University of Washington

The Arctic - A Canadian Perspective

SISCA 490 - Spring Quarter 2012
5 Credits -- Mon/Wed 3:30-5:20 p.m.
Location: Thompson 334

Instructor: Shane Pisani 
Office: 122F Miller Hall
Office Hours: TBD 


SISCA 490 offers senior undergraduate students the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of Canada’s Arctic region and the forces that shaped its past and that will influence its future. At the foundation of the course is the ability to identify the unique human and environment systems present in the Arctic and their interdependent relationships. Discussion topics will include early indigenous settlement and European exploration, the sustainability and impacts of resource development, a geo-cultural and political exploration of Aboriginal cultures and current issues including differing national and international views on Arctic sovereignty. This interactive course will reflect the Canadian Arctic experience and its responses to the increasing cultural and environmental global importance of its far north regions.

Course Objectives
1. Identify the basic physical, biological and climate features of Canada’ Arctic regions and describe their impacts on northern culture.
2. Describe the historical evolution of the Arctic and its contributions to Canada’s political, economic and cultural perspectives.
3. Identify the driving forces of resource development in the Arctic, current projects and analyze the challenges stakeholders face in the Arctic economy.
4. Discuss the contemporary status of indigenous peoples of Canada’s Arctic in relation to culture, government relations and environmental issues.
5. Analyze current issues in Canada’s Arctic including sustainability and sovereignty and identify potential conflicts that competing national and international interests may pose.
6. Apply the broad knowledge you gain about Canada’s Arctic to an in-depth analysis of a selected topic explored in the course.

Course Text
The Geography of the Canadian North: Issues and Challenges, 3rd ed., by Robert M. Bone, (Oxford University Press, 2009).

Supplemental Reading 
After the Ice: Life, Death, and Geopolitics in the New Arctic, Alun Anderson, (Smithsonian Books, 2009.)

Ancient People of the Arctic, Robert McGhee, (UBC Press, 1996).

Defending Mother Earth: Native American Perspectives on Environmental Justice, Jace Weaver (ed), (Orbis Books, 1996).

Polar Imperative: A History of Arctic Sovereignty in North America, Shelagh Grant, (Douglas and MacIntyre, 2011).

Strategic importance of the Arctic in U.S. policy: hearing before a subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, United States Senate, One Hundred Eleventh Congress, special hearing, August 20, 2009, Anchorage, AK., United States Congress Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of Homeland Security, (2010).

The Future History of the Arctic, Charles Emmerson, (Public Affairs, 2010).

The Last Imaginary Place: a Human History of the Arctic World, Robert McGhee, (Oxford University Press, 2005).

The Weather of the Future: Heat Waves, Extreme Storms, and Other Scenes from a Climate-Changed Planet, Heidi Cullen, (Harper Paperbacks, 2010).

Who Owns the Arctic? Understanding Sovereignty Disputes in the North, Michael Byers, (Douglas and MacIntyre, 2010).

The University of Washington Library has also set up a comprehensive website dedicated to Arctic resources which you will find useful throughout the course as well:
View Syllabus for more details  

About Shane Pisani
Shane Pisani has had the opportunity to explore the Western Arctic at length, live in a few of its remote places and absorb the Inuit culture that has provided a unique perspective on Canada's North. Being able not only to live and work but also conduct research for his MSc. in Rural Planning and Development from the University of Guelph, Shane was able to identify valuable connections between community stakeholders in Inuvik and its surrounding communities on the Mackenzie River Delta as its eco and cultural tourism industry began to grow. The Arctic also lent itself to a number of fantastic outdoor experiences including hiking the Chilkoot Trail, camping on Herschel Island and regular excursions to the various mountain ranges that are readily accessible. SISCA 490 will allow students to understand the importance of Canada's Arctic through a number of lenses including historical, environmental, cultural, economic and geopolitical perspectives. Shane is currently a doctoral student in the College of Education's Curriculum and Instruction Department.

Canadian Studies Center
University of Washington
Box 353650
Thomson Hall, Room 503
Seattle, WA 98195-3650
T (206) 221-6374
F (206) 685-0668