Hunters at the Margin
360 pages, 6 x 9
20 b&w photographs, 4 maps, 3 tables
Release Date:01 Jan 2008
Release Date:08 May 2007
Release Date:01 Jan 2008

Hunters at the Margin

Native People and Wildlife Conservation in the Northwest Territories

UBC Press

In the late nineteenth century, to the alarm of government conservationists, the North American plains bison population collapsed. Yet large herds of other big game animals still roamed the Northwest Territories, and Aboriginal people depended on them for food and clothing.

Hunters at the Margin examines the conflict in the Northwest Territories between Native hunters and conservationists over three big game species: the wood bison, the muskox, and the caribou. John Sandlos argues that the introduction of game regulations, national parks, and game sanctuaries was central to the assertion of state authority over the traditional hunting cultures of the Dene and Inuit. His archival research undermines the assumption that conservationists were motivated solely by enlightened preservationism, revealing instead that commercial interests were integral to wildlife management in Canada.


  • 2008, Winner - Clio Award (North), Canadian Historical Association
  • 2008, Winner - Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Book Award, Forest History Society
Professor Sandlos has written a very well-researched text on three major conservation issues. He examines the plight of the Bison, Muskox and Caribou in Canada’s north. The author has examined the questions raised about hunting of these three key species and the development and enforcement of laws relating to them. […] There is a lot of useful and thought provoking material embedded in the text. […] This book makes a significant contribution to the continuing research and debate required to make rational decisions. Roy John, Canadian Field-Naturalist, Vol.121
As John Sadlos’s book shows, nothing in environmental politics is ever simple….What began as an attempt to preserve a species…inevitably took on the coloration of a social experiment. The book is full of nuggets of interesting information…. William R. Morrison, Environmental History Journal, Volume 12, Number 4
This hefty text is a well-written and meticulously researched academic work. Sandlos provides eloquent and exquisite details of the relationship between human and animal. … It is certain to be of interest to readers keen to better understand the politics of northern conservation in Canada, and the conflict between Northern indigenous communities and Southern policy makers. Ben Laurie, Alternatives, Vol.34, No.2
For those interested in the history of conservation, wildlife management, First Nations, state power and individual agency, Sandlos offers insightful analysis within provocative framework and makes a significant contribution to the literature on conservation in Canada and is enjoyable to read. Jean L. Manore, Bishop's University, Left History, Vol.1, Issue 13, Spring/Summer 2008
Sandlos offers useful (if tentative) conclusions about the implications of this history for present-day wildlife management and state-aboriginal relations in Canada, showing that history continues to shape the present, and that re-examining history can help illuminate current dilemmas and open new options for future action. Hunters at the Margin is well written, well produced, and a valuable contribution to the ongoing evaluation of the meanings of the North for those who live there, those who are new arrivals, and those for whom it looms large in imagination and expectation. Henry P. Huntington, Arctic
With deft prose and an array of revealing case studies, John Sandlos presents a powerful new interpretation of Canada’s conservation policies in the Northwest Territories. Hunters at the Margin could not be more central to current efforts to rethink the histories of nature and Native peoples alike. Karl Jacoby, author of Crimes Against Nature
In this extremely well-researched book, John Sandlos, an environmental historian at Memorial University of Newfoundland, lays out the history of the relationship between native peoples and wildlife conservation in Canada’s Northwest Territories. […] Sandlos is a keen and critical commentator on what he terms the ‘over laudatory historical interpretation of the conservation movement in this country’. […] This book should serve as required reading to ensure that we do not repeat our mistakes. Kent H. Redford, Wildlife Conservation Society, American Review of Canadian Studies, Winter 2008
John Sandlos is an associate professor of history at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

Foreword: The Enigmatic North / Graeme Wynn

Introduction: Wildlife and Canadian History

Part 1: Bison

1 Making Space for Wood Bison

2 Control on the Range

3 Pastoral Dreams

Part 2: Muskox

4 The Polar Ox

Part 3: Caribou

5 La Foule! La Foule!

6 To Save the Wild Caribou

7 The Caribou Crisis


Appendix; Notes; Bibliography; Index

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