Richard M. Hutchings. Maritime Heritage in Crisis: Indigenous Landscapes and Global Ecological Breakdown. Routledge, 2016. 144 pp. ISBN: 978-1-62958-348-8.


Richard Hutchings' Maritime Heritage in Crisis speaks out against the destruction of Indigenous heritage landscapes, tracking the ways in which rising sea levels and population growth have wreaked havoc to the coastal lands of the shíshálh First Nation people located in the Pacific Northwest, as well as the shortcomings—even harms—of external cultural resource management (CRM). The author posits that as society expands, heritage control becomes sought after and subsequently commodified as part of the neoliberal state's broader capitalist project. In addition, Hutchings takes into consideration the relationship between archaeologists and native peoples, acknowledging that the relationship has been and remains to be one fraught with the trappings of settler colonialism (112). The work's critique of both CRM and the field of archaeology alongside the emphasis on Indigenous rights to collective land management all set this book apart from others on the subject of climate change and coastal landscapes.


The first chapter outlines the problem of the global crisis along the coasts beginning with the post-1950s Great Acceleration of late modernity into the present (6-7). Hutchings lays out his argument that, in addition to global capitalism, archaeology and CRM are complicit in the ongoing attack to maritime heritage landscapes (1, 7). Chapter Two shifts to looking at the primary mechanisms of the crisis: coastal population sprawl and rises in sea level (19). The author shows the changes these two ongoing problems have caused to the Salish Sea and their impacts on the Indigenous peoples of the region (35-36). Chapter Three explores the external responses to climate change and coastal erosion, namely CRM (42). The author connects both archaeology and CRM to the neoliberal mission of the state to maximize capitalist production—which necessitates the privatization of land for development (51). Chapter Four focuses specifically on the shíshálh people and the changes to their lands, specifically Sechelt, Halfmoon Bay, and Pender Harbour (59, 76). He tracks the tribe's responses to the ecological crisis, as well as effects of continued development—often occurring without the consent of the tribe (86-87). Finally, Chapter Five looks more closely at the relationship between the settler state and CRM, while Chapter Six concludes the work in retrospective (93, 106).


Situated along what is currently known as the Sunshine Coast, the work excels when offering a critique to the broader field. Hutchings is at his best when linking archeology and CRM to attempts at disconnecting Indigenous people from their land (103). At their core, the dual truths that the land is intrinsically Indigenous and conversely, that Indigenous people are impossible to decouple from their land heritage, undermine settler development. This is true in ways both big and small: Hutchings notes how the new name "Sunshine Coast" was an attempt to increase home purchases in the region—for even the renaming of Indigenous places aim at driving development (1, 11; O'Brien 2010: 202). As for bigger ways, he notes that responses to climate change significantly differ, dependent upon who is most at risk, acknowledging the environmental injustice faced by vulnerable Indigenous peoples and people of color (43, 23).


This slow violence against at-risk communities is not limited to the Pacific Northwest but endemic to Indigenous peoples worldwide; during the 2016 protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, in an effort to halt production, sacred burial sites were outlined by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in court documents, only for the sites to be destroyed during a holiday weekend by the construction company, Energy Transfer Partners (95; Colwell 2016). The effort at protecting the sites in the mainstream manner required led to their untimely destruction. Hutchings argues that the management component of CRM and private archaeology dovetail into "resourcism" and the conversion of heritage spaces into resources to be developed rather than strictly conservation (92). His case is not subtle. He goes as far as to link the number of archaeologists directly to decreases in "intact Indigenous heritage landscapes" in what he coins the "Heritage Landscape Destruction Paradox" (112). The author is compelling in his calls for "radical engagement" with Indigenous groups as the only means to prevent the crisis from progressing further (115).


One of the most striking moments comes from an anecdote shared early in the book. Indigenous participants on a panel alongside the author left prior to the end of the panel (and the author's presentation), significantly shifting the conference space to one comprised primarily of non-Indigenous researchers (xii). They had come to be heard, rather than defend a position they well-knew to be true: that the destruction of their heritage spaces is ongoing (even, at times, beneath the guise of conservation). The author reflects on the dismissive attitude of the audience to the Indigenous presenters' position, but the incident speaks to another issue: the expectation that Indigenous peoples and people of color must defend their position on behalf of not only their own best interest but on behalf of the broader public's needs. For example, coverage of controversial pipelines, including Keystone XL Pipeline and Dakota Access Pipeline, frequently depicts Indigenous participants as serving the greater good against impending climate change, when they are not beholden to do more than protect themselves and their lands.


Rather than relying strictly on Indigenous efforts, Maritime Heritage in Crisis is the author's own call to arms. The work is part philosophical outcry, part academic plea, and while the author is deft in his use of history and philosophy to make his case, he is just as comfortable explaining the technicalities of climate change and population statistics in a way that makes the work accessible to non-specialists. Hutchings' Chapter Two data offers proof for those who would still deny what's increasingly undeniable (25, 33-34). The manner in which he offers the facts prior to any other argument reflects the premise of Chris Andersen and Maggie Walter's Indigenous Statistics, in that data when used judiciously can be to the benefit of Indigenous peoples (2013). In this way, he is speaking to the scientific community in their language, making his case in all forms. However, in the end, the work comes down to the moral argument of the necessity for change in the face of dire circumstances: "Globally, Indigenous peoples are fighting to maintain these connections and are insisting upon control over their resources and places that matter" (108). Ultimately, the book's case study and argument speak to the current situation faced by many Indigenous peoples around the world, from the Kiribati in the South Pacific to the Inupiat of Shishmaref, Alaska—the type of situation only radical engagement could hope to stem (Caramel 2014; Kennedy 2016).


Sierra Watt, University of Kansas



Works Cited


Caramel, Laurence, "Besiged by the rising tides of climate change, Kiribati buys land in
Fiji." The Guardian, 20, June 2014. Retrieved from:

Colwell, Chip. "Why Sacred Sites Were Destroyed for the Dakota Access Pipeline." EcoWatch, 26 Nov. 2016. Retrieved from:

Kennedy, Merrit, "Threatened By Rising Seas, Alaska Village Decides to Relocate." NPR, 18 Aug. 2016. Retrieved from:

O'Brien, Jean M. Firsting and lasting: Writing Indians out of existence in New England. University of Minnesota Press, 2010.

Walter, Maggie, and Chris Andersen. Indigenous statistics: A quantitative research methodology. Left Coast Press, 2013.