First Nations - Land Rights and Environmentalism in British Columbia

Redwash: "Alcan Indigenous Peoples Policy," 2008. Photo: Alcan (white text added)


Redwash: "Alcan Indigenous Peoples Policy," 2008.
Photo: Alcan (negative exposure added)

A typical example of redwashing on an international scale is the public relations campaign, "Alcan Indigenous Peoples Policy" (above). Alcan, which merged with Rio Tinto in 2007, is one of the most environmentally destructive mining companies on Earth. Some fifty years ago it built the world's largest aluminum smelter at an until then pristine coastal estuary, on the mouth of the Kitimat River in northwestern British Columbia (right). The result has been the degradation of large areas of the lands and waters of the Haisla Nation.



Redwashing is a term to describe the deception of the general public by government and industry in trying to cover up their theft of indigenous peoples lands, natural resources and cultural riches by pretending that they are acting in the best interests of the native peoples. The term is coined in analogy to greenwashing. Like in the case of greenwash, redwash occurs when time and money are spent on public relations gimmicks that make a pretence of acting ethically towards the indigenous nations of the New World, when in fact the opposite is done.

Alcan, Kitimat, BC, 1971.
Photo: BC Archives

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Redwash: "The Haida Story," 2008.
Haida Forest Products (red paint added)


Haida Forest Products is a non indigenous owned company. Its appropriation of the Haida name and story on its commercial website (left and below) is an example of the industry's abuse of Aboriginal Title and Rights. This violation of the Haida shows the following statement to be a big redwash lie:

   Redwash Lie by Haida Forest Products:

   "Out of respect for these magnificent people
   and their reverence for Western Red Cedar,
   Haida Forest Products Ltd. has adopted this time
   honoured name to identify the company and the
   premium cedar products that we manufacture."

This sort of corporate redwashing goes beyond the common appropriation of Northwest Coast art and culture that has become endemic over the past century. The Haida people have survived genocidal policies by the governments of Canada and BC, yet today they face a grave threat to their culture because the glutonous international logging industry is exterminating the old growth cedar trees on which Haida culture depends.

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