Abstract

This article draws on Native American theory and archival sources, and colonial archival sources, to reframe land as an agent, partner in cultural production, and ally in resistance to colonialism. The article explains how land structures Haudenosaunee and Mohegan society in narrative and law. It examines how land’s agency appears in the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Mason Land Case. It does so first from a colonial perspective, where land is inert property and Native peoples are unable to comprehend land as such, then from a Mohegan perspective, where land is a societal member and partner in resisting colonialism. Mohegan recognition of land’s agency and land’s influence on Native resistance is representative of what this essay calls literature of landed resistance. This framework elucidates how Native authors situate their relationships to land in order to move across colonial boundaries, continue active relationships with land in spite of colonialism, and resist colonialism alongside land. Through literature of landed resistance, this article shows how Mohegan leaders Uncas, Appageese, and Samson Occom detail responsibility to land that allows them to represent land’s agency in a manner not seen in settler texts and legislation, and to partner with land in acts of resistance. Understanding land as an active member of society and legislator shows land’s role as an agent and influence in community- and nation-building. (Re)animating land across history opens up new avenues in environmental justice studies to think about history, cultural production, and rights beyond the human and strengthens Native sovereignty through evidence of historic Native relations to land beyond property law.

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