Fueled by concerns over the threats of climate change, recent social scientific research has highlighted the ubiquity of landscapes devastated by resource extraction and industrial waste, as well the inequality of toxic exposures across different communities. For the most part, these studies have emphasized the acute effects of recent industrial waste and the unique ways this waste transforms communities, ecologies and landscapes. This focus on more recent waste ignores the ways that early industrial waste, produced during periods now considered long past, continues to persist in contemporary landscapes. In order to investigate how early industrial waste forms and deforms landscapes, communities, and ecologies over the long term this dissertation investigates how the persistence of early industrial waste has defined the landscape of Mill Creek Ravine—a paradigmatic site of settler colonial industry in Western Canada—over the past century. From 1880-1886 Mill Creek Ravine was the reserve of the Papaschase Cree. In 1886 this land was appropriated by the Canadian government to exploit the coal and lumber resources of the area and facilitate the industrial development of Edmonton. Following this appropriation, Mill Creek Ravine became one of the first industrialized manufacturing centers in Alberta, lined with coal mines and meatpacking plants. By the time these industries were abandoned in the 1930s, Mill Creek Ravine was severely polluted, stripped of trees, and filled with collapsing industrial ruins. Today, the ravine remains the most polluted urban waterway in the province. Drawing on three years of archaeological excavation, archival research, ethnographic interviews and environmental science testing, my dissertation tracks how Mill Creek Ravine was produced as an industrial space, and subsequently abandoned and remade as a city park and as a site of heritage. My research shows that, even as the landscape was purposed and repurposed in different ways by municipal governments and local communities, this early industrial waste has continued to actively haunt, define, and disrupt the human and non-human communities that make up the ravine. I argue that the decay of early industrial waste has actively mediated the production and reproduction of Mill Creek Ravine over the past century through what I term its lively decay. By lively decay I mean decay as an active and ongoing engagement of waste with the landscape in a manner that extends and reflects upon its relations of production. Initiated by the appropriation and dispossession of Indigenous rights, the lively decay of early industrial waste has served as a medium for the logic of late nineteenth century settler colonial capitalism to continue to haunt Mill Creek Ravine and the human and non-human bodies that lived in it, managed it, and defined it. At the same time, this lively decay serves as a medium for the emergence of new ecologies, new communities, and critical perspectives on the fantasies that shaped and continue to shape how Mill Creek Ravine is imagined and used. While situated within historical archaeology, my dissertation builds on theories from political ecology and post-colonial studies in order to argue that the archaeological study of industrial landscapes and industrial waste provides an optic not merely onto what happened, but onto what is still happening. Industrial archaeology, as a discipline which investigates the history of industrialization through the waste it leaves behind, is a vital method to explore the devastated landscapes of the contemporary world.



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