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Vancouver 2008

To Visit and to Cut Down: Tourism, Forestry, and the Social Construction of Nature in Twentieth-Century Northeastern Ontario

  • Jocelyn Thorpe

Corps de l’article

In his 1995 “The Trouble with Wilderness,” an essay well known to environmental historians, American environmental historian William Cronon takes wilderness to task, arguing that far from existing as an uncontaminated space outside of civilization, wilderness is a power-laden and human-created place, a product of history rather than nature. [1] Yet as influential as Cronon’s essay and other works associated with social nature scholarship have been in encouraging scholars to comprehend wilderness and nature more generally as a social category, [2] the concept of wilderness (if not the actual sites imagined as such) remains largely intact outside of academic circles. An examination of the Temagami region of northeastern Ontario makes this point clear. Today, environmentalists insist that the “pristine wilderness regions” of Temagami “must be off-limits to industrial activities,” and promoters of tourism in the area advertise a district with “miles upon miles of unspoiled wilderness to explore.” [3]

Temagami, with its many lakes and wooded shorelines, is indeed quite well known in Ontario and across Canada as a wilderness area. Its fame derives in part from environmentalist protests of the late 1980s and early 1990s, during which protesters blockaded the Red Squirrel Road in order to prevent logging trucks from entering what environmentalists called the world’s largest old-growth red and white pine forest. The environmentalist effort, led by the Temagami Wilderness Society, also featured a media campaign that included the production of posters of big pine trees with the heading “Temagami: The Last Great Pine Wilderness” and a benefit concert called “Temagami: The Last Wild Stand.” [4] The campaign garnered widespread media attention and a good deal of public support, including the support of prominent Canadians such as Margaret Atwood, David Suzuki, and Bob Rae (Rae, along with other environmentalists, was arrested for his troubles). As a result of the efforts of the Wilderness Society and its supporters, the Ontario government decided to preserve “a particularly sensitive area” of the Temagami forest. [5] Since then, environmentalists have celebrated the formal protection of “almost half of Temagami’s old-growth red and white pine,” but warn that “the other half is open for harvest.” [6]

In this paper, I examine the historical creation of Temagami wilderness. In so doing, I take my cue from scholars of social nature interested in examining the “traffic between what we have come to know historically as nature and culture.” [7] One reason to trace the human construction of non-human nature is to show how human power relations operate to separate out what counts as nature from what counts as culture in specific places and times, thus revealing that the nature-culture binary is a cultural product that has benefited some groups, human and nonhuman both, at the expense of others. In the case of Temagami, the Teme-Augama Anishnabai have benefited little from the construction of their homeland, n’Daki Menan, as wilderness. I argue that early twentieth-century tourism and forestry discourses played major roles in the making of a Temagami wilderness for non-Native people to visit and to cut down. Yet these discourses and accompanying practices simultaneously naturalized Temagami as wilderness, rendering unintelligible the Teme-Augama Anishnabai’s ways of knowing and claim to n’Daki Menan. It is important to trace the processes through which wilderness is created and maintained precisely because wilderness appears self-evidently natural and is thus able to disguise the historical and cultural practices and power relationships through which it emerged. Attention to the making of Temagami wilderness means recognizing the ways in which tourism and forest conservation in the early twentieth century played parts in the colonization of the Teme-Augama Anishnabai and n’Daki Menan. In this time of increased mainstream attention to Aboriginal land claims and the ongoing legacy of colonization in the Canadian context, it only makes sense to examine critically sites of Canadian wilderness, studying how they have worked, and continue to work, to erase Aboriginal peoples and claims. According to Cronon, the “removal of Indians to create an ‘uninhabited wilderness’ — uninhabited as never before in the human history of the place — reminds us just how invented, just how constructed, the American wilderness really is.” [8] Yet, for many, the wilderness remains a concept, and a place, outside of history, culture, and power. It is for this reason that wilderness remains an important area of critical historical inquiry: wilderness is still out there.

Temagami is not an untapped site for historians. In 1989, Bruce W. Hodgins and Jamie Benidickson published The Temagami Experience: Recreation, Resources, and Aboriginal Rights in the Northern Ontario Wilderness, which provides an account of the development of the Temagami district and the efforts of the provincial and federal governments to implement management plans and policies to regulate forestry, mining, Aboriginal activities, settlement, and tourism. [9] The authors argue that from the mid-nineteenth century, recreational users, resource interests, provincial officials, and the Teme-Augama Anishnabai have all contributed to the development of the area, and further contend that due to the “relative isolation and ruggedness” of Temagami nature, “those interested in the landscape and resources of the district have preserved or been forced to preserve a balance, at least until recent times [the 1970s].” [10] Hodgins and Benidickson’s account is a story of competing interests, where different groups have met and clashed over their opposing ideas of what should happen in Temagami nature. [11]

While The Temagami Experience is thoroughly researched and comprehensive, its central claims warrant re-examination in light of the insights of social nature literature. By assuming nature to exist as a stable (isolated, rugged) object over which a human struggle is waged, the authors forego an examination of how Temagami came into existence as a site of nature, and therefore do not fully account for the complex power relations that served to make the region available for some people while denying the claims of others. As a result, Hodgins and Benidickson are able to assert that the various interest groups preserved a balance until the early 1970s, at which time the Ontario government proposed to build a four-season resort in the region, and the Teme-Augama Anishnabai, cottagers, and environmentalists opposed the development. [12] My analysis suggests instead that such a balancing of interests was not so straightforward. The making of a Temagami wilderness in the early twentieth century played a major role in the power relationships that resulted in the Teme-Augama Anishnabai’s eviction from and, contradictorily, collapse into wilderness, a process that made it possible for forestry and tourism, but not Teme-Augama Anishnabai, interests to be balanced harmoniously.

Before turning to analyze how tourism and forestry discourses played important roles in creating and naturalizing the Temagami wilderness, I describe how the region became well known as both a timber commodity and a tourist destination in the early twentieth century. In 1901, the Ontario government created the Temagami Forest Reserve (TFR). The over 2,000 square mile forest reserve was the third and largest reserve established under Ontario’s 1898 Forest Reserves Act, an act that granted the province power to set aside portions of Crown land for the purpose of securing future timber supplies. Forest conservationists at this time held the not yet popular view that not all forested land should be converted to farmland for settlers. Instead, they asserted, lands better suited to growing trees than to agricultural settlement should be scientifically managed for the perpetual production of timber resources. [13] Prior to the rise of the conservation movement, convention among settlers and colonial administrators was that the future of Canada lay in agriculture. The task before settlers was therefore to carve a space for themselves in the new Dominion by converting the forest into farmland. [14] The forest seemed eternal and, although thought of as non-renewable since, once “mined,” previously forested land became farmland, the general understanding was that the vastness of Canada’s forest meant that the timber supply would never come to an end. [15] This perspective, however, became not only untenable as wood supplies, particularly in eastern Canada, dwindled, but also unfashionable as the conservationist perspective began to take hold. [16]

Conservationist ideas travelled from Europe to North America with people such as Bernhard Fernow, the vocal Prussian-born conservation advocate who became the first professional forester in the United States, and who, in 1907, founded the first forestry school in Canada at the University of Toronto. [17] The goal of forest conservation, according to Fernow, was to ensure the maximum supply of wood in perpetuity through the management of permanent forests by scientifically trained professionals. This idea gained popularity in both the United States and Canada after the American Forestry Congress met for the first time in 1882 (Fernow was in attendance). In Ontario, the passage of the Forest Reserves Act indicated the province’s commitment to implementing conservationist principles. [18] Indeed, Ontario’s Clerk of Forestry Thomas Southworth praised the 1898 Act as “the inauguration of a scientific forestry system in Ontario.” [19] After his appointment as clerk in 1895, Southworth advocated for Ontario to begin a system of scientific forestry and pushed especially for the government to reserve from settlement portions of the province “that are found to be not well adapted for agricultural purposes.” [20]

Although the Temagami Forest Reserve was not the first reserve created under the Forest Reserves Act, it was by far the largest and the only one that contained large quantities of valuable timber. The other two reserves, the Eastern and the Sibley, contained 125,000 acres of lumbered over and fire-swept land between them, whereas the Temagami reserve alone took up well over 1,000,000 acres, much of which was forested. The province created the first two reserves in hopes that one day, given time and adequate protection from fire, they would become valuable timber resources for Ontario. [21] The TFR was another story, and conservationists were very pleased when Ontario decided to create the forest reserve, which, it was reported, contained more “standing timber” than “that sold since Confederation.” [22] One government official described the region as “a territory of virgin timber, including among other valuable trees many million feet of white and red pine, among which the axe of the lumberman has not yet been heard.” [23] Conservationists considered Temagami an untouched forest that could be turned into a valuable commodity, and Aubrey White, the Assistant Commissioner of Crown Lands, optimistically commented that, with proper management, the government could make the region the most valuable asset in the province and a permanent source of revenue. [24] The setting aside of the TFR received much attention in its day. Conservationists announced it as one of the most significant events in Canadian forestry that year and the popular press supported Ontario’s decision to create the reserve. [25] More recent commentators have also noted the significance of the TFR, calling it the “centrepiece” of Ontario’s forest reserve system and a “crucial event in the history of the North American conservation movement.” [26] The government’s setting aside of the forest reserve and the attention surrounding the event made the Temagami region well known as a timber commodity to be managed as a renewable resource.

At the same time that Temagami was becoming famous for its valuable timber, tourists began to make their way to the region in increasing numbers. In 1899, a steamboat company brochure described Temagami as a “little known district amid the wilds of Canada,” but soon it became known as the “Famous Temagami Region.” [27] Travel writers and tourism promoters publicized Temagami as “nature’s playground” and “a place where you can get close to nature and away from civilization with the least expenditure of money.” [28] By 1905, after the railway arrived in the heart of the region, hundreds of middle- and upper-class white men and women travelled to Temagami each summer to experience wilderness vacations. [29] Temagami became such a fashionable tourist destination that, by 1910, travel writers assumed not only that readers knew of Temagami, but also that they had visited or at least planned to visit the area. [30] Tourists understood Temagami as a site of wild nature, not a site of culture, with writers depicting the region as an “utterly wild” and “unspoiled country.” [31] Tourists perceived differently the same pine trees that forest conservationists viewed as timber commodities. For tourists, trees were an integral part of the wilderness that they travelled to encounter. It was precisely Temagami’s “untouched and unscarred” forests standing in “all their primeval glory” that allowed tourists to feel that they were deep within the wilderness and “far from the haunts of human beings.” [32] Thus, the Temagami wilderness became renowned in two seemingly opposed ways in the early twentieth century.

Yet Temagami’s existence as a wilderness space cannot be taken for granted. For the Teme-Augama Anishnabai, n’Daki Menan has for thousands of years existed as a homeland rather than a pristine wilderness, although relationships between the Teme-Augama Anishnabai and n’Daki Menan have changed over time. At least by the fifteenth century, the Teme-Augama Anishnabai maintained trading relations with the Wendat (Huron) to the south, often relying on Nipissing intermediaries to transport meat and skins south to the Wendat and return north with corn, cornmeal, and pottery produced by the Wendat. The Nipissing also acted as intermediaries when the fur trade with the French began and by the early seventeenth century, the Teme-Augama Anishnabai supplemented the resources available to them on n’Daki Menan with goods acquired from Europe, as well as from other First Nations. [33] However, though later disruptions made it increasingly difficult, n’Daki Menan mainly provided the Teme-Augama Anishnabai with the essentials for survival and served as the cultural and spiritual basis of their identity as a people. [34]

The Teme-Augama Anishnabai governed their use of n’Daki Menan according to a system of family hunting territories, where each family had a responsibility to steward its 200 to 300 square mile territory in a way that ensured the continuity of the species upon which the Teme-Augama Anishnabai depended for survival. [35] These species included but were not limited to: animals such as moose, bear, beaver, and rabbit for food, clothing, trade, and medicine; fish and birds for food; red and white pine, cedar, birch, poplar, and maple trees for homes, barns, utensils, baby boards, tables and chairs, toboggans and snowshoes; birch-bark for canoes, containers, and cutting boards; pine pitch for adhesive; maple trees for paddles and syrup; spruce tree roots for thread and fish nets; and berries and other plants for food and medicine. [36] The Teme-Augama Anishnabai’s land use practices likely existed in part but not entirely because of necessity. In 1913, Chief Aleck Paul gave a speech that cannot be taken completely at face value as it cleverly plays upon its non-Aboriginal audience’s understanding of hunting as a sport rather than a source of subsistence, asserting that white rather than Aboriginal hunters required policing by government officials. Yet the speech also hints at both practical and philosophical reasons for the Teme-Augama Anishnabai’s treatment of the animals upon which they depended:

After the white man kills all the game in one place, he can take the train and go 300 miles or more to another and do the same there. But the Indian cannot do that. He must stay on his own section all the time and support his family on what it produces. [37]

According to Chief Paul, Teme-Augama Anishnabai “families of hunters would never think of damaging the abundance or the source of supply of the game, because that had come to them from their fathers and grandfathers and those behind them.” [38] Indeed, a complex belief system that included rituals of respect for animals taken surrounded Teme-Augama Anishnabai land use practices. [39] I cannot do justice here to the multiple, changing, and continuing relationships between the Teme-Augama Anishnabai and n’Daki Menan, including the extensive use that the Teme-Augama Anishnabai made of the hundreds of species of n’Daki Menan. I do, however, want to be clear that while the Teme-Augama Anishnabai constructed and continue to construct n’Daki Menan — from creation stories that explain how particular land forms came into being to using moss for baby diapers [40] — they constituted it not as a wilderness space, but instead as their homeland to live on and use.

Forest conservationist and tourist conceptions were not the only ideas circulating in the early twentieth century about the place known to some as n’Daki Menan. Unlike Teme-Augama Anishnabai ways of knowing the region, however, conservationist and tourism discourses came to dominate, producing the region as a site of nature rather than culture. Prior to the creation of the TFR, the existence of the region as a site of timber was not self-evident, since the district remained largely the domain of the Teme-Augama Anishnabai. [41] Any number of options for the region therefore remained available, including the possibility of the Teme-Augama Anishnabai continuing their existence as a self-governing people on n’Daki Menan. Although the future of the region had not yet been determined, observers had certainly commented upon its timber potential. As Hodgins and Benidickson point out, the consideration of the area as a site for a forest reserve was based on evidence accumulated from a number of sources, including Geological Survey of Canada reports, railway and provincial line surveys, and even the personal experiences of Department of Crown Lands representatives who travelled through the region by canoe in 1899. [42] The Ontario government’s move to legislate the TFR into existence, however, was what made the region (in law) into a timber commodity, the raw material of culture. The Forest Reserves Act dictated that reserves created under it were to provide timber, period. As one clause stated: “… no lands within the boundaries of such reserves shall be sold, leased or otherwise disposed of, and no person shall locate, settle upon, use or occupy any such land, or hunt, fish, shoot, trap or spear or carry or use fire arms or explosives within or upon such reserves. [43] As I shall discuss below, while this Act clearly defined forest reserves as areas whose sole purpose was to produce timber — the clause cited above excluded virtually every other possibility — in practice, things were much more ambiguous. But in spite of ambiguities on the ground, the idea of the region as a timber commodity nevertheless succeeded in gaining the status of the truth, with the TFR becoming a product of nature rather than culture, and the Teme-Augama Anishnabai’s very different understandings of and relationships with the region being displaced and erased.

In banning settlement within the TFR, Ontario did more than simply set aside for timber production lands unfit for settlement, but rather produced as unfit for settlement lands upon which the Teme-Augama Anishnabai had considered themselves settled for many generations. In so doing, the government imposed an implicitly racialized definition of settlement in which the Teme-Augama Anishnabai’s form of inhabiting the land simply did not count as settlement. Government officials saw no contradiction in recommending the setting aside of the TFR even as they knew that “a small band of Indians” resided within the proposed reserve. [44] Indians, it appeared, could not be settled upon land they occupied. This view, consistent with the British imperialist perspective that shaped Canadian Indian policy more generally, held that “uncivilized” peoples, particularly if they did not cultivate their lands according to European standards, were not land owners or settlers, but were mere occupants of the lands that they inhabited. [45] Indeed, Ontario felt confident that the Indians living within the proposed TFR had neither “actual ownership” of the area nor “proprietary rights over any particular territory.” [46]

The Temagami region could become famous as a “virgin territory well timbered with Pine” only through the denial of the Teme-Augama Anishnabai’s presence in and claim to n’Daki Menan. [47] The land, after all, could not easily exist simultaneously as “virgin” and “inhabited” or “settled.” Although the Forest Reserves Act legislated the TFR as a site of timber, thus legally erasing the prior existence of n’Daki Menan as Teme-Augama Anishnabai territory, government officials had to deal with the fact that the Teme-Augama Anishnabai continued to live within what had become the TFR. It was one thing to erase people in law, but another thing to erase them in practice. And in spite of forest conservationists’ fantasy that the “wandering race of hunters [was] gradually melting away,” the Teme-Augama Anishnabai showed no signs of disappearing and refused to sit back quietly and allow their lands to be controlled by outsiders. [48] Instead, beginning in the late 1870s, when they first considered their territory threatened by non-Native lumbering activities taking place on its fringes, the Teme-Augama Anishnabai attempted to protect themselves by getting the federal government to create a reserve for them and guarantee them fishing and hunting rights similar to those granted to nearby First Nations who had signed the Robinson-Huron Treaty. By 1880, Teme-Augama Anishnabai Chief Tonene had approached Indian agent Charles Skene several times, stating that his band had “never ceded our Land” and asking for Skene’s assistance in securing a reserve for the band before white men actually encroached upon their territory. [49] The Department of Indian Affairs (DIA), though slow to act, considered the Teme-Augama Anishnabai’s request to be fair and asked Ontario permission to create a reserve for the First Nation , since n’Daki Menan now existed, according to government officials at least, as part of the province of Ontario. In spite of the fact that the DIA first contacted the provincial government about this matter in 1885, Ontario ignored the DIA’s letters for many years so that, by the time Ontario created the TFR in 1901, the matter of a reserve for the Teme-Augama Anishnabai had not been resolved. [50]

One way that provincial officials negotiated the contradiction of the Teme-Augama Anishnabai’s presence inside the TFR was to construct the Teme-Augama Anishnabai in relation to the forest reserve. Forestry Clerk Thomas Southworth, for example, figured that the Teme-Augama Anishnabai’s presence in the forest reserve would be good for both Ontario and the First Nation since Teme-Augama Anishnabai members could do “the work of caring for and operating the territory,” an activity that would be “profitable for them.” [51] Assistant Commissioner of Crown Lands Aubrey White agreed with Southworth that members of the Teme-Augama Anishnabai should be hired to care for the forest reserve, but his reasoning had more to do with trying to dissuade them from burning down the forest than with arranging a mutually beneficial relationship between the Aboriginal community and the Department of Crown Lands. White worried that if anything arose to disturb the Teme-Augama Anishnabai within the Temagami Forest Reserve, “the result might be very dangerous and even disastrous.” [52] They might become “enemies, ready to set fire [to the forest] wherever they considered it would do harm.” [53] White’s fear that the Teme-Augama Anishnabai might burn the forest points to an interesting tension. It reflects on the one hand a lack of understanding of the relationship between the Teme-Augama Anishnabai and n’Daki Menan, which had nothing to do with Ontario’s forest conservation scheme. The Teme-Augama Anishnabai traditionally set fires on small islands in n’Daki Menan. They did not, however, do this in order to undermine the government’s attempt to manage the forest, but rather to generate the growth of berries for their own consumption, as well as to attract food animals. [54] On the other hand, White’s fear suggests that government officials at least occasionally felt uncertain about the state’s ability to control lands inhabited by Aboriginal peoples. A story often repeated by proponents of forest conservation in Ontario told of how one of the “worst fires that Ontario has ever seen was lighted by an Indian who wanted to keep the white man out of his hunting grounds.” [55] White insisted that the best way to prevent such an occurrence in the TFR was to deal with the Indians and “half breeds” there “in a broad and generous spirit,” which to him meant allowing them to fish, hunt, and work as guides and assistant fire rangers inside the forest reserve. [56]

Regardless of whether the Teme-Augama Anishnabai were positioned as potential helpers or hinderers of the forest reserve, they were created in relation to it and not to n’Daki Menan. Simultaneously, n’Daki Menan was created as a timber commodity and not in relation to the Teme-Augama Anishnabai. Thus, while the Teme-Augama Anishnabai remained on n’Daki Menan after the creation of the TFR, the previously inextricably linked bodies — the Teme-Augama Anishnabai and n’Daki Menan — were torn apart and placed separately into the context of conservation. Thus constituted, it became possible for the Teme-Augama Anishnabai and n’Daki Menan to exist without reference to one another and for the Teme-Augama Anishnabai’s claim to and special relationships with n’Daki Menan based on years of intimate encounters to be rendered invisible.

As a result, White was able to say in 1911 that his department had “treated the Indians there [in the TFR] in a very generous way.” [57] In 1910, he assured the DIA that the Department of Crown Lands had not disturbed the “Indians who are resident in the Forest Reserve and they are permitted to roam about there over a much larger area than they could expect to get in an Indian Reserve, and they are employed as fire rangers and guides and our information is that they are quite contented to be left as they are.” [58] The Teme-Augama Anishnabai, who did not see themselves or their claim to n’Daki Menan as existing in relation to the TFR, did not consider their treatment by the Ontario government as generous in the least. Band members expressed their frustration that they were being asked to vacate their houses, that they were forced to get permission from the Chief Fire Ranger to cut even firewood, and that they were forbidden to cut timber and build houses. [59] The Teme-Augama Anishnabai continually pressed their claim for a reserve and by the time White made the above statements, the Temagami band had sent delegations and petitions, as well as a number of letters, to the DIA, all in attempt to urge a decision from the department about their reserve. [60] One fairly typical petition, written in 1907, read:

We have been asking for a reserve on Lake Temagami for [illegible number] years. We were offered a reserve a few years ago, but did not get it. We see that the Government gave reserves to all the Indians north of us last summer, and we do not know of any Band but ourselves who have not their own reserves. We have no land that we can settle on. We wish you would help us to get a reserve. [61]

The petition is signed by 51 women and men.

Meanwhile, the province authorized a number of activities to take place in the TFR, including timber cutting, mining, prospecting, and tourism. Though regulations under the Forest Reserves Act were designed to ensure that these activities did not lead to forest fires and the loss of valuable timber, Ontario was well aware of the fact that many of the activities it permitted threatened to destroy the timber that the reserve was designed to protect. [62] Right from the planning stages of the TFR, however, government officials considered it “inadvisable” to exclude tourists and even mining interests from the TFR, but thought that regulations under the Forest Reserves Act would allow the province “more perfect control” of all activities taking place in the region. [63] As Hodgins and Benidickson have argued, Ontario did not ultimately succeed in creating the TFR according to forest conservationist principles. [64] The region, therefore, was not created entirely effectively as a timber commodity.

In the ten years after the reserve’s creation, however, n’Daki Menan came to make sense as a timber reserve, with the result that the Teme-Augama Anishnabai found themselves unable to get Canadian governments to recognize even a small part of n’Daki Menan as belonging to the First Nation. In 1910, the provincial government was able successfully to use the TFR as the reason for refusing to create a reserve on n’Daki Menan. By 1897, Aubrey White had received at least three letters from the DIA outlining the Teme-Augama Anishnabai’s claim and requesting that representatives from the two governments get together to discuss the matter of a reserve for the Temagami band. [65] Although White ignored or responded only cursorily to those letters, in his memorandum recommending the creation of the TFR, he stated that part of the reason that Ontario had refused to cooperate with the Indian Department in setting aside a reserve for the Teme-Augama Anishnabai was that the provincial government knew about the “great quantities of Pine” in the area. [66] It was not until 1906, after Teme-Augama Anishnabai members had gone to Ottawa to press their claim for a reserve and the DIA had written yet another letter to the Ontario government about the matter, that White finally responded for Ontario by stating that the province could not “see its way” to granting the department’s request. [67] White offered no explanation for the Ontario government’s decision, even when asked by the Deputy Superintendent General of Indian Affairs. [68] When in 1910 the Teme-Augama Anishnabai again reminded the DIA of their claim and the DIA again wrote to the province, White responded with a tentative answer from Ontario explaining that since the Robinson-Huron Treaty did not provide for a reserve for the Temagami band, and since it was important to preserve the timber in the area, he could not promise a favourable reply to the department’s request. [69] The DIA wrote back saying that the fact that the Temagami band was not represented at the signing of the treaty should not “prejudice their right to the benefits arising from that treaty.” [70] Nevertheless, Ontario’s response was that the minister was “unable to recommend the setting apart of an Indian Reserve in the Temagami Forest Reserve” for the reasons given in White’s previous letter. [71]

Not surprisingly, the reasons White offered to the DIA for Ontario’s supposed inability to create a reserve for the Teme-Augama Anishnabai were the same ones he gave in his internal memorandum recommending the setting aside of the TFR: that Ontario had no legal obligation to create an Indian reserve and that great quantities of timber existed in the area which needed to be protected. What is interesting is when the Ontario government chose to explain to Indian Affairs its refusal to create a reserve for the Teme-Augama Anishnabai. The federal government first requested that the provincial government consider creating a reserve for the Temagami band in 1885, [72] and the provincial government had a firm answer at least by the time White wrote his 1901 forest reserve memorandum. Yet for another nine years, the province refused to answer federal requests about its position on the matter. This time lapse was significant because, by 1910, it had become possible for Ontario to cite the existence of the forest reserve and the need to protect timber as central reasons for denying the Teme-Augama Anishnabai a reserve. White’s 1910 declaration was not possible in 1901, because the forest reserve was then too new to make sense as a reason to deny a reserve to an Indian band that everyone recognized had resided in the area long before the creation of the TFR. Yet in 1910, despite the continued protests of the Teme-Augama Anishnabai, Ontario’s reasoning made enough sense to the DIA that instead of pressing the claims of the Teme-Augama Anishnabai further, the department wrote to the Teme-Augama Anishnabai to inform them that Ontario “positively refused to set apart an Indian reserve in the Temagami Forest Reserve.” [73] The fact that the Teme-Augama Anishnabai had continuously pressed their claim since at least 1877, 24 years before the TFR was created, was conveniently forgotten through this historically reversed logic.

This logic became possible not simply with time, but through active steps taken by Ontario within this time to legislate and regulate non-Native people into, and the Teme-Augama Anishnabai out of, the TFR. For example, non-Native people were allowed to extract timber from the forest reserve — after all, “a reserve from which no lumber is taken would not be serving its full purpose” [74] — while the Teme-Augama Anishnabai were denied the right to use their territory as they had always done. The Teme-Augama Anishnabai actively resisted the logic that evicted them from n’Daki Menan. For example, upon learning that the Ontario government refused to grant the Teme-Augama Anishnabai a reserve because of the value of the timber in the region, Chief Paul wrote in 1917 to the DIA, “We think that we deserve to have something on our reserve. We have been here before any government was born in Canada.” [75] The Teme-Augama Anishnabai not only saw through Ontario’s logic, but consistently insisted upon their own claim to n’Daki Menan. In spite of their efforts, however, their articulations went unheard and their activities were increasingly policed by government officials acting under the authority of the Forest Reserves Act. The naturalization of the region as a forest reserve for the purpose of timber conservation thus authorized the forgetting and legislative removal of Aboriginal title to n’Daki Menan.

Today, resource extraction and wilderness tourism are usually understood as antithetical, but such was not the case in early twentieth-century Temagami. Proponents of the TFR considered that the region could be both a timber reserve and “a beautiful and healthful resort for our people for all time.” [76] Though on paper timber conservation was the primary objective of the TFR, in practice forestry goals existed alongside other government objectives, such as protecting the sources of streams, sheltering game and wildlife, and serving as a recreational destination. [77] The Forest Reserves Act was not the first legislation in Ontario to bring together these seemingly diverse objectives. Similar priorities informed the creation of Algonquin Park in 1893. [78] But beyond the theoretical compatibility of tourism and timber production, these activities fit together in other ways as well. Because of Ontario’s banning of settlement in the TFR and plan to keep the region perpetually forested, tourists could consider the area one of the few spaces that would be preserved as “a bit of God’s wilderness.” [79] The provincial government in fact took active measures to ensure that tourists encountered the Temagami wilderness of their imaginations rather than a landscape altered by industry. For example, while the government permitted power companies to dam lakes and cut timber in the TFR, the companies had to remove trees drowned by the raising levels of the lakes so that tourists would not encounter dead trees at the shoreline, and also had to cut the timber they needed from places far enough from the shoreline that tourists could not see deforested areas from their canoes. [80] Thus, the physical space of Temagami was shaped by tourists’ expectations, and tourists’ expectations became reality through the regulations designed explicitly for that purpose. In this way, tourism, like logging, constituted the region materially.

Although the Ontario government facilitated tourists’ perception that they visited a pristine wilderness, it was primarily within travel writing about Temagami that the region was created as a wilderness destination for tourists. In the following section, my analysis relies largely upon travel writing published in hunting and fishing magazines, by far the most popular of which was Rod and Gun in Canada, which by 1913 enjoyed a circulation of approximately 18,000. [81]Rod and Gun had as its mandate to inform readers about the best places in Canada to canoe, shoot game, and catch fish, and it also supported fish, game, and forest conservation. The magazine’s advocacy of forest conservation — reflected in its offer to act as the official organ of the Canadian Forestry Association, the Canadian forest conservation movement’s central organization [82] — provides another example of the compatibility of tourism and forestry. According to an editorial explaining the magazine’s decision to provide a publication outlet for the Canadian Forestry Association, tourism in the form of wilderness hunting trips depended not only on “wise game laws,” but also on forest conservation, which was said to be “the very foundation on which the game superstructure has to be reared.” [83]Rod and Gun emphasized the importance of state management of forests, fish, and wildlife. As Tina Loo has demonstrated for wildlife conservation in Canada, the fight for conservation in the early twentieth century was a racialized and classed struggle in which society’s élite subjects fought to have their image of nature authorized (and policed) by the state. While conservation policies outlawed the subsistence hunting activities of rural Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal residents, such policies simultaneously authorized urban outsiders to treat rural areas as their personal sport-hunting playgrounds. [84]

Patricia Jasen has demonstrated that the culture, economics, and politics of Ontario tourism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries relied on the “romantic sensibility.” [85] As the tendency to value the so-called wild in nature spread from Europe to North America, particularly among the upper and middle classes, tourists began to seek out destinations in Ontario that fit into romantic ideals, for example those containing sublime elements such as waterfalls and dark forests or picturesque features such as roughness and variety in the natural landscape. Promoters of tourism in turn packaged and sold romantic images in an attempt to stimulate tourists’ imaginations enough that they might board trains and boats and travel to distant places to spend their money to experience the wild in nature. [86] Thus, it is no coincidence that the promotion of Temagami tourism occurred through the selling of the romantic. It is easy to understand why those with vested interests in tourism relied on romanticism to promote Temagami, given, as Jasen’s analysis shows, the success that promoters in other regions of Ontario already had in commodifying the romantic. But travel writers, too, relied on romantic tropes to describe Temagami. While many of them did not have a financial investment in representing the region along romantic lines, they likely did so in order to conform to the norms of the genre and the expectations of their readers.

Most often, Temagami travel writers relied on romantic notions of the picturesque to describe the area, characterizing Temagami as a “bit of nature in her wildest, most picturesque dress,” and as a “wondrous nature picture” produced by “the mighty World-Maker.” [87] Authors also described the region using romantic ideas of the sublime, but these kinds of descriptions appeared with less frequency than did picturesque depictions. Likely the greater emphasis on the picturesque in Temagami travel writing resulted from the decline of the concept of the sublime in the latter half of the nineteenth century. As ever more tourists, along with the railways and hotels that brought and accommodated them, arrived in places previously associated with the sublime, the awe-inspiring character of these places became considered domesticated, replaced by the less dramatic if more comfortable picturesque. [88] Nevertheless, the sublime appeared occasionally in Temagami travel writing. One writer, for example, noted that “the awful stillness of the recesses of the dark interior of the forest impressed itself upon me more than ever, and yet, it was all so thrilling and gently exhilarating.” Another felt that an encounter with the Temagami wilderness brought “the spirit face to face with the primeval and eternal.” [89]

Also consistent with romanticism and, specifically, with the romantic association between landscape and history, the Temagami forest became particularly infused with romantic feeling. The forest was imagined not only as “brooding,” but also as ancient, part of a fading past. Hotel and steamship operator Dan O’Connor, for instance, advertised that tourists in the TFR had the privilege of seeing “the same stately monarchs that red men gazed upon with awe when the Hudson’s Bay Co. ruled supreme 200 years ago.” Similarly, travel writers often characterized the Temagami forest as “virgin” and “primeval,” and one author described a voyage down the Temagami River as a tour through “regions of grand antiquity,” where it became possible to “lose yourself among the shades of former ages when the forest patriarchs and the red-man dwelt in unmolested security.” [90] Tourist promoters banked on the idea that these “silent places” were disappearing with the “march of Empire” and “white man[’s] ceaseless search for the earth’s endowments,” and advertised Temagami as a place where tourists could escape the forward movement of time and access both traces of a past era and the nostalgia associated with the passing of a previous time. As an advertisement for the Grand Trunk Railway put it:

A little while and the ‘forest primeval’ shall be no more. In all probability we of this generation will be the last to relate to our grandchildren the stirring stories of the hunt in the wild forests of Canada. Therefore, it behooves you, O mighty hunter, to go forth and capture your caribou or moose while you may. [91]

According to Jasen, the association between wilderness and the past was a consistent feature in nineteenth-century romantic tourism. The idea that wild places would inevitably pass away made them all the more attractive as tourist destinations, since tourists could visit these ancient places, experience the nostalgic feelings associated with their inevitable decline, and come to know themselves as modern subjects. [92] Embedded in the understanding that the virgin forest exists in the past is a narrative of progress, where the destruction of the virgin forest appears as the necessary result of European history’s inevitable unfolding. Both conservationists and travel writers took it for granted that the emergence of “civilized conditions” in Canada necessitated the disappearance of the wild forest. But while conservationists called for the replacement of such a forest with a timber-producing commodity, the Grand Trunk Railway merely encouraged tourists to visit the Temagami forest before it was too late. One key difference between conservation and tourism discourses was the way that they figured the relationship between the Temagami forest and time. Within tourism discourse, the forest existed in the past, but in forestry discourse it existed as the present and future of the region. I will return shortly to explain how this distinction led to different understandings within tourism and conservation discourses about the role of the Teme-Augama Anishnabai in the region. First, however, I look specifically at how travel writing’s positioning of the forest as existing in the past worked simultaneously to situate the Teme-Augama Anishnabai as “the living embodiment of the archaic ‘primitive’.” [93]

In Temagami tourism literature, writers constructed Native people as fixed in a previous time in part through writing nostalgically about the supposedly inevitable decline and disappearance of Native people and their ways of life. One author, for instance, devoted an entire article to reflecting upon all the work the “woods Indian” did to help the white race get its footing in the north, and noted with a sense of regret that Aboriginal people “led the way and did the work for the civilization which eventually will swallow them up.” Other writers similarly found it sad that the “race [was] dying out” and that the “genuine Ojibway, a fine type of old woods Indian [was] now fast disappearing.” Some writers went so far as to pre-empt the disappearance of Aboriginal people by writing them out of Temagami stories completely. As an article in the Globe stated, “For here it was that the Ojibways had their home …. The wigwams, with the circling smoke, have disappeared, and in their place are the tents of holidaymakers or prospectors.” [94]

Aboriginal people’s physical presence in the present did not discourage travel writers from constructing them as a race in decline whose contemporary existence was only temporary. A particularly telling advertisement encouraged tourists to hire Aboriginal guides in Temagami, stating:

They will be the best guides you ever had, and they will take you through the rivers, lakes, forests and hunting grounds their forefathers once called home, they will tell you the tricks and habits of the bears, beavers, moose, caribou and deer. Ah! the Indians know, for once they were mightier hunters than ancient Nimrod.

This advertisement makes sense only through a logic in which it was possible for living Aboriginal people to guide tourists through a land known not by the guides themselves but by the guides’ “forefathers,” who “once” understood the region as home. It is as though the guides were ghosts. This advertisement, in which Aboriginal people exist in the past and yet are required in the present to “paddle your canoe in their own superb way,” reveals the work that went into imaginatively emptying peopled lands of people, thus making room for white tourists. [95]

The displacement of Aboriginal people in time worked in Temagami travel narratives alongside the representation of them as something with which the Temagami region was wild with. By collapsing Native people into wilderness, travel writers did not have to concern themselves with the contradiction of representing the region as virgin and uninhabited while simultaneously recognizing the Aboriginal presence. As Canadian Pacific Railway Colonization Agent and Temagami tourist L.O. Armstrong stated in 1900, “Many will sympathize with us in the delight we experienced in being in an uninhabited country; uninhabited, that is except by those oldest families of the north.” Obviously Armstrong and his party’s “delight” at being in an uninhabited land was not ruined by the presence of Aboriginal people. Another writer echoed Armstrong’s sentiments, stating that his party craved land “untrammeled by the foot of man, unsullied by his hand,” and were fortunate enough to find Temagami, which was inhabited by “the bears, the moose and even Indians.” [96]

The association between Native people and wilderness space worked not only to construct Aboriginal people as part of the past, but also to hold them at an early stage of development. As McClintock states, according to this logic, colonized people “do not inhabit history proper but exist in a permanently anterior time within the geographic space of the modern empire.” [97] Thus, the Teme-Augama Anishnabai were displaced within travel literature not only from the contemporary moment, but also from any hope of developing into full adults, or even full humans. They consistently appeared as “children of the forest,” “children of the wild,” and “children of nature … notwithstanding that some of them are grey.” [98] As one writer bluntly stated, “the average Indian differs from the average white in character as the child differs from the man — he is less developed.” Other contributors offered more nuanced analyses. C.C. Farr, for example, a former Hudson’s Bay Company employee who often wrote about his travels through the Temagami area, figured that context was everything. When he travelled in the bush with his Native guides, he was impressed by how “spontaneously and unconsciously [the guides’] knowledge would peep out … without effort, instinctively.” In the guides’ “natural habitat,” Farr figured it only commonsense to let them handle everything. In town, on the other hand, Farr thought that the guides “appeared somewhat ungainly, and incongruous,” and he felt “obliged to extend a kind of protectional aegis over their ignorance of surrounding conditions.” Another writer similarly saw the “wild and unspoiled Indian … [as] a mass of contradictions.” “Capture one of these wild men of the woods,” he said, “bring him to our civilization, and his intelligence seems far below that of a child; but in his own wilderness he is a different creature, and, pitted against him, we are forced to acknowledge his infinite superiority.” [99]

The common message given by travel writers that Aboriginal people belonged in the bush but could not survive in civilization worked to contain Native people in time. Such representations disallowed the possibility that Aboriginal people had the potential to become “civilized,” and thus to survive the modern era. In fact, when tourists found evidence that members of the Teme-Augama Anishnabai negotiated modernity quite well — one writer commented, for example, that in addition to their own language, many members of the Temagami band spoke English and French fluently — they seemed unsure of how to respond and generally dismissed this kind of behaviour as out of keeping with true Aboriginal character. [100] On the other hand, writers seemed to relish moments when Aboriginal people appeared “properly” Aboriginal. One writer, for instance, felt disappointed that he had dropped his camera into the lake, because he had planned to photograph “a few favorite poses of my guide David, which I knew would interest my friends.” [101] By insisting that Native people belonged in the wilderness, travel writers attempted to keep them in wilderness time (i.e., the past), a time, they assumed, that was almost at its end.

Interestingly, the virgin nature into which travel writers confined Native people was the same physical place from which government officials attempted to evict members of the Teme-Augama Anishnabai, or at least to restrict severely Teme-Augama Anishnabai activities that did not relate to the forest reserve. Although both tourist and conservationist discourses constructed Aboriginal peoples in ways that served their own imaginations of and interests in the region, the position of Aboriginal people in the two discourses differed quite substantially. Within tourism discourse, there was room for an Aboriginal presence in Temagami, but not an Aboriginal present. In forestry discourse, on the other hand, there was little room even for an Aboriginal presence, and Indians in the forest reserve provided a considerable source of anxiety for government administrators. While conservationists and travel writers concurred that Aboriginal peoples were part of the past rather than the present or future, their different understandings of when in time the Temagami forest existed caused them to disagree about whether or not Teme-Augama Anishnabai members belonged inside the TFR.

Travel writers’ representation of Aboriginal people as an element of Temagami wilderness facilitated the white tourist invasion of Teme-Augama Anishnabai territory. Because the land appeared as wild with Indians, it could exist as wild for tourists. There was little room in this imagination for the acknowledgement that the Teme-Augama Anishnabai had a right to their land, as well as relationships with and responsibilities toward their territory and its human and non-human inhabitants that tourists did not understand. Tourists’ sense of entitlement to the Temagami region did not, however, come only from travel writers’ convenient representations of Aboriginal people. More directly, Temagami appeared as wild for tourists because travel literature stated just that: God or nature had created the Temagami region for the pleasure of (especially male) tourists. As one writer asserted, the fact that Temagami lacked cultivatable soil was an indication of God “decreeing and setting apart this whole region of hundreds of miles in every direction as a great game preserve.” God had in fact, according to this author, provided Temagami’s “most beautiful scenery … for the refreshment of his children.” The title of the article, “Timagami [sic], a Region Organized by Nature for real Sport,” clearly revealed its author’s perspective. Other writers shared his point of view and characterized Temagami as “the northern Ontario paradise … truly a sportsman’s Garden of Eden,” and as “practically virgin territory for the sportsman.” [102] The construction of Temagami as a natural space made for tourists implicitly produced tourists as innocent subjects who merely received this place, and created tourism as an act of passive consumption rather than of active appropriation. Thus, while travel writing helped to make the Temagami area into a wilderness space that could then be consumed by tourists, the disappearance of this creative act from the writing itself made this process unintelligible, thereby allowing Temagami to appear as wild — thanks to nature (or God) — for tourists. As Mary Louise Pratt states in another context, travel writers were able to “subsume culture and history into nature.” [103]

While travel writers constructed Aboriginal peoples as part of a fading wilderness, tourists also depended on the Teme-Augama Anishnabai to facilitate their wilderness adventures. The Teme-Augama Anishnabai, because of Ontario’s refusal to grant them a reserve in addition to the restrictions placed on their activities under the Forest Reserves Act, likewise found themselves increasingly dependent on the tourist industry for survival. Yet Temagami tourism also played a role in the colonization of Teme-Augama Anishnabai lands. The encroachment of thousands of tourists onto n’Daki Menan every summer certainly altered Teme-Augama Anishnabai relationships with their territory. Most Teme-Augama Anishnabai members participated in the tourism industry in some capacity, for example, as guides for campers’ canoe trips, cooks or helpers at camps and hotels that appeared in the region, or drivers of steamboats that transported tourists through the Temagami lakes. At least to some extent, this work interrupted the Teme-Augama Anishnabai’s yearly summer gatherings during which members fished together, made political decisions and conducted marriage ceremonies. [104] Ontario’s leasing to cottagers of islands that the Teme-Augama Anishnabai considered to be in their territory also represented a tourist impact on the Teme-Augama Anishnabai. Similarly, though the Teme-Augama Anishnabai attempted to maintain their family hunting territories, the arrival of the railway that brought tourists to Temagami cut through some of these territories, thus also disrupting Teme-Augama Anishnabai winter activities. [105] Temagami tourists and tourism promoters were sometimes resource developers as well — for example, Dan O’Connor quit the hotel business to stake mining claims in Temagami [106] — and as a result, wilderness vacations often had lasting effects, for instance in the form of silver and copper mines. The construction of a virgin pine forest for tourists to visit certainly had material consequences for members of the Teme-Augama Anishnabai, who found themselves increasingly marginalized from their territory.

While tourists may have travelled to Temagami in order to visit the “scattered remnant of once mighty tribes” in the last of the “wild forests of Canada,” it appears that they often did not get what they came for. [107] Instead of finding a wilderness designed for their enjoyment, they encountered a confusing new place, full of lakes and rocks and dense forests, a place that they did not know how to negotiate, but that other people knew well. And contrary to what some travel writers said, it did not seem that those other people were either “dying out” or particularly “anxious” to teach tourists “all the forest secrets at once.” [108] Instead, Teme-Augama Anishnabai members did much of the work that made the leisure of white tourists possible and tried to make a situation largely not of their creation work to their advantage. Tourists complained, for example, that their guides charged high rates and that guides sometimes left one tourist party for another offering higher rates, thus leaving the first party “helpless to get about.” [109] But while tourists may not have experienced the Temagami of their imaginations, Temagami travel writing made the region famous as a pristine wilderness, emphasizing when Native people looked and acted the proper parts to fulfill this imagination. One author, for instance, mentioned that his guide was “stoical as a cigar store Indian.” [110] Writers were much less impressed when Native people showed themselves to be part of a changing rather than static culture, finding it “ludicrous” when Aboriginal people “imitate[ed] white people in dress” or listened to music on a gramophone. [111] Many more people could afford to read about Temagami wilderness vacations than take them and so travel writing became an important vehicle in the production of place. It was through this writing and readers’ consumption of it more than tourists’ encounters with the region — encounters that were full of ambivalences, full of un-imaginary Indians, full of getting lost in an unfamiliar landscape — that Temagami came to make sense as a wild space for tourists to visit rather than as the Teme-Augama Anishnabai’s n’Daki Menan.

By the 1980s, logging and tourism were no longer linked possibilities for the Temagami wilderness. Environmentalists fought, after all, for a wilderness to visit against a wilderness to harvest. What remained in place from the early twentieth century, however, was the constitution of the region as wilderness. Within this framework, the Teme-Augama Anishnabai’s claim to n’Daki Menan again disappeared, in spite of the fact that the Teme-Augama Anishnabai were in the midst of taking their claim through the Canadian court system, asking the courts to recognize the First Nation’s title to “all of the lands, including the waters and lands under the waters,” that comprised n’Daki Menan. [112] Unlike in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when Teme-Augama Anishnabai members struggled to have a reserve set aside for them, as well as for the right to fish and hunt in their traditional territory, in the 1980s the Teme-Augama Anishnabai used the language of Canadian law to argue that their rights to their territory had never been extinguished, and that those rights guaranteed them exclusive possession of n’Daki Menan not restricted to any specific use. [113] Thus, at the same time that environmentalists struggled to save a pristine wilderness, the Teme-Augama Anishnabai battled to have the same region recognized not as wilderness, but as n’Daki Menan. A year before the environmental protests, the Teme-Augama Anishnabai set up their own roadblocks on Red Squirrel Road to prevent logging on land they claimed as their own. Teme-Augama Anishnabai Chief Gary Potts spoke out not only against the industrial logging of the region, stating that it would create “a desert,” but also against the environmentalist vision, which would make the region into “a zoo.” [114] In spite of the fact that Teme-Augama Anishnabai actions remained separate from those of environmentalists, most often the media reported the two groups as having the same interest: protecting the wilderness. As one article stated, “Native people and conservationists are fighting in the courts to preserve one of the last stands of old-growth pine in Ontario.” [115] This kind of representation reflects the durability, in part the product of early twentieth century forest conservation and tourism discourses, of the association between Temagami and wilderness. It also reveals the common perception of Aboriginal peoples as inherently ecological beings. [116]

Hidden in wilderness are the historical discourses and colonial relationships of power through which wilderness came into existence. The purpose of revealing such discourses and relationships is not merely to show that there is more than one story about this place. Rather it is to demonstrate how some stories, to paraphrase Julie Cruikshank, adorn, cover, and ultimately obscure prior stories, in the case of Temagami the stories of n’Daki Menan as Teme-Augama Anishnabai territory and not a wilderness for non-Native people to visit or to cut down. [117] By revealing some of the processes through which Temagami came to be understood as a wild space, I aim to participate in the effort to break this story’s hold on the truth, thus creating room for alternative stories to be heard and different futures — which include Teme-Augama Anishnabai self-determination on n’Daki Menan — to be imagined.

Parties annexes