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The New York Times regularly runs articles explaining that New York City has “the champagne” of city tap waters, because it comes from pure and rural mountains. But there is nothing natural about NYC’s water. To create the water system, thousands of people lost homes and businesses, and had to sue the City for compensation. To maintain the water system, those living around reservoirs are encouraged to sell their lands, creating landscapes of abandonment. Over the last nine years, April Beisaw and her Vassar College students have hiked the city-owned watershed to document lives ruined and cut short by a distant City. Through close examination of what was left behind, they have begun to estimate the enormous price that rural people paid to provide clean water to City residents. Maps of the land takings have also revealed patterns, such as the loss of many woman-owned lands and businesses that once thrived along the Ulster & Delaware Railroad in the Town of Olive
April M. Beisaw is a North American archaeologist who studies cultural change and resilience in the relatively recent past (1300 AD to yesterday). The pressures of a fast-paced world can encourage the uncritical acceptance of stereotypes that serve to explain why “others” are inferior to “ourselves” or may be hindering change that might be viewed as “progress.” Through archaeology, we can challenge stereotypes, remember forgotten events, and imagine new futures. For example, by studying the peoples and places that were sacrificed to construct the New York City water system, April hopes to shift the dialogue from where urban areas find new water sources to who they will take water from. By documenting Native American protest sites from the 1969 takeover of Alcatraz to 2016’s Dakota Access Pipeline protest camps at the Standing Rock reservation, we can see the consistency of calls for America to live up to the treaty promises our government made. The present was created in the past, so the past is our future.