The Nature of Borders
Salmon, Boundaries, and Bandits on the Salish Sea
For centuries, borders have been central to salmon management customs on the Salish Sea, but how those borders were drawn has had very different effects on the Northwest salmon fishery. Native peoples who fished the Salish Sea – which includes Puget Sound in Washington State, the Strait of Georgia in British Columbia, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca – drew social and cultural borders around salmon fishing locations and found ways to administer the resource in a sustainable way. Nineteenth-century Euro-Americans, who drew the Anglo-American border along the forty-ninth parallel, took a very different approach and ignored the salmon's patterns and life cycle. As the canned salmon industry grew and more people moved into the region, class and ethnic relations changed. Soon illegal fishing, broken contracts, and fish piracy were endemic – conditions that contributed to rampant overfishing, social tensions, and international mistrust. The Nature of Borders is about the ecological effects of creating cultural and political borders on this critical West Coast salmon fishery.
This transnational view provides an understanding of the modern Pacific salmon crisis and is particularly instructive as salmon conservation practices increasingly approximate those of the pre-contact Native past. The Nature of Borders reorients borderlands studies toward the Canada–U.S. border and also provides a new view of how borders influenced fishing practices and related management efforts over time.
- 2013, Winner - Hal K. Rothman Award, Western History Association
At the risk of straining the metaphor, her book explores uncharted waters and does so masterfully. Wadewitz has just set the bar incredibly high for future historians who also want to turn their backs to the land and gaze out to those coastal waters.
An excellent and timely examination of how humans have organized ecological and social space across time, and of the implications of boundarymaking processes on people and nature alike.
Wadewitz identifies an important environmental historical problem – how people make and challenge boundaries – and situates her investigation in a rich and complex case. It would be hard to imagine a site better suited to a transnational investigation in environmental history than the Salish Sea.
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