Date of Award
Master of Arts
Drawing on research methods from a variety of fields, including environmental history, cultural history, landscape history, ethnohistory, and historical geography, this study explores the relationships that transformed Nauvoo, Illinois and its hinterlands, from Latter-day Saint settlement in 1839 to their expulsion from the state in 1846. This work reframes foundational accounts of Latter-day Saint Nauvoo history with the contention that an understanding of cultural interactions and changes must include consideration of their environmental contexts. However, it also embraces the inverse of that assertion, and reflects the premise that one must also take cultural conditions and background into account in order to more fully understand environmental transformations. During the early 1840s, Western Illinois sat on a fluid and permeable borderland, and several groups of people attempted to establish a footing of control and power—over people and the environment—by taking advantage of those malleable conditions. Latter-day Saint colonists in Western Illinois, Eastern Iowa District, and Central Wisconsin Territory imposed their beliefs on Native American cultures, and on the environment, in attempts to establish positions of power over them; however, as they asserted those claims to power, the other cultural groups and the environment often resisted. This study demonstrates an interdisciplinary approach to the environmental humanities that will only increase in importance in the years to come. Threads of culture, landscape, and power weave together over time to form the fabric of our collective being.
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