Publication Date

Spring 4-18-2020


In the wake of global climate change anthropological work in Indigenous contexts has focused on crisis intervention. Well-intentioned scholarship has emphasized how climate change disproportionately affects Indigenous communities but in the process has also erased Native voice and agency—deleting them from the future all together. In this dissertation I argue that ecological revitalization projects by tribes, Women’s Water Walks from the ceremonial Midéwiwin Lodge, and Indigenous science fiction media together constitute “Neshnabé futurisms” that challenge or disrupt these dominant narratives. Neshnabé futurisms guide Native American ecologists, theorists, and activists in the Great Lakes region in mitigating and surviving ecological destruction of their homelands—destruction caused by climate change and controversial developmental undertakings like oil pipelines and hydraulic fracturing. The multiplicity of potential futures imagined and enacted by Neshnabé traditional knowledge and prophesy as observed in Indigenous-made science fiction, eco-politics leveraged by Women’s Water Walks, and ecological revitalization projects on and near tribal lands in the Great Lakes region map imagined landscapes of possibility. These alternative futures depart from the versions of the future posited by settler society in which Indigenous communities are vulnerable, helpless or completely irrelevant. More than just revitalizing traditional cultural knowledge, resisting controversial environmental issues, or revitalizing ecologies, these actions when taken together, form unique versions of alternative futures which position Indigenous peoples at the center as active agents shaping their shared futures.


Indigenous, Futurisms, Science Fiction, Ecology, Environment, Activism

Project Sponsors

Wenner-Gren Foundation, American Philosophical Society, Society of Ethnobiology, Michigan State University

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Les Field

Second Committee Member

Lea McChesney

Third Committee Member

David Dinwoodie

Fourth Committee Member

Sonya Atalay


Notified that document had pages missing. New, complete version added 6/20/2019.

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