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Giant Trees, Iron Men: Masculinity and Colonialism in Coast Salish Loggers’ Identity



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First Nations people in Coastal British Columbia have harvested and commodified the forest for centuries. With the arrival of European settlers and the inception of a commercial logging industry, Coast Salish men became highly respected and sought-after employees at logging camps up and down the coast. With attention to the twentieth century, this thesis analyzes the long history of Coast Salish forestry to highlight how cutting down trees provided Coast Salish men the ability to affirm masculine identities in both the pre and post-contact periods. In the theatre of a logging camp, Coast Salish men could ascend the racial and social limitations placed on their masculinity through skill and hard work. This thesis analyzes the various ways that First Nations men in British Columbia responded to the multiple forms of oppression placed on their identities as men by the Colonial and then Canadian governments. Colonial patriarchy took multiple forms, which created a system of hypocrisy where Coast Salish men were simultaneously expected to act like ‘men’ but were categorically denied access to certain types of masculinity. Coast Salish men could attain certain types of masculine agency through the sort of rugged masculinity valued in logging camps, but when they tried to assert their land and resource rights against patriarchal systems, they were paternalistically treated like children by the Canadian State. By analyzing Coast Salish logger’s remembrances of their time in ‘the bush,’ this thesis is a study in Indigenous historical consciousness. Considering both the continuities and changes present in Coast Salish forestry and ideals on masculinity, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, constructs an understanding of not only the colonial processes that oppressed, but also the avenues where Indigenous people carved out opportunities for themselves. Ultimately, this thesis argues that Coast Salish men were able to transcend some of the most oppressive aspects of colonialism by embracing an industry and a social environment (logging and logging camps) where they could perform an expression of masculinity that they found fulfilling, and that was simultaneously valued and accepted by colonial society.



Aboriginal History, Canadian History, Logging, Forestry, Native-Newcomer Relations, Colonialism, Ethnohistory



Master of Arts (M.A.)






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