#EnvHist Worth Reading: October 2022

Scroll this

Powered by FundRazr

Every month I carefully track the most popular and significant environmental history articles, videos, audio, and other items making their way through the online environmental history (#envhist) community. You can read all of our past #EnvHist Worth Reading lists right here. Here are my choices for items most worth reading from October 2022:

1. The Precarious Position of Treaty-less Tribes

In this Hakai Magazine article, Ashley Braun uses a disputed instance of Indigenous clam fishing to highlight the difference between the rights reserved for Indigenous nations with and without a signed treaty with the United States. In 2017, Michael and Andrew Simmons were arrested in Washington for shellfishing without a license and surpassing the limit of 15 razor clams a day. Michael Simmons, a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe who owns property on the Quinault Indian Nation reservation, argues that he had a right to take 50 razor clams per day as per the Quinault Indian Nation’s treaty. The officers involved and the courts have ruled that he did not have that right because unlike the Quinault, the Cowlitz nation does not have a treaty with the United States. “Today, tribes with a treaty maintain the right to fish their traditional grounds. Tribes that refused to yield, or that held out for a better deal, are limited to fishing on their reservations, if they have one,” Braun writes.


In this piece on The White Horse Press Blog, Sandy Hunter asks how to “understand the precipitous decline of the Northern cod as both metonym for contemporary crisis and an ecological tragedy with deep historical roots?” Hunter compares the experiences of a 17th century French explorer, Pierre de Charlevoix, and 1990s politician, John Crosbie, in relation to the population of Atlantic cod off the coast of Newfoundland. Hunter explores how the overfishing of Atlantic cod appears to support the narrative of the Anthropocene that ties the geologic era to great acceleration of the twentieth century, but argues, rather, that one must look back further in time, to the colonial era, to truly understand cod and other species decline.

3. “Weather Bad and Whales Un-cooperative”: The Misadventures of Mid-Century Whale Cardiology Expeditions

In this piece for Nursing Clio, Anna Guasco looks back at mid-1950s scientific expeditions, or “cardiographic whale hunts,” aimed at recording whale heart electrical activity in order to inform human medicine. Guasco writes that “although these expeditions have been largely forgotten, they provide a window into intersections of medicine, whale science, and colonial masculinity in the mid-twentieth century.” Guascos examines media coverage of these expeditions in outlets like The New York Times and National Geographic. Instead of asking why whales were the subject of human medical research, Guasco points out how the media focused instead on the supposed heroisms of these “coronary explorers.”

4. The Mighty Streams: Coping with Rivers in the Ancient World

In this Arcadia article, Krešimir Vuković explores the cultural significance of rivers in the Ancient World, providing comparison to the treatment of rivers and use of riverince metaphor in contemporary culture. “The ancient image of rivers as powerful entities is not immediately obvious to modern humans: Most urban inhabitants see a river as a passive backdrop to their activities, not a mighty creature with a life of its own,” Vuković writes. This modern ambivalence may be changing as “historic” flooding events become more widespread. Vuković shows how in ancient cultures, rivers were given agency and presented as worthy opponents of human heroes.

5. Sunflowers and Colonialism

My three favourite flowers are daffodils, lilies, and sunflowers (I have a proclivity towards the colour yellow). This autumn, I found myself particularly enthralled with sunflower season. It was towards the end of this season, when the sunflowers in my garden began to fade, that I came across this blog post by Jacqueline Scott. I appreciated Scott providing me with a broader contextualization, both historical and contemporary, of my relationship to this plant and reminding me of its colonial properties. “Sunflowers always point towards the sun, turning their heads to follow its movement across the sky. Seeing that single sunflower in Regent Park made me smile. Resistance comes in many forms. Including a sunflower, thriving on tough ground,” Scott writes.

Remember to follow the #envhist hashtag and NiCHE (@NiCHE_Canada) on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to keep up with the latest environmental history content.

Feature Image: Sunflowers and Bees. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 2022. Photograph by Jessica DeWitt.

The following two tabs change content below.
is an environmental historian of Canada and the United States, editor, project manager, and digital communications strategist. She earned her PhD in History from the University of Saskatchewan in 2019. She is an executive member, editor-in-chief, and social media editor for the Network in Canadian History and Environment (NiCHE). Additionally, she is the Managing Editor for the Chacruna Institute for Psychedelic Plant Medicines. She is also a working board member of the Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society and Girls Rock Saskatoon and a Coordinating Team member of Showing Up for Racial Justice Saskatoon-Treaty Six. A passionate social justice advocate, she focuses on developing digital techniques and communications that bridge the divide between academia and the general public in order to democratize knowledge access. You can find out more about her and her freelance services at jessicamdewitt.com.

NiCHE encourages comments and constructive discussion of our articles. We reserve the right to delete comments that fail to meet our guidelines including comments under aliases, or that contain spam, harassment, or attacks on an individual.