Research & Contributions from Jessica Dolan, Ph.D

Thanks to funding from New England Grassroots Fund and the National Endowment for the Humanities, Jessica M. Dolan provided research for the Brattleboro Words Project. Below are the results of her research and her contributions to the project and the community. We are very grateful for Jessica’s time on the project and her commitment to understanding and amplifying indigenous voices. 

Be sure to check back for the full audio- due to be released with the Brattleboro Words Trail launch (scheduled for Oct 23, 2020)

Photo by Ezra Distler, 2018


Jessica Dolan earned her Ph.D. from McGill University in 2016, and her M.Sc. from University of Kent at Canterbury in 2005. She is an environmental anthropologist and ethnobotanist, who researches and writes about human relationships with the natural world, land-based learning, environmental management, food security, culturally significant plant species, and composting.

She has worked with Indigenous communities in Canada and the United States for the last ten years on projects that contribute to environmental restoration, education, traditional knowledge revitalization, land conservation, and Indigenous sovereignty. She has worked primarily with the Haudenosaunee, in their communities of Six Nations of the Grand River, Onondaga, Akwesasne, and Kahnawá:ke, but also has worked with the Cree Nation of Wemindji and on pan-Indigenous and Urban Indigenous education, research, and advocacy. Before that, she did research in Ireland on traditional environmental knowledge.

She is active in the Society of Ethnobiology, applied anthropology, conservation, and Indigenous Studies scholarly networks. Bridging policy, university, and community-based projects, she most recently worked as an environmental assessment officer and youth and elders camp coordinator for the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne Environment Program. Her current project is researching and writing an ethnobotanical field guide, combining archival and community-based research in Haudenosaunee and Algonquin communities. She is also writing about ethics of Native/non-Native collaborations in environmental work, and about Haudenosaunee traditional food systems and sovereignty. In 2019 she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship as the Canada Visiting Research Chair in Food Security at the University of Guelph. She currently teaches at Community College of Vermont. She grew up in Brattleboro.

For more information, and writings, please see:

Words matter: How do we begin to acknowledge Brattleboro, Vermont as an Indigenous place?

By Jessica M. Dolan

“If home is in the stories we share about a place, and knowing those stories make us belong to a place and its people, what happens when the stories of a place get purposefully erased? Or, what happens when truth is so mixed up, that it takes years of many people carefully untangling
historical narratives to reveal it? This is what has happened with Indigenous life histories in southern Vermont for the people of VT. Indigenous connections to this landscape and this place have been mythicized. In this podcast, we are going to look at some of the local stereotypes about Indigenous relationships with what became Brattleboro, VT.”

— Jessica Dolan Words Matter

Read More (click to open pdf of Jessica’s full paper, including text for all 3 parts of her “Words Matter’ audio). 


“Indigenous historical and cultural inheritances are embodied and lived by Native people in New England today, despite centuries of attempted physical and textual genocide and ongoing racist stereotypes. Although the American and Canadian governments have been relentless in attempting to disconnect Native people from their homelands through wars, policies, residential schools, and enacting norms and narratives to kill the cultures, histories, and the peoples themselves, Indigenous people are still alive and well today all across North America. Correcting false colonial narratives and bringing to the forefront the genius and resilience of Indigenous lives is the work of Indigenous studies scholars”.

–Jessica Dolan The Land is Text

Read More (click to open pdf of Jessica’s full paper, including text for all 3 parts of her “The Land is Text” audio). 

Land Acknowledgement Sample – delivered at the Brattleboro March for Climate Action, September 2019

By Jessica M. Dolan

“An Indigenous land acknowledgment is not something we do to be cool, progressive, or morally absolve us from working for social justice. In my understanding, Indigenous land acknowledgments ground us in the place where we are together, here in Brattleboro. They invite our minds and hearts to learn more about the identity of this place, of Brattleboro’s cultural and environmental history. An acknowledgment creates space for people to listen. In this case, it is to seek out and learn from and listen to voices of people who have been marginalized for hundreds of years: Indigenous people and all people of color. We are also invited to listen to and learn from all the other species who live here with us, and the land and waters themselves. We are called to come home: to the truth and to each other, to embrace community, embrace justice and well-being in our future, and to embrace Mother Earth.”

–Jessica Dolan Land Acknowledgement Sample

Read More (click to open pdf of Jessica’s full “Land Acknowledgement speech, delivered during the Sept 2019 March for Climate Action, Brattleboro, VT ). 

On The Map

Brattleboro, VT

Brattleboro, VT

About the Research sites

The Brattleboro Words Project is working with the community to identify specific sites and themes significant to the study of words in Brattleboro and surrounding towns. Research Teams – classrooms/teachers, amateur historians, veterans, writers, artists and other community members — will produce audio segments and other work to be incorporated into audio walking, biking and driving tours tours.

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