'Life along the line': Places of memory among the Mohawks of Akwesasne

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Sciences


Ann Grodzins Gold

Second Advisor

Anne E. Mosher


Cultural geography, Places of memory, Landscape studies/representations, Human geography, Mohawk, Akwesasne, New York, Ontario

Subject Categories



This dissertation explores the meaning of place through an ethnographic and historical examination of the relationship between the Mohawks of Akwesasne and the St. Lawrence River prior to the development of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Power Project in the mid-1950s. The complexity of this place is threaded through the Mohawks' geographic location, colonial interventions and the discourses of power by agents of authority that came with border-making as the United States and Canada continued to define their identities. Prohibition and trade tariffs instituted in the 1910s and 1920s profoundly impacted the Mohawks--whose territory had become sliced by provincial and international borders--and forced underground the trade of sweetgrass baskets.

The memories of elderly Akwesasronon along with primary and secondary documents are drawn upon to contextualize life along the 45 th parallel during the time of increased scrutiny of border crossing and the resulting impact on Mohawk identities and subjectivities. The river and its shorelines became experienced as a landscape of contestation during this time. The river, however, became infused with places of memory as recollections of island and river life formed a cultural epistemology of the Mohawks as 'river people.'


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