Stanislaus State Professors Play Large Role in Delta Narratives

October 01, 2015


Jennifer Helzer and Philip Garone, faculty members in the College of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, have completed a year-long study of the history and culture of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region.

The grant project, titled “Delta Narratives,” resulted in the authoring of lengthy narratives designed to be of value to archivists, historical societies and anyone seeking to increase public interest and understanding of this unique and fragile Central California region. This project is of vital importance during times of drought, as its broad scope includes the addressing of contemporary California water issues and the search for balance between agricultural development and environmental protection.

Helzer and Garone teamed with scholars from UC Merced and the University of the Pacific for the original research project.

Garone’s essay is titled “Managing the Garden: Agriculture, Reclamation, and Restoration in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.”

“My narrative, which is about the environmental history of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, is important during this time of drought because it emphasizes the importance of the Delta as a region with a distinct history, economy, ecology and culture,” Garone said. “Many Californians unfortunately view the Delta simply as a point through which to transport fresh water from Northern California to Southern California and do not consider the impacts of those water transfers on the Delta’s ecosystem and its residents.”

Helzer’s essay is titled “Building Communities in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta: Economics and Ethnicity.”

“Researching the Delta’s cultural heritage and ethnic communities is a window into the past that shines light on the region’s present and future,” Helzer said. “The transformation of the Delta into an agricultural powerhouse relied heavily on immigrant labor. A few individuals were able to prosper by owning land and embracing technology; most did not. Today, water-supply systems are strained and threaten the region’s agricultural economy. The Delta, both its people and its water, is once again at the center of the state’s economic, social and political debates.”

Alison McNally, an assistant professor of geography at Stanislaus State and a Stan State graduate, served as cartographer for the project.  She produced a map titled “The Delta as a Cultural and Historical District,” which also is available on the project website.