed methodologies for such assessments assisted by new technologies allowing for highly-sophisticated mapping of not only geographic features but also cultural features.

Alice Boucher holding a hide scraper made from the leg bone of a moose. This small tool is used to scrape the flesh from the hides of small animals.

Human beings have traditionally used the land for hunting, fishing and gathering to sustain themselves. With the coming of the industrial era in the late eighteenth century in Europe and early nineteenth century in North America, the level of consumption escalated enormously. This prompted some individuals to look at ways of protecting land that was beautiful or unique for its geography, plant and animal species. The result was the setting aside of areas to protect them from industrial and other uses. This was the beginning of the parks and protected places system. In Canada, Banff National Park was established in 1885 and Jasper National Park in 1907. There are also provincial and municipally-protected areas in Canada.

These developments were to have important implications for Aboriginal Peoples who in the 1960s in Canada began to assert their rights as entrenched in the Treaties enacted to enable settlement from East to West. At this time, some Aboriginal People were still living on the land as their ancestors had done. But industry was expanding and the rich resources on Reserve and surrounding public lands provided an opportunity for Aboriginal People to help address issues of the nature of development, its impact on their traditional way of life and, finally, ways in which they might benefit from such development. The James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement in 1975, according to The Canadian Encyclopedia, was the first major agreement between the Crown and Aboriginal Peoples since the signing of the Treaties in the latter half of the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth centuries.

A new field was born that involved the examination of Aboriginal uses of the land and how they would be impacted by industrial development. Traditional Use Studies is one label for this work.

The following section of the Understanding Traditional Use Studies Website provides a history of the evolution of this concept and its definition, methodologies and practices in various jurisdictions including Canada and abroad. As well, a number of perspectives are presented on land use, resource management and sustainability. Because Aboriginal cultural uses also include the sacred, since Nature and Nature's Laws, are aspects of the Aboriginal world view and religion, the resulting TUS are complex and layered including economic, social, cultural and ecological perspectives.

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            For more on Aboriginal land use in Alberta, visit Peel’s Prairie Provinces.

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