Spirits of the Rockies: Reasserting an Indigenous Presence in Banff National Park

Spirits of the Rockies: Reasserting an Indigenous Presence in Banff National Park

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By Courtney W. Mason
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2014
World Rights
224 Pages 7 Images
ISBN 9781442626683
Published Sep 2014
Online discount: 25%
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ISBN 9781442649309
Published Sep 2014
Online discount: 25%
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ebook (EPUB format)
ISBN 9781442619920
Published Sep 2014
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The Banff–Bow Valley in western Alberta is the heart of spiritual and economic life for the Nakoda peoples. While they were displaced from the region by the reserve system and the creation of Canada’s first national park, in the twentieth century the Nakoda reasserted their presence in the valley through involvement in regional tourism economies and the Banff Indian Days sporting festivals.

Drawing on extensive oral testimony from the Nakoda, supplemented by detailed analysis of archival and visual records, Spirits of the Rockies is a sophisticated account of the situation that these Indigenous communities encountered when they were denied access to the Banff National Park. Courtney W. Mason examines the power relations and racial discourses that dominated the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rocky Mountains and shows how the Nakoda strategically used the Banff Indian Days festivals to gain access to sacred lands and respond to colonial policies designed to repress their cultures.

Courtney W. Mason is a postdoctoral research fellow with the Indigenous Health Research Group at the University of Ottawa.


1. Theorizing Power Relations in Colonial Histories

2. Colonial Encounters: Treaty 7, Missionaries, and the Constraints of the Reserve System

3. The Repression of Indigenous Subsistence Practices in Rocky Mountains Park

4. Sporting and Tourism Festivals: Representations of Indigenous Peoples

5. Rethinking the Banff Indian Days as Critical Spaces of Cultural Exchange

6. Looking Back and Pushing Ahead

“When I first discovered mountain climbing and skiing in the 1960s, I did not think enough about the First Nations who have called the Rocky Mountains home for millennia. Reading this book has made me rethink my place in the Banff–Bow Valley and increased my awareness of our responsibility to honour the presence of First Nations and share this place with our Nakoda neighbours.”

Chic Scott, author of 'Pushing the Limits: The Story of Canadian Mountaineering'

Spirits of the Rockies is an important and timely book. Its dynamic account reframes the Banff–Bow Valley, placing indigenous actors and understandings at its centre. In the process, it explores the impacts wrought by colonialism, the opportunities brought by tourism, and the ways First Nations people have engaged with both.  Its discussion of the contradictions at the heart of the Canadian experience and of indigenous resilience has special relevance today.”

C. Richard King, Department of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies, Washington State University

“A valuable piece of scholarship on Aboriginal peoples in Canada. Spirits of the Rockies will contribute to discussions on how we ‘do’ history and how we can understand complex power and racial relations in new ways.”

Carly Adams, Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, University of Lethbridge

‘Mason offers a novel interpretation of the historical production of racialized indigeneity.’

Anna J. Willow, Canadian Journal of History vol 51:03:2016

‘Spirits of the Rockies contributes most significantly to our understanding of the history of indigenous people’s participation in sport, recreation, and exhibition…Scholars in several disciplines will appreciate it.’

Ted Binnema, The Canadian Journal of Native Studies vol35:01:2015