April M. Beisaw

Professor of Anthropology
April M. Beisaw

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 can 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.

BA, Rutgers University-New Brunswick; MA, PhD, SUNY at Binghamton
At Vassar since 2012


Blodgett Hall
Box 297

Research and Academic Interests

Archaeological Anthropology
Community Engagement
Environmental Studies
Forensic Science

Selected Publications

  • Beisaw, April M. (2023) Taking Their Water for Our City: Archaeology of New York City’s Watershed Communities. Berghahn Books. 
  • Beisaw, April M., William P. Tatum III, Ginny Buechele, Brian G. McAdoo (2021) Mapping a Poorhouse and Pauper Cemetery as Community Engaged Memory Work. International Journal of Historical Archaeology. DOI 10.1007/s10761-021-00617-4
  • Beisaw, April M. and Glynnis Olin (2020) From Alcatraz to Standing Rock: Archaeology and Contemporary Native American Protests (1969-Today). Historical Archaeology 54(3): 537-555. DOI 10.1007/s41636-020-00252-6
  • Beisaw, April M. (2020) Telling Ghost Stories: Communicating Across Timescapes and Between World Views. In: Blurring TimeScapes: Subversions to Erasure & Remembering Ghosts. edited by Sara Surface-Evans, Amanda Garrison, and Kisha Supernat. pp. 13-19. Berghahn Books.
  • Beisaw, April M. (2019) Stress and Shifting Identities in the Susquehanna Valley Around the Time of European Arrival. In: Contact and Cultural Identity: Recent Studies of the Susquehannocks. edited by Paul Raber. pp. 73-90. Penn State University Press.
  • Beisaw, April M. (2017) “Ruined by the Thirst for Urban Prosperity: Contemporary Archaeology of City Water Systems.” Contemporary Archaeology and the City: Creativity, Ruination, and Political Action, edited by Laura McAtackney and Krysta Ryzewski. Oxford Press. pp. 132-148.  
  • Beisaw, April M. and Jane E. Baxter (2017) “America’s One-Room Schools: Sites of Regional Authority and Symbols of Rural Autonomy.’ International Journal of Historical Archaeology 21(4):806-826. DOI 10.1007/s10761-017-0402-9
  • Beisaw, April M. and Penelope Duus (2016) “Repatriation as Inspiration: Multi-Generational Perspectives on American Archaeology-Museum Relationships.” Museum Worlds 5(1):95-110.
  • Beisaw, April M. (2016) “Water for the City, Ruins for the Country: Archaeology of New York City’s Watershed.” International Journal of Historical Archaeology 20(3):614-626.
  • Beisaw, April M. (2016) “Ghost Hunting as Archaeology: Archaeology as Ghost Hunting.” Lost City, Found Pyramid: Understanding Alternative Archaeology and Pseudoscientific Practices. edited by Jeb J. Card and David S. Anderson. University of Alabama Press. pp. 185-198.
  • Beisaw, April M. (2013) Identifying and Interpreting Animal Bones: A Manual. Texas A&M University Press. 
  • Beisaw, April M. (2010) “Memory, Identity, and NAGPRA in the Northeastern United States.” American Anthropologist 112(2):244-256. 
  • Beisaw, April M. and James G. Gibb, eds (2009) The Archaeology of Institutional Life. University of Alabama Press.

Grants, Fellowships, Honors, Awards

April M. Beisaw Honored by the Putnam County Historian for Her New Book
April Beisaw received The Local History Publication Award from the Putnam County Historian for her research and publication of Taking Our Water for the City: The Archaeology of New York City’s Watershed Communities, recently published by Berghahn Press.

April Beisaw is the Author of “Taking Our Water for the City”
April M. Beisaw, Associate Professor and Chair of Anthropology, is the author of Taking Our Water for the City: The Archaeology of New York City’s Watershed Communities, recently published by Berghahn Press.  Over 100 Vassar students contributed to the fieldwork for this book, which was supported by Vassar research grants, the Ford Scholars Program, and the Undergraduate Research Summer Institute (URSI).


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