Constructing the Wilderness and Clearing the Landscape: A Legacy of Colonialism in
In the northern region of the Canadian province of British Columbia, the dominant way that society portrays the forested landscapes is as “wilderness.” The interpretation and labeling of the land in this way represents an ongoing legacy of colonialism that has its roots in a particular perception of the landscape held by early European newcomers. A contradiction lies between this dominant ideology of wilderness and the reality that First Nations1 inhabitants of the same area continue to engage in a dynamic interaction with the land. Thus, seeing this region only as a wilderness dismisses other ways of reading these same landscapes. In this chapter, I explore how the colonial metanarrative of wilderness is a cultural and social construction that conceptually and physically erases First Nations and their ideologies from the landscape. This investigation will show that wilderness is only one of several possible layers of understanding the landscape.