Left: Bill Quackenbush leads a tour of Ho-Chunk lands in the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, 2017. Right: A visit to an Illinois organic farm, 2008.

Over the Levee, Under the Plow: A Mobile Seminar

Sarah Kanouse
Aug 13, 2019 · 14 min read

This traveling seminar considers the ongoing geological, biological, and social formation of the Midwest in order to locate the historical, political and philosophical roots of the environmental crisis as it manifests in this territory. The seminar unfolds over five days in the landscape marked physically by the action of glaciers, shaped by the enduring presence of Indigenous nations, and defined politically by the colonization that intensified after the 1832 Black Hawk conflict. Bringing together Native leaders, local residents, scholars, activists, and artists for a series of lectures, tours, and conversations, the seminar aims to understand the origins and effects of the present engineered landscape and build alliances for more just and sustainable futures.

De Soto, Wisconsin

Gathering on the banks of the Mississippi River, the seminar begins by acknowledging the colonial violence that unleashed the bio-geo-social transformation that we now call the Anthropocene. Black Hawk Park is near the site of the Bad Axe Massacre of 1832 in which the US Army and state militias killed 250 unarmed Sauk Indians, mostly starving women and children, as they attempted to flee to safety across the Mississippi River. The conflict erupted over agriculture: Sauk leader Black Hawk had lead the group across the Mississippi in May to replant their traditional agricultural fields in defiance of a fraudulent treaty. And the conflict resulted in agriculture: the “war” provided the cover to remove the Indigenous communities that paved the way to settler farms and statehood for Wisconsin and Iowa. This convocation will honor those who lost their lives and lifeways to the settler-colonial violence that unleashed the Anthropocene and examine the responsibilities this inheritance demands.

4:00–6:00 pm > Welcome and Convocation
Nicholas Brown, Northeastern University
Sarah Kanouse, Northeastern University
Ryan Griffis, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Black Hawk Park Shelter #3
De Soto, WI

Following the convocation, the group will travel to three other sites that illustrated other aspects of the regional Anthropocene. Carpooling is recommended.

This event is limited capacity; email Sarah Kanouse — s.kanouse@northeastern.edu — to inquire about space.

Thursday, September 26 > RESTORING THE LAND
La Farge, Wisconsin

The first full day of the seminar takes place at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve. This unique conservation and recreation area, jointly managed by the State of Wisconsin and the Ho-Chunk Nation, was created on land cleared of settler farms in preparation for a US Army Corps of Engineers flood control dam that was abandoned following environmental review triggered by the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act. It is therefore a site where diverse attachments to the landscape are palpable, where differences between Native and non-Native practices of conservation are worked through, and where the term “restoration” takes on multivalent meanings.

9:00am-1:00 PM > Tour of Kickapoo Valley Reserve
Bill Quackenbush, Ho-Chunk Historic Preservation Department

Kickapoo Valley Reserve Visitor Center
S3661 State Highway 131
La Farge, WI 54629

This event is limited capacity; email Sarah Kanouse to inquire about space.

2:00–4:00 PM > Activity with Beth Rose Middleton Manning

Kickapoo Valley Reserve Visitor Center
S3661 State Highway 131
La Farge, WI 54629

This event is limited capacity; email Sarah Kanouse to inquire about space.

4:30–6:00 PM > Land Trusts and other Native Conservation Tools
a lecture by Beth Rose Middleton Manning

Kickapoo Valley Reserve Visitor Center
S3661 State Highway 131
La Farge, WI 54629

Lands within Native American jurisdiction contain a fraction of Native sacred sites, cultural resources, culturally-important species, treaty-guaranteed resources, and heritage sites. In the face of institutionalized dispossession, industrial and residential expansion, and the growth of public and private conservation, Native Americans are protecting these places and resources with an innovative combination of public and private conservation tools. This work at the intersections of Native American Studies, Environmental Policy, and Environmental and Federal Indian law focuses on the tools that tribes (federally recognized and unrecognized) and Native non-profits are using to protect, access, acquire, and steward lands that were/are out of Native jurisdiction. Such tools include land trusts and conservancies, new market tax credits, carbon offsets, co-management, consultation and mitigation, and inter-tribal conservation organizations. Tribal applications of these tools represent the integration of tribal priorities, traditional perspectives, and the exercise of inherent sovereignty to steward homelands.

Dr. Beth Rose Middleton Manning is Associate Professor of Native American Studies at UC Davis. Beth Rose’s research centers on Native environmental policy and Native activism for site protection using conservation tools. Her broader research interests include intergenerational trauma and healing, rural environmental justice, indigenous analysis of climate change, Afro-Indigeneity, and qualitative GIS. Beth Rose received her BA in Nature and Culture from UC Davis, and her Ph.D. in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management from UC Berkeley. Her book, Trust in the Land: New Directions in Tribal Conservation (University of Arizona Press 2011), focuses on Native applications of conservation easements, with an emphasis on conservation partnerships led by California Native Nations. Beth Rose has published on Native economic development in Economic Development Quarterly, on political ecology and healing in the Journal of Political Ecology, on Federal Indian law as environmental policy, and the history of the environmental justice movement in The CQ Guide to US Environmental Policy, on mapping allotment lands in Ethnohistory, on using environmental laws for indigenous rights in Environmental Management, on the application of market-based conservation tools to Garifuna site protection in Caribbean Quarterly, on challenges to cultural site protection in Native California in Human Geography, and on indigenous political ecologies in the International Handbook of Political Ecology. Her new book, Upstream: Trust Lands and Power on the Feather River, on the history of Indian land rights and hydroelectric development in northeastern California, was published in September 2018 with University of Arizona Press.

RSVP via Eventbrite: http://bit.ly/MiddletonManning

Baraboo, Wisconsin

The seminar heads outdoors to explore the landscape on foot and to consider the ways of learning and knowing that such embodied inquiry allows. We gather at the site of the former Badger Army Ammunition Plant to learn how the Ho-Chunk are restoring a heavily contaminated 20th century military site before heading to the Ice Age Trail at nearby Devil’s Lake for exercises in observing, moving, and thinking from the Ice Age to the Anthropocene.

11:00am-1:00 PM > Tour of former Badger Army Ammunition Plant
Bill Quackenbush, Ho-Chunk Historic Preservation Department
Randy Poelma, Ho-Chunk Division of Environmental Health

Meeting location TBD

Storymap: history of Badger Army Ammunition Plant

This event is limited capacity; email Sarah Kanouse to inquire about space.

2:00–5:00 PM > Walking Activity on the Ice Age to Anthropocene Trail

Stephanie Springgay, Walking Lab and University of Toronto
Toby Beauchamp, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Devil’s Lake State Park
S5975 Park Rd
Baraboo, WI 53913

This event is limited capacity; email Sarah Kanouse to inquire about space.

7:00–9:00 PM > Lectures by Stephanie Springgay and Toby Beauchamp

Jenny Eddy Conference Room
Thomas C. Pleger Science Building
UW Baraboo/Sauk County Campus
1006 Connie Rd, Baraboo, WI

Walking research-creation with diverse publics
a lecture by Stephanie Springgay

Feminist scholars argue that we need research practices that break with ableist, racist, extractive, and settler colonial logics, and instead focus on ones that are situated, relational, and ethical. This means troubling our relationship with institutions and transforming the kinds of value we allow for particular forms of knowledge. We need to alter our practices from ones based on extraction of data or as a means to correct a wrong. As such researchers are urgently turning to new ways of doing research that create conditions for other ways of living and learning, and which materialize new kinds of research relations and questions. It is fundamentally about practicing an ethics based on response-ability, stewardship, care, and reciprocity that centre relationships to land, territory, human and more-than-human bodies. This paper/presentation will take up these important ethical dimensions of doing walking research and share some exemplifications from my research-creation practice.

Stephanie Springgay is an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto. She is a leading scholar of research-creation with a focus on walking, affect, queer theory, and contemporary art as pedagogy. She directs the SSHRC-funded research-creation project The Pedagogical Impulse which explores the intersections between contemporary art and pedagogy. As a site for artistic-research in art and education it has initiated a number of experimental, critical, and collaborative projects including: a series of artist-residencies in K-12 classrooms; the creation of curriculum materials and resources on social practice art; and a series of curatorial projects including Instant Class Kit — a mobile exhibition and curriculum guide. With Dr. Sarah Truman she co-directs WalkingLab — an international network of artists and scholars committed to critical approaches to walking methods. Additionally, she is a stream lead on a SSHRC partnership grant Bodies in Translation: Activist Art, Technology, and Access to Life. Other curatorial projects include The Artist’s Soup Kitchen — a 6 week performance project that explore food soveriegnty, queer feminist solidarity, and the communal act of cooking and eating together. She has published widely on contemporary art, curriculum studies, and qualitative research methodologies.

Understories: On the Politics of Long-Distance Hiking
a lecture by Toby Beauchamp

The well-established outdoor ethical principle of “leave no trace” promotes environmental protection through minimizing human impact: in its most idealized form, ethical outdoor recreation will leave behind no indication of human presence on the landscape. This talk uses the concept of “leave no trace” as a springboard for consideration of hiking trails. Rather than imagining these paths as tools for removing human presence, the talk seeks out the social, historical, and political traces that hiking trails can both illuminate and obscure. It pays close attention to specific long-distance trail systems, including the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin, to discover how these trails can transmit complex stories about militarism, restoration, redistribution, and belonging.

Toby Beauchamp is Assistant Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and affiliate faculty in the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His first book, Going Stealth: Transgender Politics and U.S. Surveillance Practices (Duke University Press, 2019) shows how the scrutinizing of gender nonconformity is motivated less by explicit transgender identities than by the perceived threat that gender nonconformity poses to the U.S. racial and security state. Prof. Beauchamp’s new research brings trans studies into conversation with the environmental humanities to consider topics such as the transnational production and circulation of synthetic hormones, U.S. border patrol and ecological destruction, and the creation and maintenance of long-distance hiking trails. His writing has appeared in journals including GLQ, Feminist Formations, and Surveillance & Society, as well as several edited book collections.

RSVP via Eventbrite: http://bit.ly/SpringgayBeauchamp

Dane County, Wisconsin & Moline, Illinois

The seminar travels from Wisconsin to Illinois to examine the interplay of displacement, immigration, and hydrological engineering in producing the landscapes of extractive agriculture celebrated in the racialized mythology of the American “heartland.” Situating both the heartland and the Anthropocene in the context of global capitalism, the day’s activities seek to work through such extractive imaginaries in order to establish alternate visions of just coexistence and mutual support.

9:30am-11:30am > Walking Activity on the Ice Age to Anthropocene Trail
Nicholas Brown, Northeastern University
Rozalinda Borcilă, activist and independent artist

Ice Age Trail at Indian Lake
8381 State Highway 19
Cross Plains, WI 53528

This event is limited capacity; email Sarah Kanouse to inquire about space.

3:00–5:00pm > Field trip to the John Deere Pavilion
Alyosha Goldstein, University of New Mexico
Ryan Griffis, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

John Deere Pavilion
John Deer Pavilion
1400 River Drive
Moline, Illinois 61265

At the John Deere Pavilion, visitors can see the contemporary manifestation of the ideologies that replaced the entire Tallgrass Prairie of Illinois with seemingly endless fields of corn and soybeans. Deere’s production line — from its early plows to today’s million-dollar combine harvesters — has played a significant role in turning settler-colonial dreams into reality. It’s gleaming green and yellow machines are forged by urban labor and destined for use in rural spaces around the world. They are a character in, what William Cronon has called, the “larger tale of people reshaping the land to match their collective vision of its destiny.” The surface of that vision is of a wild country made productive through technological capital, the pastoral imaginary of family farmers feeding the world. Holding up that vision, however, are the less visible technologies of indigenous dispossession and chattel slavery that cleared the land in advance of the plow.

This event is limited capacity; email Sarah Kanouse to inquire about space.

7:00–8:30 PM >The Land in Pieces
a lecture by Alyosha Goldstein

Butterworth Center
1105–8th Street
Moline, Illinois 61265

How has agriculture been central to the mythology of “America”? This talk focuses on how ideas about agriculture as a relation to land, place, and belonging based on domestication, possession, extraction, and freedom have served as a justification for colonialism historically and in the present. How does the connection between the social imaginaries of white nationalism and changing farmland economies matter in this regard? In what way are such colonial and racial relations to land, place, and belonging necessarily shaped as a response to the presence and futurity of Indigenous nations and peoples rendered outside the frame of the white nationalist imaginary? Situating the “heartland” of what is presently the United States in the context of the global capitalist transformations and the predominance of large-scale corporate agriculture, this talk examines the ongoing consequences of colonial and racial dispossession and asks what addressing such consequences demands in terms of collective struggle, for what Grace Hong calls “the impossible politics of difference,” for new social imaginaries, and living relations to land and place otherwise.

Alyosha Goldstein’s research interests include the study of globalization, neoliberalism, and social movements; comparative histories of imperialism, colonialism, and nationalism; modern liberalism and twentieth-century political culture; critical race and indigenous studies; the history and politics of public health; and social and political theory. Goldstein’s current research focuses on United States colonialism, the normative racial and gendered logics of neoliberalism, and economies of dispossession in the historical present. He is working on a book manuscript entitled “Colonial Accumulations: Racial Capitalism and the Colonial Present” that uses recent legislation as a critical analytic lens through which to address current debates over racism, colonialism, and other modes ofexpropriation and devaluation, and to examine the jurisprudence of redress during our present era of economic crisis. He is Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of New Mexico.

RSVP via Eventbrite: http://bit.ly/GoldsteinLecture

Rock Island, Illinois

The seminar concludes in Saukenuk, the center of the Sauk homelands and the largest city in Illinois for the first decades of the 19th century. It was the need to plant the fields around Saukenuk that led Black Hawk’s band to ignore the provisions of a fraudulent treaty and cross the Mississippi in April 1832, triggering the events culminating in the Bad Axe Massacre. Three years later, John Deere began manufacturing the eponymous plow that would transform the prairie into commodity agriculture. Yet the catastrophic environmental transformations wrought by settlement have not exterminated Indigenous political and ecological practices, which have persisted and adapted to what Kyle Powys White calls the post-apocalyptic conditions of the present. Concluding events celebrate and share practices of Indigenous sovereignty and culminate with community cookout at the Black Hawk State Historic Site.

10:00am-12:00 PM > Sovereign Histories at Saukenuk

Black Hawk State Historic Site
1510 46th Avenue
Rock Island, IL 61201

RSVP via Eventbrite: http://bit.ly/sovereignfoods1

1:00–3:00 PM > Sovereign Foods & Languages

Wallenberg Hall
Augustana College
3520 7th Avenue
Rock Island, Illinois 61201

RSVP via Eventbrite: http://bit.ly/sovereignfoods2

3:30–5:00 PM > Knowing the Land
a lecture by
Clint Carroll

Wallenberg Hall
Augustana College
3520 7th Avenue
Rock Island, Illinois 61201

This talk addresses challenges that Indigenous Nations face regarding the interrelated processes of cultural knowledge revitalization and environmental adaptation. For example, how can methods for transmitting traditional knowledge and the management of local resources adapt to radically different social and environmental circumstances? How can tribal elders effectively communicate their knowledge and perspectives on pressing issues like the preservation of medicinal plants to tribal officials, youth, and the general tribal population? Based on my past and current work with Cherokee people in Oklahoma, I will explore possible strategies for overcoming such challenges, as well as current and future research endeavors that further seek to address political-ecological issues in the Cherokee Nation.

Clint Carroll is Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado-Boulder. He received his doctorate from the University of California-Berkeley in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, and his bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona in Anthropology, with a minor in American Indian Studies. A citizen of the Cherokee Nation, his work with Cherokee government officials and rural communities in northeastern Oklahoma explores how tribal natural resource management is informed by traditional forms of decision-making and local environmental knowledge. His first book, Roots of Our Renewal: Ethnobotany and Cherokee Environmental Governance (published in 2015 by the University of Minnesota Press), is an historical and ethnographic account of this work since 2004.

Dr. Carroll has received fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the Udall Foundation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Science Foundation. He was also a 2014–2016 Fellow of the Native Investigator Development Program, funded by the National Institutes of Health. His work has been published in Ethnohistory, Geoforum, Environmental Research, and two edited collections. He is an active member of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology.

RSVP via Event Brite: http://bit.ly/clintcarroll

5:00pm > Closing Ceremony with Regina Tsosie & Josie Ironshield, Native American Coalition of the Quad Cities, and Sage Sisters Of Solidarity

Wallenberg Hall
Augustana College
3520 7th Avenue
Rock Island, Illinois 61201

5:30 PM > Community Cookout at Black Hawk State Historic Site

Black Hawk State Historic Site
1510 46th Avenue
Rock Island, IL 61201

Tickets available for $10; catering by Invictus Voices

Primary organizers

Nicholas Brown, School of Architecture & Department of History, Northeastern University
Ryan Griffis, School of Art & Design, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Sarah Kanouse, Department of Art + Design, Northeastern University


Toby Beauchamp, Gender and Women’s Studies, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Francis Bettelyoun, Lakota master gardener
Rozalinda Borcilă, activist and independent artist
Chi-Nations Youth Council, inter-tribal Indigenous youth organization
Clint Carroll, Ethnic Studies, University of Colorado at Boulder
Rhonda Funmaker, Ho-Chunk Chef
Alyosha Goldstein, American Studies, University of New Mexico
Josie Ironshield, Native American Coalition of the Quad Cities
Beth Rose Middleton Manning, Native American Studies, University of California, Davis
Sam Muñoz, College of Science, Northeastern University
Christine Nobiss, Seeding Sovereignty
Heather Parrish, School of Art and History, University of Iowa
Randy Poelma, Ho-Chunk Division of Environmental Health
Yolanda Pushetonequa, Meskwaki Language Preservation
Bill Quackenbush, Ho-Chunk Historic Preservation Department
Jacki Rand, History, University of Iowa
Jodee Smith, Ho-Chunk chef
Stephanie Springgay, University of Toronto
Corinne Teed, Department of Art, University of Minnesota
Regina Tsosie, Native American Coalition of the Quad Cities
Donetta Wanatee, Meskwaki Food Sovereignty Initiative

Partner institutions and projects

Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin
Goethe Institute, Chicago
College of Fine & Applied Arts, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Invictus Voices, Baraboo, WI
College of Arts, Media and Design, Northeastern University
Regional Relationships, Urbana-Champaign/Chicago
Wunderbar Together: The Year of German-American Friendship

Anthropocene Drift

A research publication for the Anthropocene Drift Field…