Keywords: Canada, First Nations, aboriginal peoples, Anishinaabeg, environmental pollution, sense of place, indigenous peoples, qualitative research, Chemical Valley, Ontario, health risks, public health, tribes, industrial pollution, gas emissions, local communities, Aamjiwnaang, reserves, reservations, native bands, shelter, homeland, toxic gases, environment, interdisciplinary approaches
Shelter in place: a First Nation community in Canada's Chemical Valley
This case study is based on research conducted in the region of Ontario known as 'Chemical Valley'. One stark indicator of health risks posed by industry there is a public service announcement instructing residents that in the event of a dangerous gas emission, they are to 'shelter in place' – i.e., stay indoors with windows tightly closed. The local community with greatest exposure is Aamjiwnaang First Nation, whose reserve is surrounded by heavily polluting industry. Despite significant health concerns, band members remain at Aamjiwnaang, a circumstance that outsiders find puzzling. This article explores the complex factors connecting residents to their reserve – a place in which they have found shelter for many generations. This interpretive case study is intended to complement general and quantitative approaches to environmental issues by providing a qualitative, place-specific example of the profound connections that First Nations people experience to their homeland, even when that homeland has become toxic.