Justice On The Rocks: (re)writing People And Place In Banff National Park
Linnard, Adam John
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Banff National Park is most commonly and powerfully represented as a place intended for wealthy tourists to experience leisure and for “all Canadians” to encounter “the essence of Canada,” representations that emphasize transience, leisure, safety and abstract notions of nature and nation. These institutional narratives of place validate management decisions that alienate residents and motivate them to assert special claims to belonging that distinguish between the local who belongs and those who are out of place. My first argument, developed through a survey of creative non-fiction and fiction literature of the Rocky Mountain Parks, is that literature has been a key site for articulating such claims and setting such distinctions, as evident in recurrent emphasis on permanence, work, risk and place-based knowledge. Supported by the work of scholars and activists in environmental justice and the related fields of critical race, gender, queer, disability and Indigenous studies, my second argument is that the dominant narratives of Rocky Mountain literature, while resisting institutional narratives and promoting Banff National Park as a co-creation of more-than-human assemblage, inscribe a highly privileged framework for belonging. Such a framework naturalizes white, masculine, heterosexual and able bodies through their engagement with rugged wilderness landscapes and other-than-human animals while negating, excluding or marginalizing those who do not conform. This paper goes on to present a series of Banff National Park stories, derived from walking interviews and textual research, that historicize, politicize and otherwise confound naturalized normativity without abandoning efforts to narrate more-than-human co-creation of Banff National Park spaces. These stories are told in two sections – one which takes place in the wilderness setting of Saskatchewan River Crossing and the other within the urban Banff townsite – and attempt to disseminate experiences of making a home in the particular social and environmental landscapes of Banff National Park that are complicated by intersections of race, gender, sexuality, nationalism, capitalism, religion, Indigeneity and class. This paper argues that those resisting institutional processes of exclusion in Banff National Park must interrogate their own privilege if they hope to promote anything approaching environmental justice in the Canadian Rockies, while simultaneously attempting to model new narratives by engaging with and privileging a variety of claims to place that destabilize my own, including stories of Indigenous displacement, imprisoned labour, genderqueer performance and racialized migrant labour.