Assistant Professor of English
University of Mississippi
C128 Bondurant Hall, P.O. Box 1848
University, MS 38677
Alluvial Texts: The Mississippi River Valley and Native American Materials and Media
We seek short papers for two linked roundtables on the materials and media of the pre-1900 Mississippi River Valley.
The Mississippi River and its tributaries have long constituted rich ecological, cultural, and textual spaces, as Native nations and individuals used the rivers as routes for exchanging ideas and goods. In addition to being a space of movement and interaction, the river supported Native religious, political, and agricultural centers, from the mounds at Cahokia to the farmlands that Sauk people cultivated on riverine islands. The Mississippi is also a contested site of settler colonialism, as French, Spanish, British, and U.S. colonists recognized the river’s importance as a conduit for transportation and communication, and they made control of the river and displacement of the Native peoples who called it home key to imperial claims. Taking the riverine flows that compose the Mississippi River Valley as our framework, we plan to propose two panels to examine what we call alluvial texts—materials and media created by the routes of Indigenous life along the Mississippi River Valley.
Each 8-10 minute presentation will focus on a particular text or object created by Native peoples living along and engaging with the Mississippi, from its headwaters in Dakota homelands to the swamps and bayous of its delta, with its many Native towns, including those of the Natchez and Choctaw. Following the river, rather than imperial or US national boundaries, will illuminate connections among peoples and places not ordinarily seen as related. Collectively, papers combined with sustained discussion will consider how the Mississippi River’s origins in northern headwaters, its many tributaries, its southern delta, and its mouth in the gulf constitute a place-based and culturally specific foundation from which to consider Native American literatures and history within expansive frameworks: intercontinental, hemispheric, transoceanic, and even global. In this way, the linked roundtables explore a new orientation to pre-1900 Native American studies, one that accounts for the diverse languages spoken along the river; foregrounds the relations among alphabetic, pictographic, material, sonic, and image based media; and underscores the interconnections between ecological and textual realms. We do not expect that this reorientation will replace tribal-specific or region-specific models; rather, we see it as complementing these other methods as we consider how to understand and use a fluvial model in a way that attends to the specificities of individual Native nations, sites, moments, and objects.