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My project examines a series of border crossings and conflicts in the Pacific Northwest between the 1846 Oregon Treaty and British Columbia’s 1871 entry into the new Canadian confederation. This time and place saw intense territorial contestation among British colonial officials, the Hudson’s Bay Company, American miners and local bureaucrats, the United States government, and several very different native groups (most notably the Haida, Tsilhqot'in, and Salish groups along the Fraser River and its tributaries) that had their own fraught histories of alliances and conflicts. I seek to foreground these events as a historical pivot point during which North American and global geopolitics, British-American relations, and both “American” and “Canadian” native peoples’ status and territorial control hinged on seemingly peripheral people, movements, and landscapes. In considering these episodes — the Haida Gwaii gold rush, Fraser River gold rush and Indian war, San Juan boundary dispute, competing British and American northwest boundary surveys, Tsilhqot'in uprising, and the failed Russian-American telegraph project — I argue that high diplomatic and political narratives provide an incomplete picture of how maps shift, and how sovereignties emerge and collide. Other themes I explore include non-state sovereignty, present-day legacies, and competing national and local narratives.
I am spending the 2013-2014 academic year away from New Haven, traipsing around the Pacific Northwest (mostly British Columbia) in search of helpful documents, artifacts, and conversations.