Mount Holyoke College

Weissman Center for Leadership
and the Liberal Arts

FALL 2006

Dis/Placement and Re/Membering:
The Quabbin and Hetch Hetchy Canyon

When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.
Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanac, 1746

“Displacement and Remembering”: The Quabbin and Hetch Hetchy Canyon” will focus on the transformative events and political implications that emerge when land is claimed by water. 

The phrase “Hetch Hetchy” means “native meadow grasses.”  In California, the land on which these grasses would grow, however, is under water, and has been since 1923.  The flooding of the Hetch Hetchy Valley was done in order to provide water for San Francisco Bay area.  According to Tom Philp, Sacramento Bee journalist, in addition to providing water for several California counties, Hetch Hetchy provides almost eighty-five percent of the water for San Francisco and approximately one-sixth of the city’s electricity.   Today, a movement is underway to reclaim Hetch Hetchy, a “jewel” that Philp characterizes as being  “locked away from the public, both by ranger’s key at 9 p.m. every day and by 300 feet of sparkling clear Sierra water.”

Water literally claimed the lives and homes of residents in the four Western Massachusetts towns of Dana, Enfield, Prescott, and Greenwich in the late 1920s.  Residents had to relocate and find new homes and jobs. Buildings that made up these towns were removed, razed, or otherwise destroyed, and land was plowed under so that a reservoir that is thirty-nine square miles and holds over 400 billion gallons of water could be created.  The Quabbin Reservoir, located just 20 minutes from the Mount Holyoke Campus, is one of the largest reservoirs in the world.  Today, there are Quabbin survivors who gather regularly to recall their lost homesteads and interrupted childhoods. 

Join us for an illuminating discussion of local and national history with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tom Philp, Harvard University Professor Lawrence Buell, Abenaki historian Marge Bruchac, and MHC Professor Lauret Savoy.  Our panelists will focus on the historical, political, environmental, and cultural implications of the Hetch Hetchy Canyon Reservoir in California and on the Quabbin Reservoir and the flooding of four nearby towns that occurred in order to provide water for Boston and other eastern Massachusetts cities.

Cosponsored by the MHC Center for the Environment and the MHC Art Museum

Event Details

Date: Thursday, September 28

Time: 7:30 PM

Speakers: Tom Philp, Lawrence Buell, and Marge Bruchac

Place: Gamble Auditorium, Art Building, Mount Holyoke College

Admission: Free and open to the public.


To Gamble Auditorium

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