Janelle Baker

McGill University
Ph.D. candidate

Supervisor: Colin H. Scott
Ismael Vaccaro
Start: 2012-09-04
End: 2017-10-01
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Cree knowledge of wild food contamination in the oil sands region
My core objective is to investigate Cree indicators for wild food contamination by exploring how their traditional environmental knowledge and ethnoecological worldview inform the concept of contamination. While several current research projects look at wild food use and contamination in Indigenous communities, in-depth studies that focus on culturally relevant indicators for wild food contamination are almost entirely lacking. My approach differs from simply locating and lab-testing foods that Cree people identify as being contaminated in two ways: first, by examining in-depth the ‘diagnostics’ and ‘etiologies’ implicit in Cree ecological knowledge of environmental contamination specifically and Cree criteria for food quality more generally; and second, by considering this ethnoecology from the standpoint of cultural theory on concepts of ‘pollution’ and ‘risk’, as well as political ecological understandings of the power relations to which indigenous knowledges are subject in public policy evaluation and management of pollutants. As expanding industrial development puts pressure on remote communities worldwide, indigenous knowledge about wild food contamination and accessibility to a secure and safe food supply are becoming increasingly relevant.


indigeneous people, environmental anthropology, wild food harvesting, medicine, contamination