🔗NPS Mellon Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow: Negotiating the Law of the Land: US-Indigenous Treaty-Making at Prairie Du Chien, 1825–1830
American Conservation Experience
Effigy Mounds National Monument seeks one postdoctoral Fellow to contribute to research, interpretation, outreach, and educational and digital programming initiatives designed to promote awareness and understanding of the origins, consequences, and legacies of the four Prairie du Chien Treaties between the Native nations and the U.S. government. In microcosm, these treaties coming shortly after the end of the American Revolution and War of 1812 illustrate the shift in relationship between the US and Native nations from political equals to wards and “domestic dependent nations,” culminating in the loss of native sovereignty and forced removal as well as traumatic harm to Native American families and lifeways, kinship, culture, and spiritual connections with traditional homelands and ancestors. From first to last, the treaties morphed from “friendship” treaties to land cessions, imposing the “Doctrine of Discovery” and concept of property on Native peoples-the Ho-Chunk and Winnebago, Ioway, Sac and Fox, Otoe, Missouria, Omaha, Lakota and Dakota, Menominee, and Anishinaabeg (Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi)-who from time immemorial through the present understand themselves as kin to Turtle Island, a way of knowing implicit in the effigy, burial, and ceremonial mounds preserved at Effigy Mounds National Monument. To introduce a reconciliatory truth and Native sovereignty to the park’s interpretive programming, the Mellon Fellow, a humanities scholar, will explore not only the forensic facts of the treaties and how they came to be but also the many ways of knowing represented in personal and social truths articulated in oral tradition as well as textual and other sources. The resulting study will explore why different peoples came together for millennia in this special place to live sophisticated lives, inter their loved ones, and honor their kinship with a living landscape that is their relative as well as how they persevered through the traumatic events such as forced removal as settler colonialists transformed that living landscape, a cultural patrimony, into private property and extractive resources. The outcomes will include a written report and interpretive products that explore the use of those treaties; their political, social, and economic legacies and traumatic emotional costs; and their continuing influence on not only the park and descendant communities’ relationship with it, but also the entire upper Mississippi River region, the origins and ongoing operations of the NPS, and the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Each NPS Mellon Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow will complete work in four areas. Fellows will (1) perform project-based research; (2) share research results; (3) produce and substantially contribute to interpretive and educational products; and (4) pursue career-focused work.
1) Project-Based Research: Applied research at the heart of this fellowship will include discovery, understanding, and synthesis of primary and secondary sources revealing forensic, personal, and social truths related to the origins, consequences, and contexts of the four 1825-1830 Prairie du Chien treaties from the perspectives and interpretations of the people involved and affected. What has the potential to differentiate this research from the existing literature on treaties and treaty-making is exploration of not only the tangible who, what, when, where, and why of the treaties but also the intangible spiritual, ceremonial, conceptual, political, and emotional understandings that participants and affected individuals and communities expressed at the time and to the present. Further, applied research exploring specifically the distinct indigenous systems of governance and their difference from the American form adopted in the Revolutionary War period and subsequently imposed on Native nations in treaty councils offers opportunities to learn about, acknowledge, promote awareness of, and reconcile the historical traumas of dispossession perpetuated in the NPS’s ongoing cultural appropriation and management of Indian lands at places such as Effigy Mounds. Through this applied research, the Mellon Fellow will create interpretive and education content that aids public understanding of the park’s new interpretive themes-special places, interconnectedness, ways of knowing, sophistication, and perseverance-developed in partnership with tribal and other community partners in 2019. In year two, the Fellow will consult with their mentorship team, as well as other subject matter experts as needed, to propose a project for their second year.
2) Sharing Research Results: The Fellow will collaborate with their support team to share the results of their applied research with their hosts, cohort, NPS staff and partners, tribal partners, and ultimately to visitors and community partners. This will include a written report to be hosted on NPS.gov and may include in-person and virtual presentations and other means of sharing results. The primary goal will be community-focused research that meets the needs of Tribal Nations and descendant communities. An additional goal is increasing public understanding of the Native systems of governance, tribal sovereignty, treaty-making, and its lasting consequences through the lens of the Fellow’s educational specialty. Working through appropriate governmental channels, research will be shared with other National Park units and Federal agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as Native nations and state and local partners.
The Fellow will be expected to develop and sustain connections with program-provided mentors and host staff, associated NPS staff, members of their Fellowship cohort, and other Fellows across the tenure of the program. In addition to being provided mentorship and support themselves, the Fellow will have the opportunity to mentor others and to enrich staff knowledge by organizing events such as virtual speaker series and presentations. Twice a year, the Fellow will participate with their cohort and other Fellows in a virtual conference for NPS staff and partners to provide updates about their research. The Fellow will be responsible for tracking and reporting accomplishments and for supplying copies of interpretive, educational, and research products to their host and to the National Coordinator.
3) Interpretive and Educational Products: The Fellow will be instrumental in creating interpretive media that advances inclusive storytelling, working alongside the NPS, Tribal partners and Tribal Historic Preservation Officers, and consultants to develop content that explores the origins, consequences, and context of the four Prairie du Chien treaties to illustrate the role of treaty-making in developing the supreme law of the land and its relevance to the lands that would become and are Effigy Mounds National Monument. Programming and interpretive products could include park-specific and shared NPS.gov website content, a StoryMap providing a visual representation of the treaties’ influence, podcasts, wayside panels, a temporary or permanent exhibit, and presentations designed to provoke thought and emotional engagement among viewers by 1) acknowledging and honoring indigenous peoples through integration of their voices, values, and perspectives; 2) revealing stories and ways of knowing previously absent from park interpretive programs and products; 3) advancing equality and justice for all by empowering Native sovereignty through presentation of historically underrepresented views, values, and perspectives as well as the countering of pervasive myths about Native Americans and America’s founding; 4) exploring the political, legal, cultural, and spiritual impacts of the American Revolution on peoples and lands not involved directly in the imperial contest between European powers during the Revolutionary War-period and the subsequent losses suffered by exclusion from citizenship and participation in the new nation’s governance; and 5) revealing the foundational Western epistemological biases extant within and perpetuated in the creation and ongoing management of the NPS and Effigy Mounds National Monument.
4) Career-focused Research and Products: In consultation with their mentors, the Fellow will carry out a career-centered project. About 20 percent of the Fellowship will be dedicated to this scholarly work that advances the Fellow’s career path. The Fellow will be supported by a multidisciplinary team with expertise in interpretation, history, cultural anthropology, Indigenous knowledge, and archival as well as ethnographic research. In addition to NPS staff, the Fellow will also have an external mentor whose work addresses Indigenous knowledge, borderlands studies, and the history of treaty-making.
Essential Responsibilities and Tasks:
- Conduct original research about the causes, consequences, and context of the four Prairie du Chien treaties (1825-1830) using primary source material, especially those (such as oral histories) that reveal Native peoples voices, values, and perspectives.
- Develop an account of the treaty councils, including an analysis of what people said and their reasons for saying what they said, to provide insight into 1) the differing worldviews, motivations, and objectives of the treaty participants; 2) how the US government “attempted to circumscribe Indian sovereignty” at the same time as the treaty-making process and resulting treaties existed as tangible proof of Native sovereignty; and 3) how treaties “could, generally did, and still do mean something very different to Indian peoples” than to members of the dominant culture.
- Participate in dialogue with tribal partners, advisory groups, and other descendant communities; share research findings and utilize their feedback to meaningfully guide work.
- Co-create interpretive media to deepen public understanding of Native peoples’ relationship with this land, the mounds, and their ancestors; media could include a temporary and/or traveling exhibit, a short video, site bulletins, or web content for nps.gov.
- Host in-person or virtual training for park staff and partner organizations to better understand the origins, context, and consequences of the treaties as the “supreme law of the land” and to encourage critical thinking about their lasting legacies not only for Native peoples’ relationship with Effigy Mounds National Monument but for their removal from traditional homelands.