tommy.jensen@sbs.su.se johan.sandstrom@ltu.se

Category Archives: Aboriginals

Storyteller #25 – an indigenous voice


Talking to an indigenous man from one of the Same villages in the Kiruna area, we ask: In your village, with reindeer herding and such, is it okay to work in the mine? Yes, it is. It must be up to each one of us because we live in a society that looks the way it does. With the economic values we have, I completely understand a young person growing up […]

Storyteller #18 – from Canada, on having two families


Next storyteller is a woman, an aboriginal, working at the mill at Key Lake. She talks about the strong social bonds created at work and therefore about having two families, one at home and one at work: Actually, if you talk with anyone here who has been long term they’re going to tell you that ‘this is my family’. We live with them, we work with them over the years. […]

Storyteller #16 – from Canada, on the relation between company and community


Our next storyteller is an aboriginal man, working as a manager at the mine and as a representative of his local community in the north. Mining companies, including their contractors, operating in the north have to hire Residents of Saskatchewan North (RSN) as labor (see previous blogposts on this, just search for the category “Canada” or “Aboriginals”). Below is an extract from our conversation about this: So in Canada you have that […]

Meeting Sami people


What is so obvious in the labor process in the uranium mine in Saskatchewan – the integration of indigenous people – is less so in the Kiruna case. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the Sami people in and around Kiruna aren’t drawn into and affected by the labour process in the Kiruna mine. We think of the picture heading this post, the LKAB moose and the reindeer, and the […]

Mining capitalism


We’re reflecting on the book Mining capitalism (University of California Press, 2014) by Stuart Kirsch, professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan. We’ve mentioned this book before, but thought we’d dedicate a post on why we see it as relevant and useful to Organizing rocks. First of all, it’s a very encompassing book, targeting the relationship between corporations and their critics, between capitalist modes of production and critics of it, a dialectical […]

Aboriginals and the labour process (part 4)


Two short questions are still left hanging from my visit to MCA in Saskatchewan and from reading the CVMPP-reports: What about the contractors? In the reports, contractors are not really dealt with, but they still represent a significant part of the labour process. Just as on site, they had their rooms in a building beside the Cameco employees, but they shared the other facilities (restaurant, wellness facilities etc.). Interestingly, most […]

Goffman and the Wolfpack


“How long would it take for me to know what’s really going on here?”, I asked. “About three to four months”, the worker answered. I looked at my watch. Twenty hours to go before my flight back to Saskatoon. It takes time to get to know the social codes of a wolfpack. Arriving, staying at and leaving the McArthur River mine site, I kept thinking of the sociological opportunity to study […]

Empathizing with the subjects of study


We’re reading the book “Mining capitalism: the relationship between corporations and their critics” by Stuart Kirsch (2014, University of California Press). It’s an impressive study, based on more than two decades of ethnographic research related to particularly one indigenous community and its struggle with the OK Tedi mine on Papua New Guinea. We’ll have reasons to come back to this book further on, but one thing strikes us early on. […]

A song for Saskatchewan (and La Loche)


After Johan’s first visit to Saskatchewan in June 2015, he wrote a lyrics and a basic chords structure for a song. The song was more or less a way to digest some of his impressions from walking and meeting people along 20th street in Saskatoon. For some reason, however, the lyrics came to him in Swedish… He sent the stuff to Tommy, who arranged the song and we recorded the […]

Aboriginals and the labour process (part 3)


One issue related to the labour process at MCA and to life in northern Saskatchewan that has received a lot of attention is health and well-being. In a CVMPP report from December 2014, the effects of the uranium industry’s health and wellness programs on direct employees of AREVA and Cameco are studied (predominantly based on surveys; gaining generalizability but losing context). Reading the report with my visit to MCA as […]

Aboriginals and the labour process (part 2)


The way the labour process at MCA is organized spills right into the homes and the communities. The impact seems especially strong in northern, aboriginal communities. The report by the CVMPP from 2006 explicitly deals with the theme “How FIFO [fly-in/fly-out] impact the workers’ family or community”. It says that: “Given that the effects of the rotation system had a limited impact on communities, there were very few recommendations as to […]

Visiting the Key Lake mill


Key Lake is where the uranium from MCA is processed, turned into “yellow cake” (which in the end is black), and then exported. The mill is about 80 km from the mine, about an hour drive on roads controlled by Cameco, and on which the slurry trucks go back and forth. Aboriginals entitled to be on the land are also allowed on the roads. I ride with Ryan and although the landscape […]

Aboriginals and the labour process (part 1)


The presence (past and present) of indigenous people in northern Saskatchewan significantly influences the labour process of MCA. It’s quite a contrast to Kiruna where the Sami people have a more peripheral, even marginalized position. People established in northern Saskatchewan are sometimes referred to as Residents of Saskatchewan’s North (RSN). There are about 37000 RSN and more than “85% of the population in northern Saskatchewan identify themselves as Aboriginal [Cree, Métis, […]