elwha restoration

Reimagining the Elwha Restoration with Whitney Mauer

Think of this show when you are dismantling structures. The settler state reorganized the Elwha river physically and threatened the well-being of its original inhabitants for over a century. After the successful dam removals on the Elwha River, Whitney Mauer critically assesses the outcome of the restoration in light of ongoing challenges faced by the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe. While the full benefits of dam removal take a long time, Dr. Mauer contends ecological restoration is unlikely to promote cultural resurgence “unless the structural basis of ecological violence and Indigenous futurisms of resurgence, self‐determination, and sovereignty are addressed.”

Whitney Mauer is Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Her research crosscuts environmental studies, rural and development sociology, and Indigenous and American Indian studies. At the heart of Dr. Mauer’s work are questions surrounding how environmental issues intersect with inequality and stratification, Indigeneity, community, and development. She is broadly interested in understanding how Indigenous conceptions, articulations, and practices of community ‘development’ and well-being are shaped by relations of power and the physical structuring and restructuring of place.

Her current research is focused on a collaborative project with the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe. In this project and recently published papers, she unpacks the settler colonial origins of dam building and examines resilience frameworks for understanding Indigenous experiences of ecological restoration.

While Dr. Mauer is not a S’Klallam citizen, she prioritizes reciprocity and respect when developing and conducting research in the community. Her research practices and principles are influenced by the principles and concerns described in Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s (2012) Decolonizing Methodologies, which commits to the intellectual and political self-determination and wellbeing of Indigenous peoples. As such, Dr. Mauer recognizes the exploitive history of research in Indigenous communities and have worked to develop a research program that is engaged with Indigeneity, increases the visibility of Indigenous scholars, and co-constructs a research agenda with the community partners, in this case the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe.

Mauer, K. W. (2020). Unsettling Resilience: Colonial Ecological Violence, Indigenous Futurisms, and the Restoration of the Elwha River. Rural Sociology.

Mauer, K. W. (2020). Undamming the Elwha River. Contexts, 19(3), 34-39.

Mauer, K. W. (2020). Monopoly’s winners and losers: Elwha River Dam construction as social closure. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, 1-11.

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Music on this episode was created by Reed Mathis and MK2.

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