Borders Old and New
Vivian Juan-Saunders and Herminia Frías, chairwomen of the Tohono O'odham and Yaqui nations in Arizona, traveled to Sarmiento, Mexico, in November 2004 to participate in the Ninth Annual Assembly of Indigenous Women. There they met up with O'odham and Yaquis from Mexico, along with other indigenous peoples from Arizona, California, Sonora, and Sinaloa, to discuss their future. The meeting was remarkable in a number of ways. First, that both leaders were there to represent their respective indigenous nations reveals how much their political cultures had changed since the nineteenth century, when individual villages were considered autonomous and the idea of a national or tribal leadership elected by a majority was unheard of. Second, the election of women by the Yaqui and Tohono O'odham nations to the highest positions of political power revealed a dramatic cultural shift from a time when all-male village councils made decisions by consensus. Finally, the meetings symbolized an extension of a pan-Indian notion of sovereignty that was no longer confined within the borders of the United States.1
On the other hand, one might see the meeting as a sign of the loss of tradition and cultural integrity, and of unresolved contradictions. The very idea that Juan-Saunders and Frías could claim to speak for the O'odham and Yaqui nations was evidence of a decline in village autonomy. This concept of O'odham and Yaqui nationhood was one among many ways in which indigenous culture in Arizona's borderlands had changed. Thousands of Yaquis and Tohono O'odham no longer spoke their native languages. The adoption of majoritarian democracy countered a history of government by consensus. The creation of the Yaqui and Tohono O'odham
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Publication information: Book title: Border Citizens: The Making of Indians, Mexicans, and Anglos in Arizona. Contributors: Eric V. Meeks - Author. Publisher: University of Texas Press. Place of publication: Austin, TX. Publication year: 2007. Page number: 241.
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