While the word ‘apocalypse’ points to the idea of a revelation (of Truth) leading to a new dispensation, and the idea of catastrophe in Greek drama referred to the turning point in the unfolding of a drama, the modern secular meaning of catastrophe is associated with the notion of total disaster from which no revelation is necessarily disclosed and from which no escape is envisioned. The colonization of North America involved a violent conflict with Native Americans resulting in both physical and cultural destruction. Our symposium will explore catastrophe in Native American history within the framework of land, dispossession, and imagination.


10.30: Coffee

11.00: Daniel Wildcat (Haskell Indian Nations University)

Land and Catastrophe: A Yuchi Meditation

Respondent: Andrew Lipman (Syracuse University)


The indisputable foundation of tribal existence is the land – not the land or nature in the abstract that nearly everyone claims to respect – but specific places, the landscapes and seascapes from which the unique identities of indigenous Peoples emerged. This emergence, as Vine Deloria, Jr. pointed out, is a process of symbiotic relations between People and place that result in power. The power of place consists of a complex set of physical and spiritual relationships constituting what one might liken to a living social or, more accurately, ecological ‘contract’. Framed in this manner, the last five hundred years old history of the indigenous Peoples of the Americas is catastrophe writ large. This brief presentation will explore what this catastrophic history means to Peoples – who find power in their homelands – places of creation and emergence.

1.00: LUNCH, Room 5307

2.00: Alyssa Mt. Pleasant (Yale University)

After the Whirlwind: Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Recovery in the Wake of Invasion

Respondent: Jonathan Sassi (CUNY Graduate Center)


In late summer 1779 Haudenosaunee people endured an unprecedented invasion of their homeland. The Sullivan Campaign brought several thousand Continental Army regulars and militia members into the Fingers Lakes region of today’s New York State. Their scorched earth campaign destroyed dozens of towns and villages, orchards, and vast agricultural fields. In the wake of this catastrophe, in early spring 1780, the Seneca leader Sayengaraghta led four hundred people to settle on a creek near the eastern terminus of Lake Erie. There they formed a new village that became the nucleus of the largest Haudenosaunee community south of the Great Lakes. It also served as a new political center where Haudenosaunee people grappled with the upheaval of the Revolutionary War. This presentation draws on archaeological, ecological, and documentary evidence, as well as oral traditions, to explain Haudenosaunee people’s immediate, proactive response to the catastrophic invasion.

3.30: Coffee, Room 5307

4.00: Darren Ranco (University of Maine)

Summoning Gluskabe: Indigenous Knowledge as Cross-cultural Narrative, Love, and a “Moral Good”

Respondent: Ashley Dawson (CUNY, College of Staten Island)


This paper is the product of my interest in the ways in which indigenous (in particular, Penobscot Indian) knowledges provide a framework for understanding and communicating environmental destruction, risk, and values.  While I have published a fair amount about the ways in which these knowledges offer critiques of liberal democratic acts of state-making, today I will concentrate on how these knowledges communicate values of place that can and should be understood cross-culturally as acts of love that also justify indigenous management of natural resources.  I will show how Tribal members, in all sorts of ways and in all sorts of avenues, use Penobscot stories and understandings to communicate local value and desires to each other and to outsiders.  By recognizing this, we will see the ways in which Penobscot environmental knowledges are not completely ‘local,’ but engage in justifications for placed-based environmental management.


Date: Friday, May 3, 2013
Time: 11:00 am - 5:30 pm
Location: Room 9206/9207

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