The South Moresby Controversy (1974–1993) – stories about the resource conflict over logging on Haida Gwaii, Canada

Forschungsprojekt, finanziert durch den Schweizerischen Nationalfonds. Laufzeit: November 2011 bis Februar 2015



In my Phd-study, I examine the resource conflict over industrial logging in the South Moresby area on Haida Gwaii (former Queen Charlotte Islands) from 1974 to 1993. On this remote archipelago on British Columbia’s west-coast, a fierce dispute over logging practices, land rights, Aboriginal land claims and environmental issues had emerged in the face of devastating logging practices were not only threatening to destroy large parts of Moresby Island but also resulted in the destruction of salmon streams. The two major natural resources available on the islands were at stake during the “war in the woods.” Together with environmentalist, the Haida First Nation successfully fought for the preservation of Gwaii Haanas (South Moresby Island) with blockades, protests, environmental campaigns, lobbying and legal action. The area is now protected as the “Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve.*" Using a cultural approach combining aspects of “storytelling,” the “cultural memory” and “actor-network-theory” (ANT), the core question arises whether the (Western) dualisms between “nature” and “culture” and between “fact” and “fiction” should be dissolved. Latour argues that such dualisms and even the separation between the human and non-human world (i.e., the world of things) do not exist. Assmann claims that we do not necessarily remember what has „really happened“, but what was repeatedly told us to have happened. Along with Thomas King, J. Edward Chamberlin and William Cronon, I stress the point that stories – fictitious or based on facts – do matter. The effect of stories on the way we understand our past, might often be more important than that of “hard” facts: Stories shape both a society’s concept of the past and its present identity. Canada, with its heterogeneous population, is a particularly interesting place to conduct research about different concepts of “nature” and culture”. Analyzing the different stories that evolved around South Moresby, and taking into account diverging messages of native and non-native stories, offers a new perspective on similar resource conflicts that continue to exist and arise all over the world.