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Book: "Life against States of Emergency: Revitalizing Treaty Relations from Attawapiskat". 2023


For six weeks in the winter of 2012–13, Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence undertook a high-profile ceremonial fast to advocate for improved Canadian-Indigenous relations. Framed widely by the media as a hunger strike, her fast was both a call to action and a gesture of corporeal sovereignty.

Life against States of Emergency responds to the central question that Spence asked the Canadian public to consider: What does it mean to be in a treaty relationship today? Arguing that treaties are matters of environmental justice, Sarah Marie Wiebe offers a nuanced discussion of the political environment in which Attawapiskat suffered repeated state-of-emergency declarations amid a climate of normalized state-sanctioned violence. Her analysis documents the slow emergency resulting from the breakdown of treaty relations.

This incisive work draws on community-engaged research and lived experiences, critical discourse analysis, ecofeminist and Indigenous studies scholarship, art, activism, and storytelling to advance a transformative approach to treaty relationships that begins from the ground up. Breaking apart hegemonic colonial narratives, Life against States of Emergency seeks to cultivate conversations and deliberative, democratic dialogue about resource extraction, environmental justice, enriched treaty relations, and decolonial futures for generations to come.

The community-engaged approach animating this work will attract scholars and policymakers involved in environmental justice, treaty relations, public engagement, and Indigenous-settler relations. It will also resonate with members of the Attawapiskat community, and more broadly with Canadians interested in learning about the intersections of storytelling, justice, and environmental activism.

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