Erika Marie Bsumek

Aug 6, 2023

The Foundations of Glen Canyon Dam

Infrastructures of Dispossession on the Colorado Plateau

University of Texas Press 2023

The Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River provides electricity for some forty million people, and is one of the largest sources of water in the American West. It is also a testament to American settler colonialism, writes UT Austin history professor Erika Bsumek in The Foundations of Glen Canyon Dam: Infrastructures of Dispossession on the Colorado Plateau (U Texas Press, 2023). This region of the Southwest has been inhabited and irrigated by Indigenous societies since time immemorial, groups which were only recently (and partially) dispossessed by LDS Church settlers and by the US government. Bsumek argues that the structures, both physical and social, which form the foundation of Glen Canyon Dam - including science, law, and religion - make it a blueprint for structural dispossession, and a model which the United States would use to claim valuable Native lands. Yet, a mammoth undertaking such as this cannot be built without massive environmental change, and from the very beginning, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike have questioned whether the dam was even necessary at all. In an era of warming climates and increasing droughts, Foundations of Glen Canyon Dam explains how we arrived at this moment of water crisis, and points to a path into an as-yet untapped future.

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Stephen Hausmann

Dr. Stephen R. Hausmann is an assistant professor of history at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota and is the Assistant Director of the American Society for Environmental History.

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