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Occupying Massachusetts: Layers of History on Indigenous Land
by Sandra Matthews
with texts by David Brule and Suzanne Gardinier

This book will change the way you think about land and home.

Occupying Massachusetts: Layers of History on Indigenous Land is an art book that engages with history and memory. Sandra Matthews's subtle photographs of vernacular structures and historic sites offer a uniquely personal meditation on the human occupation of land, with an emphasis on the long presence of Indigenous people, whose lands have been transformed by people coming here from all over the world since the early 1600s.

Utilizing a muted color palette, the photographs suggest the presence of deep histories that are embedded in the landscape but often invisible. Although the book focuses on Massachusetts, it implicitly raises larger issues of settlement and conquest, nationhood and identity. How did the United States of America come to occupy its land? How is this story of occupation remembered and rendered, by whom and for whom? As a longtime occupant/occupier of Massachusetts herself, Matthews aims to understand more deeply the land on which she lives.

The main text of the book comes from her photographs of historic markers, which were installed around the state at different times by different interest groups. The words on these markers describe early relations between Indigenous people and largely English settlers, from diverse points of view. In this way, the book explores how difficult and differing histories are written and told and how those stories change over time. This theme is carried forward in essays by Indigenous activist David Brule and writer Suzanne Gardinier, who suggest how both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people can reconcile the past.

Occupying Massachusetts is a profound reflection on the complex meanings of home and of place. Its insights about landscape, history and memory will be appreciated for years to come.


$40.00 U.S. (Short discount; trade discounts available for bulk sales) E-book TBD.
Hardcover with PLC
104 pages with 65 four-color plates by the author and 1 map = 66
10.0" x 8.5" landscape
ISBN: 978-1-938086-89-2

Published June 2022

Distributed by Casemate IPM
E-book TBD.

Published in association with the Center for the Study of Place.

About the Author

Book Events & Exhibitions:

Book Information Sheet (pdf)




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