Transnational Indians in the North American West

Transnational Indians in the North American West

Transnational Indians in the North American West

Transnational Indians in the North American West


This collection of eleven original essays goes beyond traditional, border-driven studies to place the histories of Native Americans, indigenous peoples, and First Nation peoples in a larger context than merely that of the dominant nation.

As Transnational Indians in the North American West shows, transnationalism can be expressed in various ways. To some it can be based on dependency, so that the history of the indigenous people of the American Southwest can only be understood in the larger context of Mexico and Central America. Others focus on the importance of movement between Indian and non-Indian worlds as Indians left their (reserved) lands to work, hunt, fish, gather, pursue legal cases, or seek out education, to name but a few examples. Conversely, even natives who remained on reserved lands were nonetheless transnational inasmuch as the reserves did not fully "belong" to them but were administered by a nation-state.

Boundaries that scholars once viewed as impermeable, it turns out, can be quite porous. This book stands to be an important contribution to the scholarship that is increasingly breaking free of old boundaries.


Andrae Marak and Gary Van Valen

As the year 1815 began, Juan Antonio Ignacio Baca reached the height of his political career when the elders of New Mexico’s Cochiti Pueblo handed him the cane of office that came with the title of Pueblo Governor. a Pueblo Indian man, he had also been recognized as a Spanish citizen and had helped manage a Spanish election in the previous year. However, Baca took the wrong side in a land dispute and was overthrown and expelled by a rival faction within Cochiti later in 1815. He found a new home at Zia Pueblo and later at Jemez Pueblo, and lived long enough to see sovereignty over New Mexico pass from Spain to Mexico in 1821 and from Mexico to the United States in 1848.

Baca’s case demonstrates the difficulties scholars can encounter when trying to frame Native American history within national history. Does Baca’s story form part of the national history of Spain, Mexico, or the United States? Or does it belong to the stateless (but locally autonomous) Nations of Cochiti, Zia, or Jemez? Clearly, Baca was part of all of these national and local histories. Thus, he is an example of the need to approach native history through a transnational framework.

As transnational histories cannot be defined by the boundaries of modern nation-states, another geographic unit of analysis must be chosen. in the west-central part of the continent of North America, we can conceive of a region (as others have) spanning the nation-states of Canada, the United States, and Mexico. Although its national components may be better known to Canadians and Americans as the West and to Mexicans as el Norte, we shall refer to this transnational region as the North American West in order to emphasize certain historical similarities. Arid or semi-arid climates predominate, with the notable exception of the Pacific Northwest. the North American West was a last frontier of colonization for all three nation-states, which were centered in more humid agricultural regions, and it only came . . .

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