Industry Divides and Raven Sets Things Right


Industry Divides and Raven Sets Things Right

Karl Frost, PhD Ecology (UC Davis), Erasmus Mundus Postdoctoral Fellow (Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona)

Monday Nov 21, 4:10pm -5:00pm

273 SS&H, UC Davis

On August 13, 2016, the Haida First Nation in western Canada held an historic potlach, “Raven Always Sets Things Right”.  Reviving traditions not used in living memory, they held a feast to strip two men of their names and roles as clan spokesmen due to their collaboration with the Enbridge oil pipeline company in the face of the consensus of clan and matriarchs to oppose the movement of oil through Haida waters. This feast was a new tactic developed out of remembered traditions, used to protect the nation and their environment against the pervasive “Divide and Conquer” strategy of extraction industry. It was part of the dance of innovation and diffusion of mutually adapting strategies for asserting legitimacy in territorial control, played out by industry and First Nations. This in turn is embedded in the coupled human-environment system of people, salmon, water, and fossil fuel transportation in western Canada.

As an anthropologist documenting dynamic and divisive issues in communities, we should be aware of the impacts of our research in both product and process. We have the capacity through documentation to help ‘set the record right’ in politically meaningful ways. As travelers amongst communities, we have the capacity to serve those communities through facilitating inter-community communication.  This may positively influence outcomes in the fights over legitimacy, territorial control and environmental sustainability.


Karl Frost is a recent PhD graduate from UC Davis in Ecology, with an emphasis in Environmental Policy and Human Ecology.  At Davis, he was part of the Cultural Evolution Lab, studying the cultural dynamics of altruism and cooperation.  His field work over the course of 3 years has been in the context of the interlocking issues of First Nations sovereignty, environmental protection, oil and gas transportation, and direct action grass roots resistance.  He has spent time working in the communities and  traditional territories of the Wet’suet’en, Gitksan, Tsimshian, Haida, Tahltan, and Heiltsuk First Nations, including putting in some elbow grease at the direct action land occupation projects of Unist’ot’en Camp, Lelu Island, and Madii Lii.  He has begun to document his experiences via video and writing on the blog,

He is currently moving to Spain as an Erasmus Mundus Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the lab of Giorgos Kallis, working on theories of ‘degrowth’: the deliberate downsizing of economy for environmental sustainability and equity.