The Ordering of Things: Narrative Geographies of Bloody Falls and the Central Canadian Arctic
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This study examines the geographies of the Bloody Falls massacre story, an account of a massacre of a group of Inuit by a group of Dene allegedly witnessed by explorer Samuel Hearne along the Coppermine River in July 1771. Working from an understanding of story as a relational and material ordering practice, and based on archival, ethnographic, and other qualitative research methods, I consider how the storying of Bloody Falls has ordered colonial and capitalist relations, relations of violence and desire, and relations of decolonization and Indigenous self-determination in the Central Canadian Arctic. The study contributes to theoretical, empirical, methodological, and ethical concerns in geography. I intervene in debates about the materiality of knowledge, power, and practice and suggest that recent turns to the material and the ontological in geographic scholarship risk abandoning important theoretical and political resources that are necessary for producing engaged and informed knowledge about the colonial past and present. Drawing on actor-network, feminist, postcolonial, and antiracist theories as well as geographic understandings of discourse, I advance a more rigorously materialist assessment of discursive processes and consider the methodological implications of tracing cultural, economic, and political geographies through stories. The study also contributes to understandings of the Bloody Falls massacre by highlighting the importance of copper in the event and describing the ways in which Inuit and Dene story the massacre and its implications. I advance an alternative framework for understanding northern Indigenous geographies and Indigenous-settler relations in Canada involving attention to the geographies of response and responsibility and to the materiality, relationality, and practices of storytelling. At a time when increased attention is being focused on the Canadian North, whether in terms of climate change, sovereignty, resource extraction, or militarization, this study elaborates a critical narrative geography of the region that might facilitate efforts to decolonize northern knowledge and practice.