The “discovery” of seven waterfalls along the Again River in the Hudson Bay Lowlands by Canadian geographer Adam Shoalts was met with the confusion and disdain of some members of Moose Cree First Nation in August.
Shoalts received considerable praise from the Royal Canadian Geographical Society for being the first to officially map the waterfalls in late July. Some even went so far as to credit him with being the first to travel the river in its entirety despite conclusive evidence that local First Nations had been canoeing on the Again for centuries before Shoalts was born.
John Turner, a former Moose Cree researcher, conducted interviews with several Elders in the early 2000s that confirm that the Again River was a vital transportation route for Moose Cree as recently as 60 years ago.
“Until air transportation became more prominent in the North, the river was one of the main routes south of Moose Factory that was used to reach Quebec,” said Turner. “Obviously the portages and traces of use have grown over in the last half-century. Some of the Elders I interviewed specifically described an elevated point on the river where you could see James Bay on a clear day.”
While Turner admits that Shoalts’ mapping of the area deserves recognition, he describes the scientific geographical community’s perspective on the work as “troubling.”
“It strikes me as a distinctly colonialist attitude,” said Turner. “They act as if no one has ever been there, even though people have been there for centuries.”