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9 CHAPTER 1 Borders and Borderlands JULIANA BARR This essay collection rests on the straightforward premise that American Indians are crucial to the teaching of U.S. history. Yet some might ask, “Why Indians?” The clearest response is that North America was not a “new world” in 1492 but a very old one with a history far lengthier than what has come since. More specifically, at the time of European invasion, there was no part of North America that was not claimed and ruled by sovereign Indian regimes. The Europeans whose descendants would create the United States did not come to an unsettled wilderness; they grafted their colonies and settlements onto long-existent Indian homelands that constituted the entire continent. We cannot understand European and Anglo-American colonial worlds unless we understand the Native worlds from which they took their shape. It seems an odd realization that in teaching American history we discuss Indian sovereignty and bordered domains primarily in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries when they were most under assault by U.S. policies that sought to dispossess Indian nations of land and disenfranchise them of their power. Thus we tend to talk about Indian sovereignty in negative terms—as something they were always in the process of losing over the course of U.S. history. Yet we need to address sovereignty in positive terms because we cannot begin to understand how Euro-American colonialism wore away at it unless we first know how Indians exercised power over the land and vis-à-vis their Native and European neighbors. Thus we must begin by acknowledging the fundamental essence of Indian sovereignty—“the power a nation exerts within unambiguous borders .”1 More specifically, we must recognize “how Indians understood territory and boundaries, how they extended power over geographic space, and how their practices of claiming, marking, and understanding territory differed not only from Europeans’ but also from each other’s.” In my own research, if one compares the border marking of hunter-gatherers, sedentary agriculturalists, and mounted hunters and raiders in the region that would become Texas and the southern plains, one finds that residency, economy, trade, politics, raiding, horticulture, hunting, ethnicity, kinship, 10 JULIANA BARR alliance, and enmity all played a part in shaping different Indian nations’ geographic dominion. Yet, no matter the political economy, all of them governed and defended bounded, sovereign domains. Let us look briefly at those three case studies in Texas and the southern plains in order to get the conversation about Native borders going. It is often assumed that hunter-gatherers may be better understood for what they lacked as opposed to what they had, but they maintained clearly delineated ethnic domains defined by kinship and marriage. For huntergatherers such as Coahuilteco and Karankawa speakers, territories were often shared spaces of control within which certain groups maintained exclusive rights to collective ranges and resources. The allegiances among the groups meant that they joined together to hunt and to defend the lands they held in common. The boundaries of their territory were well established , known to all, and marked by natural sites such as rivers or bays and manmade phenomena such as watering holes, petroglyphs/pictographs, or painted trees. Trespass was a legal concept, and once Europeans arrived in the region they were subject to that charge. Sedentary agriculturalists such as Caddos exercised control over a more expansive bordered domain made up of rings of settlement. Hunting territories manned and defended by small family groups in hunting lodges made up the outermost ring. Moving inward, the next ring was a space made up of farming homesteads surrounded by cultivated fields and small hamlets, each represented by a subchief. At the core, one found the ceremonial complex and primary township of the head political and religious Caddo leadership. To secure their domain Caddos had border control as well as passport and surveillance systems, and within their territory were internal boundaries between member nations. For mobile groups such as Comanches and Apaches, raiding served geopolitical as well as economic purpose in aiding territorial expansion. Both groups evinced clear growth strategies by extending control over greater and greater subsistence zones. Their boundaries might move regularly, but that did not diminish the security of their borders; indeed, mobility was the key to border defense and resource management within extensive territories. Apaches and Comanches too marked their borders with landmarks , cairns, and trees made to grow in particular forms or directions. Thus when Europeans arrived, all set to colonize the region...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781469623368
Related ISBN
9781469621210
MARC Record
OCLC
907238489
Pages
352
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-23
Language
English
Open Access
No
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