Event—Public Programming

Reclaiming the Black Swamp: The "Ecological Indian," Colonial Solastalgia, and Historical Narrative


This presentation will discuss the Euro-American colonization of Northwest Ohio's Black Swamp region and the challenges of adequately narrating this history. In the 1830s, the federal government forced Native communities clustered around the swamp to relocate west of the Mississippi. In the decades that followed, Americans occupied the region and reclaimed the 1,500 square-mile wetland. Successive generations of settlers, biographers, and historians have linked Indigenous dispossession to these rapid ecological transformations. These accounts often cite substantive differences between Native and newcomer cosmologies and environmental practices. Just as often, they rely on the figure of the noble savage and notions of civilizational progress to simultaneously lament and justify these changes. In this talk, Eliot will explore what such narrative techniques both reveal and obscure about the relationship between Native Americans, colonialism, and ecological change in one borderland region.