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Post-Columbian borderlands between competing Euro-American empires and North America’s indigenous populations were complex multi-national and international landscapes. Nineteenth and twentieth-century transnational indigenous migration across U.S-Canadian and U.S-Mexican borders provide important narratives for better understanding these contested regions. During these years, Canada, the United States and Mexico increasingly strove to use the borders as barriers to define what Native peoples fell within the confines of their jurisdiction or responsibility. Concurrently, some Native groups used the geopolitical implications of imposed Euro-American borders to escape persecution and seek better conditions in newly defined “foreign” lands. These transnational narratives resulted in unique Native North American experiences.
The predominant historiographic narrative of indigenous North American transnationals details Natives exodus out of the United States. Crees and Chippewas from Canada, and Yaquis from Mexico, however, moved against this flow, entering the United States in search of permanent settlement. Their narratives serve to illustrate unique indigenous experiences in the United States. Alternately defined by the United States as political refugees, “foreign” Indians or illegal immigrants, Crees, Chippewas and Yaquis in Montana and Arizona boast histories unique from those of other Natives in Canada, the United States and Mexico. This study will examine both narratives in order to reveal their distinct struggles to secure stable and legal settlement in the United States. Bringing disparate historiographies into dialog, their comparative analysis will reveal new understandings of the North American borderland, indigenous experience and transnational history.
Adviser: John R. Wunder