Article Title

False Frontiers: Archaeology and the Myth of the Canadian Wilderness


Terra nullius provided a, now defunct, legal allowance for colonial activities in North America. No longer widely used, the concept persists in the widespread use of the term wilderness. Inferring that the Canadian landscape is largely unaltered, pathless, and without attached meaning, wilderness negates the creation and maintenance of Indigenous landscapes. The myth that much of the Canadian landscape consists of pristine and untouched wilderness is perpetuated by several aspects of Canadian society: the natural resource industry, environmentalists, wilderness tourism, and Canadian nationalism. Each of these areas benefits from or exploits in some way, the concept of wilderness. Archaeology, through decades of cultural resource management (CRM) survey, has populated the Canadian landscape with thousands of archaeological sites, which are only a representative fraction of past Indigenous activities. These sites extend well into areas publicly perceived as pristine wilderness. Using concepts from landscape archaeology, this paper addresses the absence of a continuum in perceiving the Canadian landscape and questions archaeology’s role in perpetuating rather than resolving this flaw.

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