Massachusetts Historical Society


"Come by Water and not by land": Water Sovereignty & Rival Ecologies in Mid-Atlantic Iron Country, 1608-1783


Author: Sophie Hess, University of Maryland
Comment: Christopher L. Pastore, University at Albany, State University of New York

This is an online event.

For seventeenth-century Susquehannock and Piscataway people, small rivers, creeks, and streams were nonhuman kin. For English settlers, these same waters were raw materials, infrastructure with which to make their fortunes in iron production. Seizures of water by settlers provoked resistance from Indigenous people, violent episodes which threatened the growth of industry, and, in some cases, forced proprietors out of the iron business altogether. Sophie Hess investigates these conflicts over water in Maryland's colonial records, arguing that economic growth hinged on securing water for iron and that Indigenous people disrupted this growth through organized attacks and other acts of resistance.

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