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Longlist #5: Burnett & Hay’s Plundering the North

April 28, 2024 / Ariel Gordon / Book Prize

There are ten books on the 2024 J.W. Dafoe Book Prize longlist and today we’re going to highlight Kristin Burnett and Travis Hay’s Plundering the North: A History of Settler Colonialism, Corporate Welfare, and Food Insecurity (University of Manitoba Press).

The cover of Burnett & Hay's Plundering the North, which features a white plastic bag against a sky-blue background, with the title in dark blue on the bag.

Food insecurity in the North is one of Canada’s most shameful public health and human rights crises. In Plundering the North, Kristin Burnett and Travis Hay examine the disturbing mechanics behind the origins of this crisis: state and corporate intervention in northern Indigenous foodways.

Despite claims to the contrary by governments, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), and the contemporary North West Company (NWC), the exorbitant cost of food in the North is neither a naturally occurring phenomenon nor the result of free-market forces. Rather, inflated food prices are the direct result of government policies and corporate monopolies. Using food as a lens to track the institutional presence of the Canadian state in the North, Burnett and Hay chart the social, economic, and political changes that have taken place in northern Ontario since the 1950s.

They explore the roles of state food policy and the HBC and NWC in setting up, perpetuating, and profiting from food insecurity while undermining Indigenous food sovereignties and self-determination.

Plundering the North provides fresh insight into Canada’s settler colonial project by re-evaluating northern food policy and laying bare the governmental and corporate processes behind the chronic food insecurity experienced by northern Indigenous communities.

Dr. Kristin Burnett is a professor in the Department of Indigenous Learn ing at Lakehead University. A settler scholar, Burnett has published broadly on topics related to Indigenous health and well-being, and much of her current research and policy work engages with systemic barriers to health care, social services and supports, and food.

Travis Hay is a historian of Canadian settler colonialism who was born and raised in Thunder Bay, Ontario. He is currently an assistant professor at Mount Royal University, the author of Inventing the Thrifty Gene, and the English Language Book Review Editor of Canadian Journal of Health History.

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