Research & Indigenous Studies 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, scheduled for release with the Brattleboro Words Trail launch, October 23, 2020)



Copyright 2018 Ezra Distler

Jessica Dolan is an environmental anthropologist and ethnobotanist, who researches and writes about human relationships with the natural world, land-based learning, environmental management, food systems, culturally significant plant species, and composting. Since 2007, she has worked with Indigenous communities in Canada and the United States on projects that support environmental restoration and protection, cultural revitalization and education, Indigenous environmental governance, and heritage. She has worked primarily with Haudenosaunee communities, but also the Cree Nation of Wemindji and urban Indigenous communities. She has also done research in Ireland on traditional environmental knowledge. She is active in public anthropology and history projects, as well as in research on Indigenous food sovereignty, seed saving, and climate change. She also writes and speaks about Indigenist and decolonizing methodologies and the ethics of Native/non-Native and cross-cultural collaborations in the academy, land-based learning, and environmental work. Her current research integrates archival and community-based research to create an ethnobotanical field guide to Haudenosaunee food and medicine plants, a resource that brings together science, traditional knowledge, Haudenosaunee languages, and photography. In 2019-2020, she was the Fulbright Canada Visiting Research Chair in Indigenous Studies at the University of Guelph. She is now Adjunct Faculty at University of Guelph and Grant Writer for the Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance (NAFSA). For more information, please see:

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

“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.”

The Land is Text: Indigenous methods for learning relationships with place

“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”. 

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, delivered during the Sept 2019 March for Climate Action, Brattleboro, VT ).