On the Swamp

Fighting for Indigenous Environmental Justice

By Ryan Emanuel

312 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 7 halftones, 4 maps, 1 graph, 1 table

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-7832-0
    Published: April 2024
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-7831-3
    Published: April 2024
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-7833-7
    Published: March 2024

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Despite centuries of colonialism, Indigenous peoples still occupy parts of their ancestral homelands in what is now Eastern North Carolina—a patchwork quilt of forested swamps, sandy plains, and blackwater streams that spreads across the Coastal Plain between the Fall Line and the Atlantic Ocean. In these backwaters, Lumbees and other American Indians have adapted to a radically transformed world while maintaining vibrant cultures and powerful connections to land and water. Like many Indigenous communities worldwide,they continue to assert their rights to self-determination by resisting legacies of colonialism and the continued transformation of their homelands through pollution, unsustainable development, and climate change.

Environmental scientist Ryan E. Emanuel, a member of the Lumbee tribe, shares stories from North Carolina about Indigenous survival and resilience in the face of radical environmental changes. Addressing issues from the loss of wetlands to the arrival of gas pipelines, these stories connect the dots between historic patterns of Indigenous oppression and present-day efforts to promote environmental justice and Indigenous rights on the swamp. Emanuel’s scientific insight and deeply personal connections to his home blend together in a book that is both a heartfelt and an analytical call to acknowledge and protect sacred places.

About the Author

Ryan E. Emanuel (Lumbee) is associate professor of hydrology at Duke University.

For more information about Ryan Emanuel, visit the Author Page.


"Ryan Emanuel takes you on a fascinating journey through time on his Lumbee homelands, focusing on contemporary tribal environmental protections efforts. The Lumbee tribe’s quest to preserve their natural environment and water is a valuable story of how many tribes try to mitigate the risk of climate change while knowing they’ll bear a greater burden of ecological harm for all of society. Emanuel captures in beautiful detail how tribes use traditional values around caretaking the environment while asserting their sovereignty."—Karen Diver, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa

"This book is an extraordinary study of environmental and Indigenous history. Exhaustively researched and truly captivating."—Steven Semken, Arizona State University