Emilie Connolly


Emilie Connolly, New York University

MCEAS Consortium Fellow


“Indian Trust Funds and the Routes of American Capitalism, 1795-1865”

Emilie Connolly is a PhD candidate in History at New York University, specializing in the history of Indigenous North America, the history of capitalism, and the nineteenth-century U.S. Her dissertation examines the practice of conferring trust funds to Indigenous peoples as compensation for ceded land. She traces the investment of Indian trust fund money in state-financed carriers of westward expansion: roads, canals, rails, and banks. By converting Indigenous wealth into capital for an array of states, from Alabama to Illinois, Florida to New York, trust funds created vectors of investment that mirrored the multiple routes taken by Indigenous peoples on their journeys west. Charting these pathways of finance and compelled migration, her dissertation traces the development of a federal policy that she names “fiduciary colonialism”: a form of territorial acquisition carried out by gaining administrative control over Indigenous wealth.


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