Land Research

Researching the history of the land is part of Forge Project’s obligation to steward and support Indigenous placemaking within the homelands of Stockbridge-Munsee Community.

Since 2022, Forge Project has partnered with the Rethinking Place initiative at Bard College to uncover the history of the land in the surrounding region over time, and how land and labor were exploited by the people who owned them.

Land Narrative

Frances Cathryn, editorial projects manager at Forge Project, and Zariah Calliste, undergraduate assistant, present their research at the 2023 Rethinking Place conference at Bard College. Video by Mariia Pankova.

The “land acknowledgment” has become fashionable for its ability to gesture at settler culpability without performing material restitution.

Through our research, the resulting land “narrative,” which is more comprehensive than an acknowledgment through its engagement with both place-based history and cultural continuity, is intended as a model for similar research projects as well as provide an argument for reclamation and return. 

While land acknowledgments suspend moments of dispossession and simultaneously attempt to historicize them, the focus on land narratives emphasizes complex histories, ongoing community relations, and cultural resurgence as a reparative framework. 

Unlike other areas of the United States where tribes have access to land bases to self-govern, build community, and practice their culture, the Hudson Valley is a site of near total physical and narrative erasure. This is emphasized through multiple narrative forms, ranging from artistic movements like the Hudson River School that imagine landscapes absent of Indigenous peoples to the use of narrative past-tense when referring to peoples of place.

The public is largely uninformed on the history of Indigenous people throughout the region, along with their continued dispossession from the land, making non-Native claims to place territory seem established, self-evident, and unquestioned. Bringing these histories into the center of more public discourse, we believe, can support more compelling arguments for return.

With contributions from Zariah Calliste, undergraduate student researcher in Historical Studies, and Lucas Ondak, graduate student researcher in the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, with funding provided by Rethinking Place: Bard-on-Mahicantuck, supported by the Mellon Foundation “Humanities for All Times” initiative.