The Saltwater Frontier: Indians and the Contest for the American Coast


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After ripping roofs off houses and flooding streets across Jamaica, Hispaniola, and Cuba, Tropical Storm Sandy became Hurricane Sandy and veered north. On the night of October 29, , it slammed New York City with a thirteen-foot wall of water.

Masters of the Atlantic

The surge shredded boardwalks, flipped cars on their sides, and lifted beach houses off their foundations. As avenues became filthy estuaries, a flooded power substation on the East River exploded and lit up my apartment with a sputtering, eerie flash. On Staten Island, people drowned in their living rooms. Fires raged across whole blocks of the Rockaways in Queens. All told, Sandy killed a hundred and forty-eight people across the Northeast, contributed to the deaths of a hundred more, and left tens of thousands homeless.

Over the next few days it felt like the city was slipping out of the modern world and into a postapocalyptic future. Having no way to get to the research library on the Upper West Side that was sponsoring my year of leave, I spent time walking around my neighborhood. Near my building a tangle of branches and downed wires blocked the sidewalk.

Snapped trees leaned lazily against brownstones, while entire metal-frame store awnings had fallen dejectedly onto the ix prologue pavement. Unlit buildings across the river created the illusion that the heart of the metropolis had been abandoned. As the days wore on, ATMs started to run out of cash. Gasoline rationing, a wartime relic I had never seen in my lifetime, went into effect.

I started getting nervous when I noticed that the shelves of my corner bodega were becoming alarmingly bare. It was as though Sandy had opened up a brief tear in space-time. But it seemed to me more like a peek at a century long gone. I was realizing, in a way I had not truly grasped before, that I was on an island next to other islands.

Stripped of its modern infrastructure, Gotham revealed its origins as a group of settlements oriented around the sea—and at its mercy. Near my apartment, the Gowanus Canal similarly tried to reclaim its irregular, marshy course. It was soon clear that those hit hardest were also economically marginalized: some were uninsured folks unable to recoup their losses, others were elderly or infirm and thus isolated in a crippled city. Parts of the coast were without power for weeks, forcing people in the most stricken areas to cook over fires and get their water by the bucket.

I heard more than one reporter compare the storm-ravaged districts of the Tri-State area to the Wild West. Obviously, the trials of modern urban people facing climate change in the twenty-first century are vastly different from the events discussed in this book, which reexamines how coastal Algonquians from the Hudson River to Cape Cod faced the colonial invasion in the seventeenth century. Indeed, these events may appear to have little in common other than bringing death and dislocation to the same corner of North America.


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They remind us that we all live on a single ball of rock that is mostly covered with water. They illustrate how profit-seeking activities often create unintended and lasting consequences for people and x prologue the environment.

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They reveal that political boundaries are mostly an illusion and offer little protection from troublesome planet-wide trends. And they demonstrate that so much of what appears permanent is in fact precarious. We share more than we think with the Native, English, and Dutch people whose stories fill the following pages.

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Like us, they lived in an age of environmental crises, exploitive global trade, far-reaching wars, and frightening pandemics. See All Customer Reviews.

The Saltwater Frontier - Part I

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Although each European-born, American View Product. The Saltwater Frontier will long remain a beautiful rendition of the New England story, and for that we may be appreciative. This book is simply superb. He tells how, facing invasion from the sea, Indian peoples responded by turning to the sea. Lipman approaches his topic with uncommon intelligence, creativity, and literary grace.

The Saltwater Frontier: Indians and the Contest for the American Coast The Saltwater Frontier: Indians and the Contest for the American Coast
The Saltwater Frontier: Indians and the Contest for the American Coast The Saltwater Frontier: Indians and the Contest for the American Coast
The Saltwater Frontier: Indians and the Contest for the American Coast The Saltwater Frontier: Indians and the Contest for the American Coast
The Saltwater Frontier: Indians and the Contest for the American Coast The Saltwater Frontier: Indians and the Contest for the American Coast
The Saltwater Frontier: Indians and the Contest for the American Coast The Saltwater Frontier: Indians and the Contest for the American Coast

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