Extractivism, Technology and the Fight for Decolonization

The Comix Reportage I contributed to in 2007 entitled: Extraction!: Comix Reportage will be soon reprinted. Writing an update on the reportage I wrote called: Highway of the Atom, a comix reportage that focuses on the social, environmental and health impact of uranium mining in Canada, allowed me to reflect on the past few years of indigenous resistance and extractivism.

One cannot speak of the fight against the extraction of resources including uranium, without highlighting Indigenous resurgence that kick started an unprecedented social movement since this comix reportage has been written in 2007. Known as Idle No More, this grassroots indigenous movement initiated by four women took off in December 2012 and took issue with the Jobs and Growth Act (2012) also known as the omnibus Bill C-45. Demonstration, marches, round dances and blockades were organized against an act, which threatened to “erode Aboriginal land and treaty rights insofar as they reduce the amount of resource development projects that required environmental assessment; they change their regulations that govern on-reserve leasing in a way that will make it easier for special interests to access First Nation reserve lands for purposes of economic development and settlement” (Coulthard 2014, p. 160) among others. The message to the ruling Canadian conservative party was one of decolonial politics where water, air, land and all creation for future generations are not to be spoiled under the guise of economic development, unbridled capitalism and settler-colonialism. Idle No More took a decisive stance against resource exploitation on their territories outlining and reinforcing Indigenous decolonial politics, which aim at letting them decide what happen on their territories and to say no to resource exploitation on their lands. Indigenous resurgence is according to Glen Coulthard based on the five following theses: the necessity of direct actions, confronting capitalist extractivism as a way to threaten the accumulation of capital on Indigenous lands, the fact that settler-colonialism is based on a structure of domination predicated on the dispossession of Indigenous people’s lands, the imperative of gender justice, and the importance of thinking beyond the nation-state.
Looking back at the history of the exploitation and oppression of Indigenous people on Turtle Island, Lisa Nakamura (2014) tells the story of a group a Navajo women who worked at the Fairchild semiconductor plant in Shiprock, New Mexico, producing circuits in a high-tech factory on an Indian reservation in the 1960s and 1970s. The high rates of pollution on the reservation from the extraction of resources such as uranium, gas, coal, and oil coupled with the pollution from the factory had the following impact: “birth defects increased significantly when either parent worked in the Shiprock electronics assembly plant” (p. 940). Like the story of indigenous people who worked in extracting uranium in the far north of Canada as outlined in my comix reportage, where their land and their cheap labor were exploited, indigenous women in this case were at the center of the PC revolution, but their body and lands paid a severe price for this innovation. This example is an illustration that the battle against extractivism more generally and uranium exploration, extraction and exploitation more specifically, is not only an environmental battle, but also a decolonized and technological battle. It is about resources, in our case uranium, that powers up destructive technologies: nuclear power. Linking up technology, decolonization and resources in our technologically innovation hungry era is fundamental. The technologies that we use on a day today basis (whether our computers, cell phones, cars, power plants to heat our buildings, etc.) has a materiality and an ideology which has considerable impact on our lives and the lives of others.


Coulthard, G. S. (2014). Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Nakamura, L. (2014). Indigenous Circuits: Navajo Women and the Racialization of Early Electronic Manufacture. American Quarterly, 66 (4), 919-941.