Plundering the North

A History of Settler Colonialism, Corporate Welfare, and Food Insecurity

Kristin Burnett (Author), Travis Hay (Author)

Food insecurity in the North is one of Canada’s most shameful public health and human rights crises. In Plundering the North, Kristin Burnett and Travis Hay examine the disturbing mechanics behind the origins of this crisis: state and corporate intervention in northern Indigenous foodways.

Despite claims to the contrary by governments, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), and the contemporary North West Company (NWC), the exorbitant cost of food in the North is neither a naturally occurring phenomenon nor the result of free-market forces. Rather, inflated food prices are the direct result of government policies and corporate monopolies. Using food as a lens to track the institutional presence of the Canadian state in the North, Burnett and Hay chart the social, economic, and political changes that have taken place in northern Ontario since the 1950s. They explore the roles of state food policy and the HBC and NWC in setting up, perpetuating, and profiting from food insecurity while undermining Indigenous food sovereignties and self-determination.

Plundering the North provides fresh insight into Canada’s settler colonial project by re-evaluating northern food policy and laying bare the governmental and corporate processes behind the chronic food insecurity experienced by northern Indigenous communities.


Spanning the late nineteenth century to the current day, Plundering the North provides meticulous detail about the ways in which HBC and NWC operated as agents of the state’s settler-colonial ambitions while the state subsidized the processes and profits of those private corporations. This is a valuable, unique, and timely contribution.

– Elaine Power, Queen’s University

About the Authors

Kristin Burnett is a professor in the Department of Indigenous Learning at Lakehead University. A settler scholar, Burnett has published broadly on topics related to Indigenous health and well-being, and much of her current research and policy work engages with systemic barriers to health care, social services and supports, and food.

Travis Hay is a historian of Canadian settler colonialism who was born and raised in Thunder Bay, Ontario. He is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Indigenous Learning Department at Lakehead University.

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    This forthcoming title will ship in October 2023.

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