First and foremost, I thank the people of Akwesasne who generously shared their time and lives with me. I would especially like to thank Katsi Cook, who set me on the path of the topics covered in this book. She sat with me in her living room, in coffee shops and restaurants, in tipis, on planes, in hotel rooms, and in cars and spent countless hours on the phone and over e-mail discussing relevant issues. Thanks also to her brother Tom, who dreams big and doesn’t mind sharing those dreams with me. I also extend a special thanks to Mama Jean and Henry Laffin, my “other parents” who took me in as their daughter and have fed and sheltered me for years now—and to Lori, for sharing them with me.
I am grateful to Josh Sargent and Natasha Smoke-Santiago and their family (my dear niece Ionawaiienhawi, as well as Shoienkwaronwane, who have grown up so fast, and now little Ronkwaientiio!). These dear friends, always up for late-night coffee-fueled conversations on everything from permaculture to tribal politics.
Niawen:kowa to Elvera Sargent, who patiently answered my many Kanienkeha language questions (any errors are my own). And many, many thanks to Jessica Sargent, my photography consultant, whose beautiful work is featured in this book. Hugs to Sarah Herne Rourke, who has always been there, asking how she can help.
Many thanks to the members of Kanenhi:io Ionkwaienthon:hakie with whom I worked over the years: Lorraine Gray, with whom I first planted seeds in Akwesasne as she strove to get Kanenhi:io off the ground; Dean George, who shared hours of gardening knowledge and who still takes me on garden tours every time I’m back; Kenny Perkins, my gardening buddy and pickle-making, basket-weaving, gourd-painting, wood-chopping friend; and many others. Special thanks to Gina Jacobs, who first educated me about the gardening situation at Akwesasne as we stood in her yard on Cornwall Island, and to her daughter, Shirelle (whose art is featured in this book), Shirelle’s beautiful daughters, and their father Fyl Tahy.
I am grateful to the members of the Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment, especially Dave Arquette, Craig Arquette, Mary Arquette, and Brenda LaFrance, who were very helpful in guiding this project over the past several years, ever since Joyce King first handed me a copy of the Good Mind Research Protocol. Thank you to Brenda for serving as the community editor of this book. Many thanks to Jim Ransom, who lent me his collection of newspaper articles spanning more than twenty years, which covered the discovery of environmental contamination at Akwesasne. Les Benedict and Ken Jock at the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe Environment Division and Henry Lickers and Richard David at the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne Department of Environment also provided a great deal of valuable information.
I thank Bear Clan mother Wakerakatsiteh (Louise McDonald), who has been a teacher and an auntie and a friend, and whose tireless effort inspires me. She gave me the wonderful experience of becoming involved in many of her projects, programs, and ceremonies, and she has guided me through ceremony and fasting, through love and life, and through a draft of this book’s preface.
A special thanks to the ladies of the Akwesasne Library, who were always helpful and encouraging when I would spend many hours with my laptop in my “other office.” And a big niawen:kowa to all the people who shared their time, homes, stories, and food with me as I conducted the interviews. My apologies to the ten who passed away before they were able to see this book in print. Mark, Ernie, Salli, Louis, Solomon, Howard, Jake, Judy, Jann, and Barbara—you are missed.
I thank the SUNY Albany Superfund Basic Research Program researchers who took time out of their busy schedules to speak candidly about their research experiences. I especially thank Lawrence Schell and David Carpenter, who have taken time over the years to read drafts of chapters in this book and explain science to me.
I owe a special debt of gratitude to Phil Brown, who patiently guided me over several years as his research assistant, student, and postdoc. He has been an extraordinary mentor and a model for how to blend scholarship, community activism, and teaching. Thank you also to my fellow members of the Contested Illness Research Group, especially Laura Senier and Rebecca Altman, and to members of the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute at Northeastern University, who read through drafts of chapters 3 and 5.
Upon returning to Brown University as an assistant professor in American studies, I discovered I was in the most supportive department a junior scholar could hope for, and that helped to drive the completion of this book. I am grateful to all of my colleagues at Brown, but I owe special thanks to my department chair, Matt Guterl, who pushed me and supported me in myriad ways and saw this project through to the end. Many thanks also to the Brown University Rockefeller Library staff, especially to the interlibrary loan department, for years of tracking down sources for me. I am especially grateful to Bruce Boucek, who worked with me to create the two maps of Akwesasne in chapter 1.
Many thanks to Jason Weidemann, the very patient editor at the University of Minnesota Press who was a great support in this process. Thank you to both of the readers selected by the Press, who together provided the most helpful feedback I have ever received on my writing.
A very special thanks goes to my dearest friends, Jennifer Edwards Weston, Jamie Spears Vanderhoop, and Honor Keeler, who held me up during my entire Brown education and were there for me when I returned to Rhode Island as faculty. Pilamayaye, kutâputush, and wado to them. And to Sammie White Rossi, who has been there for me since the first grade. Their constant support, humor, and companionship brought me to where I am today.
Last and most important is my foundation: thank you to my immediate family, who supported me unconditionally even as they wondered why a person would want to stay up so late reading and writing all the time. To my parents, Anita Ovitt and Robert Hoover, who raised me to love learning, gardening, powwows, and talking to people, and who gave me the confidence to pursue my educational goals and the resilience and determination to finish what I set out to accomplish. To my stepmom, Karen, who has provided the support and patience that only a family member could and continues to serve as my guide to the English language (although she can’t be blamed for any errors in this book). And love to my sisters, Rebecca, Amanda, and Tina, who have grown into wonderful, responsible human beings with senses of humor I can’t find anywhere else, who love me unconditionally, and who remind me not to take myself too seriously.
This project was made possible through funding from a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship (2014–15), a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship (2009–10), a National Science Foundation Cultural Anthropology Dissertation Improvement Grant—Award Number 0819535 (2008–9), a Switzer Environmental Fellowship (2008–9), a Brown University Graduate School Fellowship (2008–9), a Swearer Center Dissertation Award (2009–10), and a Lynn Reyer Tribal Community Development Grant (2008–9).