Accepted paper:

'They go to the reservoir now': Changing geese migration in Wemindji, Northern Quebec

Authors:

Gioia Barnbrook (University of Aberdeen)

Paper short abstract:

Hydro-electric development in Northern Quebec is impacting on the lines of travel taken by migrating geese. This paper describes how some Cree hunters are responding to these changing flight paths, discussing how not only terrestrial but also aerial lines are affected by hydroelectric development.

Paper long abstract:

The vast network of dams, pylons and roads that support the James Bay hydroelectric project in north-western Quebec cuts across land that has been the territory of James Bay Cree for millennia. This land supports a wide variety of animals that are important for the Cree, but of particular significance for coastal communities are the thousands of migrating geese that use this coast as a flyway each spring, and that have been a crucial source of meat for communities. Since the construction of the hydroelectric dam, local communities have seen significant changes to the migration patterns of geese. Comparatively few geese travel down the coast now, with many instead choosing to flying over the hydroelectric project's vast reservoirs, their flight lines in many ways mirroring the physical infrastructure far below them. In response to these changing flight patterns, hunters are changing their own travel locations and routes, moving their goose camps in order to continue to "meet" the geese on their way north. Many hunters now travel south, on the very roads created during the construction of the hydroelectric dam, for more reliable hunting opportunities. This paper will discuss the changing travel-lines of both people and geese in this region, with particular reference to conceptions of animal decision-making and perception. Arguing that our discussion of lines should be expanded beyond the terrestrial to include the aerial, this paper offers an ethnographic example of the significant changes the criss-crossing infrastructure of hydroelectric development can bring.

panel P027
Lines on the land: mobility and stasis in northern extractive landscapes