Liberating Trails And Travel Routes In Gitxsan And Wet’suwet’en Territories From The Tyrannies Of Heritage Resource Management Regimes

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Publication: American Anthropologist, Vol. 125, No. 2

Author: Chelsey Geralda Armstrong, Anne Spice, Mike Ridsdale & John R. Welch

Date of Publication: 2023

PDF File: Armstrong-et-al.-2023-Liberating-trails-and-travel-routes-in-Gitxsan-and.pdf



Despite their unmistakable significance in regional histories and unique roles in cultural transmission and traditions, Indigenous trail systems are frequently ignored in non-Indigenous heritage resource management regimes. These regulatory regimes often require that heritage have discrete spatial and temporal boundaries and predefined material attributes and functions. However, as landscape-scale connectors of peoples, places, and times that blend spiritual, economic, and educational functions, trails challenge these proscriptions. Trails eschew cost-effective identification, documentation, and conservation. Accordingly, and because trails cannot be adequately documented without the expertise of people whose lands and communities they serve, archaeologists tasked with identifying heritage in advance of resource extraction and land alteration projects often omit trails from assessments. Shortcomings in heritage conservation regimes in British Columbia and elsewhere are resulting in the obliteration of Indigenous trails at precisely the time they are needed to support the revitalization of Territory-Community relationships at the core of Indigeneity. We address this tragedy by integrating archaeology, ethnography, remote sensing, and collaborative fieldwork to document trails in Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan Territories. This enables protection in heritage management contexts and renewed and expanded trail use in intergenerational and intercultural contexts in support of Indigenous community futurity, survivance, and shared senses of community, geography, and stewardship.