I am scholar of early American history focused on Native American, early settler, Midwestern, and environmental history. My research is broadly concerned with the intersection of power, the environment, and human beings. In particular I investigate how the access and control of environmental resources impacted socio-political relations in the nineteenth-century Great Lakes.
My recent article published in the Journal of Borderlands Studies entitled “Borders of Authority: Power in the Canadian Borderlands at the 1844 Jesuit-Anishinaabeg Debate” examines a series of conversations and confrontations between an Anishinaabeg ogimaa, Oshawana and a Jesuit priest Fr. Pierre Chazelle. Differing understandings of the natural world contributed to the conflict.
Research linking Indigenous history and environmental history continues to illuminate new linkages and insights into the history of settlement in the United States. My essay for the H-Net Book Channel, “Historical Perspectives on Tribal Sovereignty and the Environment” explored how recent historical scholarship has explored issues linking tribal power and access to environmental resources. In an essay for the JER’s The Panorama I explored how treaties rest as the foundation of the United States federal government relationship to Native American tribes. My essay “Sovereign Nations: An Introduction to the Nation-to-Nation Treaty Relationship Between the United States and American Indian Tribes” serves a premier for those seeking to incorporate treaties into their classes.
My dissertation research centered on the importance of manoomin (wild rice) and ziinzibaakwad (maple sugar) to the western Ojibwe and eastern Dakota villages in the western Great Lakes borderlands. The intersection of kinship, power, and access to these vital environmental resources merged at the 1825 Prairie du Chien Treaty Council. I analyzed to what extent these elements influenced the events of the council. More information on this project can be found the Book Research Project section. I am currently working on an article tentatively entitled, “Indigenous Borderlands of the Great Lakes” which builds on my dissertation research.
During the summer of 2017 I served as an Associate Editor/Research for the “Pioneer Girl Project” at the South Dakota Historical Society Press. I conducted background and historical research on the Ingalls family as they move through the Midwest and into the West during the second half of the nineteenth-century. More information about the project can be found on the project’s website. In addition to my academic research and teaching I currently serve as the interim executive director of the Lower Phalen Creek Project a local Saint Paul non-profit dedicated to caring for natural place and the sacred sites and cultural value within them. More information about this work can be found on the organization’s website.
The importance of water as a source of life, a means of transportation, a location for food cultivation, and as a boundary is a key theme in my future research. Similar to how Great Lakes Indians depended on water for wild rice cultivation and transportation, American settlers also were reliant on access to water. However, their utilization of water differed, especially in regards to perceptions of water use and utility. My future research will further investigate the place of water in the early American history.