Monument Valley

Treatied Spaces: Environment and Peoples in America, 1607 - The Present

Our work seeks to inform contemporary public understanding and shape academic and policy discussions of indigenous rights and historical experience in a global context.

Particular areas of focus are the environment, sustainability and resource use; indigenous rights within national and international legal contexts; unlocking the indigenous history of Britain and its former empire; driving innovation in the use of collaboratively-produced digital platforms for the conduct and dissemination of research.

Dr Joy Porter and Dr Charles Prior
Faculty of Arts, Cultures and Education
Professor Joy Porter and Dr Charles W. A. Prior
Group leaders

The Challenge

We seek to explore the ways in which treaties concluded between Native American peoples and settler, colonial, and federal governments shed light on questions of sovereignty; the possession of land; the use of space and the environment; the movements of peoples and goods; and pathways of war and disease. The aim is to deepen our understanding of treaties as instruments of diplomacy and conquest and to present them as contested and dynamic historical documents which remain central to contemporary debates on social and environmental justice in both American and trans-national context.

The Approach

Established with University support in September 2017, the Treatied Spaces Cluster has developed a portfolio of collaborative research projects worth over £2 million. Over the next three years we will expand our collaborations, with a particular focus on the environmental, legal, and political frameworks in which relationships between indigenous communities and post-colonial states intersect.

World flags

OUR AIMS

  • To employ treaties and diplomatic relationships as a lens to understand historic and contemporary issues of sovereignty, territory, environment, and mobility;
  • To act as a platform to build a set of global collaborations, linking academics, indigenous communities, cultural and heritage institutions, policy makers, and the general public;
  • To create digital platforms that enhance research capacity and drive Knowledge Exchange.

Projects

Iroquois

AHRC Standard Route Research Grant

‘Brightening the Covenant Chain: Revealing Cultures of Diplomacy Between the Crown, The Iroquois and Their Neighbours’.

Project dates: February 2021-July 2024   

Tree at dusk

British Academy Global Professorship, Professor Gregory Smithers

‘Native Ecologies: A Deep History of Climate Change’.

Project dates: January 2020-December 2024.

Nixon

Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship, Professor Joy Porter

‘What would Nixon do? The Forgotten Roots of American Environmentalism’.

Project Dates: September 2019-September 2022

book

AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership with the British Library, Rebecca Slatcher

‘North American Indigenous Languages in the British Library’s Post-1850 Collections’.  

Project Dates: October 2019-October 2023

Calumet

British Academy Visiting Fellowship, Professor Dale Turner

‘A Tradition of Anishinaabe Diplomacy: Indigenous Spirituality in Anishinaabe Constitutionalism’ 

Project Dates: August 2018-February 2019

American_Studies_History

Leverhulme Research Fellowship, Dr Charles W. A. Prior

‘Conquest and the ‘Right to Hold’: Territorial Sovereignty and the American Revolution’.  

Project Dates: September 2017- December 2018

View all projects

British Academy Global Professorship, Professor Gregory Smithers 

‘Native Ecologies: A Deep History of Climate Change’. 

Project dates: January 2020-December 2024.

This project seeks to explore how threats to our well-being posed by climate change can be addressed by drawing upon indigenous knowledges rooted in the deep past. It compares two ecologically important regions transformed by colonialism: the homelands of the Cherokee in the Appalachians of the United States, and those of the Ngarigo and Walgal peoples of the Great Dividing Range in Australia. Using settler and indigenous sources, Professor Gregory Smithers will map a ‘genealogy’ of indigenous ecologies in order to construct the first deep history of a set of indigenous responses to fluctuations in climate. The project will result in the publication of a research monograph that forges connections between the history of indigenous traditional ecological knowledge and conventional science-based responses to climate change.

Project Collaborations: Australian Institute of Aboriginal & Torres Islander Studies, Australian Research Council Linkage Project, Australia Department of Environment, Climate Change & Water, University of Sydney, Australia National University, University of Newcastle-Australia, Native American STEM Faculty-University of Montana, University of Colorado, University of Washington, National Museum of the American Indian-Washington

Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship, Professor Joy Porter

‘What would Nixon do? The Forgotten Roots of American Environmentalism’.

Project Dates: September 2019-September 2022

At a critical juncture in environmental history, when conventional warnings are dismissed by conservative voters as ‘fake news’, the project will engage with conservative and Republican traditions by asking: ‘What Would Nixon Do?’ It will examine the Nixon presidency and its remarkable environmental advances using Native American Indian Federal history as a lens. The project will bring together archives new to scholarship in order to foreground a conservative revolution in environmental protection and Native rights that today is downplayed by the Trump administration. The resulting interdisciplinary book will appear with The University of Nebraska Press with the intention of influencing a spectrum of interests that are currently conducting separate conversations. 

AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership with the British Library, Rebecca Slatcher

‘North American Indigenous Languages in the British Library’s Post-1850 Collections’.

Project Dates: October 2019-October 2023

This project engages with current debates about the role of cultural institutions in collecting preserving and promoting indigenous languages. The doctoral student works with the BL Digital Scholarship and Metadata Services teams to carry out metadata cleaning of nineteenth-century sources. The intention is to promote and make discoverable the indigenous materials within BL collections, and to position the Library at the forefront of research into a pressing global concern: how twenty-first century museums can address pressing post-colonial societal challenges through indigenizing both digital humanities research and collection practice. 

British Academy Visiting Fellowship, Professor Dale Turner

‘A Tradition of Anishinaabe Diplomacy: Indigenous Spirituality in Anishinaabe Constitutionalism’

Project Dates: August 2018-February 2019 

During this fellowship, Professor Turner made intellectually generative use of the archival pathways available via the Treatied Spaces Research Cluster at the University of Hull. Turner also explored materials held at the Bodleian Library, Oxford and the Pitt Rivers Museum. Turner’s time at the Pitt Rivers prompted consideration of how treaties relate to museum collection provenance and practice and he also visited the British Library, London and explored their North American post-1850s and map collections. As a direct result of his fellowship, Turner was able to publish a high-profile review essay on a key treaty theory text on The Right Relationship: Reimagining the Implementation of Historical Treaties, ed. John Borrows & Michael Coyle, 2017 submitted to the Queen’s Law Journal. Fellowship activities also helped Turner finalise and submit a book proposal to the University of Toronto Press titled, A Genealogy of Indigenous Rights, Sovereignty and Nationhood in Canada: 1966 to 2015. Additionally, Turner engaged with high profile lecturing events, hosting the School of History’s Annual Public History Lecture ‘Cowboys and Indians: A 21st Century Western’, speaking on the history of North American treaties and their entangled relationship with the British Crown. He also gave the Keynote lecture at the World Indigenous Research and Education Conference in Guovdageaidnu, Sápmi, Norway: ‘Reflections on the Politics of Indigenous Knowledge’ as well as presenting a series of postgraduate workshops at Hull, Sussex and Oxford University. Dale continues to work with TSRC as a Co-I on ‘Brightening the Covenant Chain’ where he will be specifically working with museums to provide insight and better understandings of indigenous holdings and as a co-supervisor on the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award partnership.

Leverhulme Research Fellowship, Dr Charles W. A. Prior

‘Conquest and the ‘Right to Hold’: Territorial Sovereignty and the American Revolution’.

Project Dates: September 2017- December 2018

Historians hold these truths to be self-evident: that the ideological origins of the American Revolution lie in arguments about political rights, which were conducted exclusively within English and European frameworks of political ideas. This project takes a different approach and situates conflict over land at the centre of a contest between settlers, Indians, colonial governors and the Crown. Offering the first sustained analysis of treaties and laws that structured the relationship between settlers and Indians, it recovers a long history of ‘conquest’ that Thomas Jefferson claimed as the basis of ‘the right to hold’ and rule territory.

Members

Outputs and publications

The power of metaphorical language in treaty diplomacy (2019)
Hatton, H., & Porter, J. The power of metaphorical language in treaty diplomacy. UNESCO

The horror genre and aspects of Native American Indian literature (2018)
Porter, J. (2018). The horror genre and aspects of Native American Indian literature. In K. Corstorphine, & L. Kremmel (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook to Horror Literature, 45-60. Palgrave Macmillan.

Settlers among empires: conquest and the American Revolution (2018)
Prior, C. W. A. (2018). Settlers among empires: conquest and the American Revolution. In E. Vallance (Ed.), Remembering Early Modern Revolutions: England, North America, France and Haiti, 79-93. Taylor & Francis (Routledge)

The Story of Native North America (2017)
Porter, J. (2017). The Story of Native North America

Progressivism and Native American Self-Expression in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth century (2014)
Porter, J. (2014). Progressivism and Native American Self-Expression in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth century. In G. D. Smithers, & B. N. Newman (Eds.), Native Diasporas: Indigenous Identities and Setller Colonialism in North America, 273-296. The University of Nebraska Press

Native American environmentalism: Land, spirit and the idea of wilderness (2014)
Porter, J. (2014). Native American environmentalism: Land, spirit and the idea of wilderness. Bison books

Native American freemasonry: Associationalism and performance in America (2011)
Porter, J. (2011). Native American freemasonry: Associationalism and performance in America. University of Nebraska Press

Place and Native American Indian history and culture (2007)
J. Porter (Ed.), (2007). Place and Native American Indian history and culture

The Cambridge companion to Native American literature (2005)
J. Porter, & K. M. Roemer (Eds.), (2005). The Cambridge companion to Native American literature

To be Indian: the life of Iroquois-Seneca Arthur Caswell Parker (2001)
Porter, J. (2001). To be Indian: the life of Iroquois-Seneca Arthur Caswell Parker. University of Oklahoma Press

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Research Students

Heather Hatton

Bridging the Divide: The Language of Diplomacy in Early America 1701-1774

Professor Joy Porter and Dr Charles W.A. Prior

Rebecca Slatcher

North American Indigenous Languages in the British Library’s post-1850 Collections

Professor Joy Porter and Dr Francisca Fuentes (Curator for North American Print Collections at the British Library)

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