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Brittany Luby

Brittany Luby

The Indigenous History Book Prize

2021

Brittany LubyDammed: The Politics of Loss and Survival in Anishinaabe Territory. University of Manitoba Press, 2020.

Looking out from Anishinaabe territory, Dammed: The Politics of Loss and Survival in Anishinaabe Territory is an insightful and illuminating examination of Canada’s hydroelectric boom of the 20th century. Taking place in Treaty 3 territory, Brittany Luby shows us that the postwar affluence of non-Indigenous Canadians relied on the exploitation of Indigenous resources, such as water and hydroelectricity. Focusing on the Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation (also known as Dalles 38C First Nation), located between the Norman Dam and the Whitedog Falls generating station, she demonstrates that the much celebrated post-war development and economic growth experienced by many non-Indigenous Canadians resulted in a precipitous decline in living standards on reserve. Intended to serve the priorities of the settler populations and economy, governments and developers did not consult Anishinaabe peoples,  the caretakers of the surrounding waters and lands. The hydroelectric stations destroyed Indigenous economies, health, and relations to the territory. The hydroelectric projects changed water levels and ecologies, diminished fish and manomin (both resources and relatives to Anishinaabeg), and allowed for methylmercury to be released into the river.

Luby draws extensively on oral histories, archival documents, and environmental observation. As recommended by the Elders of Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation, she uses the Indigenous methodology of “presence-ing” – being in the place and developing relationships with all beings, including flora, fauna, and people. She illustrates how the Anishinaabeg did not have a singular response to the colonization of their homes and traces how they adapted to, cooperated with, and passively resisted non-Indigenous occupation through individual, family, and community strategies. Her nuanced portrayal of Indigenous resistance to hydroelectric development is a powerful call for all non-Indigenous peoples living in the geographic area that has come to be known as Canada to reflect on the continued benefits drawn from past and present dispossession, and serves as a lesson for future generations about the value of their homes and how to navigate changing futures.