Subsistence is greater than sustenance : developing a framework to interpret the continued colonization of Alaska Natives
Madelyn Irene Poehlein
May 9, 2018
Department or Program
Politics - Environmental Studies
Elleni Centime Zeleke
As I discovered through my experiences in Alaska Native villages on St. Lawrence Island, continued colonial relationships manifest through contradictions. Through this thesis, I attempt to process these contradictions by exploring similarly contradictory stories that have shaped the relationship of Alaska Natives to the state of Alaska. My engagement with contradictory stories begins to answer three questions: First, what type of colonialism is present in Alaska? Second, how are present manifestations of colonialism linked to environmental degradation? And third, how is the American ideal of equality before the law complicated by the settler colonial state? Through the body of my work, I discuss nuances surrounding the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), arguing that the relationship between Alaska Natives and the state that was defined by this act continues to oppress Indigenous people and facilitate the long term settler colonial project of Indigenous erasure. Next, I build upon my exploration of ANCSA through a case study of the debate surrounding drilling in the 1002 area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), arguing that environmental degradation is integral to continued settler colonialism. Then, I bring postcolonial studies, settler colonial studies, Indigenous critical theory, and ecocritical theory into conversation to discuss themes that weave through these stories ultimately theorizing the structures behind the contradictory reality I experienced on St. Lawrence Island.