In addition to serving as an associate professor in the Department of Horticulture, I am also affiliated with the American Indian Program at Cornell University, with research and teaching responsibilities in both units. My research focuses on indigenous cropping systems and their productivity. I lecture frequently on indigenous agriculture and its links to contemporary agricultural sustainability, and am considered a national expert in Iroquois agriculture.
Using my agronomic expertise, I examine Iroquois agriculture from a multi-disciplinary perspective that includes history, archeology, paleobotany, and cultural/social anthropology in order to provide a critically needed bridge between scholars in the humanities and social sciences who work in Iroquois Studies. More recently I have expanded this research to include pre-Columbian agriculture in eastern/central North America, to better understand the nature and productivity of indigenous agriculture more generally in this region.
Outreach and Extension Focus
Much of my work with the public involves enhancing understanding of indigenous peoples in contemporary times and historically. Public presentations on Indigenous agriculture as a complex knowledge system provide a perspective that many non-native peoples lack. I also provide workshops and lectures to children, teachers, and adults, using Iroquois agriculture as a vehicle to explore a range of topics including botany, mathematics, sustainable agriculture, polycultures, Native American history, and food/nutrition.
I teach a First-Year Writing Seminar in American Indian Studies, "Science Meets Spirit," that contrasts western science approaches to natural resource management with resource management based on indigenous knowledge. In addition, I teach a 2000-level course in Horticulture, "Plants and Human Well Being," that exposes students to the multiple ways that we interact with plants and plant products in order to increase their awareness of the many non-traditional career and avocational opportunities within the field of Horticulture. I also teach HORT 2200, Practicing Sustainable Landcare, which encourages students to consider how they will manage personal and public landscapes for long-term sustainability.
Awards and Honors
- Dr. Carlos Montezuma Honorary Award (2017) Mitchell Museum of the American Indian
- Mt Pleasant, J. (2015). A new paradigm for Pre-Columbian agriculture in North America. Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal . 13:374-412.
- Mt Pleasant, J. (2011). The Paradox of Plows and Productivity: An Agronomic Comparison of Cereal Grain Production under Iroquois Hoe Culture and European Plow Culture in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. Agricultural History. 85:460-492.
- Mt Pleasant, J. (2010). Estimating Productivity of Traditional Iroquois Cropping Systems Using Field Research and Historical Literature. Journal of Ethnobiology. 30:52-79.
- Mt Pleasant, J. (2014). Indigenous Perceptions of Biocultural Collections:. p. 235-248 Curating Biocultural Collections: A Handbook. Salick, Jan; Konchar, Katie; Nesbitt, Mark (ed.), Kew Publishing, , Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
- Mt Pleasant, J. (2006). Chapter 38: The Science Behind the Three Sisters Mound System: An Agronomic Assessment of an Indigenous Agricultural System in the Northeast. Histories of Maize: Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Prehistory, Linguistics, Biogeography, Domestication, and Evolution of Maize John E. Staller, Robert H. Tykot, Bruce F. Benz (ed.), Academic Press, New York.
- Mt Pleasant, J. (2001). The Three Sisters Care for the Land and the People. Chapter 19. Science and Native American Communities. Legacies of Pain, Visions of Promise University of Nebraska Press, , Lincoln and London.
- Mt Pleasant, J. (2011). Traditional Iroquois Corn: Its History, Cultivation, and Use. p. 45 Sailus, Martin (ed.), Natural Resource, Agriculture, and Engineering Service, Ithaca, NY, US.
Presentations and Activities
- Scholarship on Indigenous Agriculture: Crimes of Incompetence and Bias. Native American and Indigenous Studies conference . May 2016. Native American and Indigenous Studies Association. Honolulu, HI.
- A New Paradigm for Pre-Columbian Agriculture in North America. Missouri Botanical Journal Club . March 2016. Missouri Botanical Garden . St. Louis Missouri.
- But What Did The Really Eat? The Three Sisters As Food. Ethnobiology Conference . May 2015. Society of Ethnobiology. Santa Barbara, CA.
- Pre-Columbian agriculture in North America: A new paradigm. Newberry Library American Indian Studies Symposium. . November 2013. Newberry Library, Darcy McNickle Center . Chicago, IL.
- Pre-Columbian agriculture in North America: A new paradigm. Amherst College Invited Lecture Sereies. October 2013. Amherst College . Amherst MA.
- Iroquois agriculture and soil sustainability. World On Your Plate . October 2013. Indigenous Women's Initiative and Damien College. Rochester NY .
- Haudenosaunee communities and Cornell Cooperative Extension. Chats in the Stacks . September 2013. Mann Library Cornell University . Ithaca NY .
- Using maize productivity indices to characterize and compare potential maize productivity across Mississippian sites. Society of Ethnobiology Conference . May 2013. Society of Ethnobiology . Denton, TX.
- Students, Intellectual Capital, and Communities: A Critical History of the American Indian Program. American Indian Program 30th Anniversary: Recognition and Two-Row Wampum Renewal Conference. April 2013. American Indian Program, Cornell University . Ithaca NY.
- Lessons from the Three Sisters for today’s gardeners. Let's garden Workshop. March 2013. Cornell cooperative Extension Seneca County . Waterloo NY.