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Territoriality and the Historiography of Early North America



This essay explores the interdisciplinary origins and historiography of early North American scholars approaching territoriality – political control of territory – from an indigenous perspective in their works. Using the Ndé (Apaches) as a case study, it reveals how adopting an interdisciplinary approach that addresses territoriality from multiple perspectives can further our understanding of cultural contestation across the continent and hemisphere by highlighting the ways indigenous peoples negotiated, resisted, and adapted to European conquest.



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1 Nicolás de Lafora, “Mapa de la frontera del virreynato de Nueva España nuevamente construido por el ingeniero ordinario Don Nicolás de Lafora,” Madrid, 27 July 1771, Huntington Manuscript 2047, Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

2 Nicolás de Lafora, The Frontiers of New Spain: Nicolás de Lafora's Description, 1766–68, ed. George P. Hammond (Berkeley: Quivira Society, 1958), 2–3, 30, 79, 93–94, 185–86; Jack Jackson and William C. Foster, eds., Imaginary Kingdom: Texas as Seen by the Rivera and Rubí Military Expeditions, 1727–1767 (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1995), 221; John L. Kessell, Miera y Pacheco: A Renaissance Spaniard in Eighteenth-Century New Mexico (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2013), 84; David J. Weber, The Spanish Frontier in North America (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992), 216, 220.

3 For examples of “Comanches” defeating “Apaches” see Hämäläinen, Pekka, “The Politics of Grass: European Expansion, Ecological Change, and Indigenous Power in the Southwest Borderlands,” William and Mary Quarterly, 67 (April 2010), 173208 , 182; Colin G. Calloway, First Peoples: A Documentary Survey of American Indian History, Fourth ed. (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2012), 183. For more nuanced treatments of Comanche and eastern Apache warfare on the southern plains, which still leave out the full extent of Apache sovereignty and territory west and south of the Rio Grande, see Pekka Hämäläinen, The Comanche Empire (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008), 18–67; Gary Clayton Anderson, The Indian Southwest, 1580–1830: Ethnogenesis and Reinvention (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999), 204–15.

4 For Kónitsąąhįį gokíyaa see India Reed Bowers et al., “Apache–Ndé-Nneé Working Group Shadow Report,” United Nations CERD Committee, 88th Session, Review of the Holy See (Nov. 2015), 17, 50; Margo Tamez, “The Texas–Mexico Border Wall and Ndé Memory,” in Jenna M. Loyd, Matt Mitchelson, and Andrew Burridge, eds., Beyond Walls and Cages: Prisons, Borders, and Global Crisis (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012), 57–73, 58. For Gran Apachería see Max L. Moorhead, The Apache Frontier: Jacobo Ugarte and Spanish–Indian Relations in Northern New Spain, 1769–1791 (Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1968), 3; Marqués de Rubí, “Dictamen,” Tacubaya, 10 April 1768, trans. Ned F. Brierly, in Jackson and Foster, Imaginary Kingdom, Articles 14–16, 173–75, 179–80; Lafora, Frontiers of New Spain, 76–79, 85–86, 144, 155. The second quotation is from Lafora, 76.

5 On the definition and theory of human territoriality see Robert David Sack, Human Territoriality: Its Theory and History (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 1, 5; David DeLaney, Territory: A Short Introduction (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005), 15, 70–86.

6 Donald L. Fixico, The American Indian Mind in a Linear World: American Indian Studies and Traditional Knowledge (New York: Routledge, 2003), 4–5, 70.

7 See e.g. Wallace, A. F. C., “Political Organization and Land Tenure among the Northeastern Indians, 1600–1830,” Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, 13 (1957), 301–21; Kay, Jeanne, “Wisconsin Indian Hunting Patterns, 1634–1836,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 69 (1970), 402–18.

8 William Cronon, Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England, rev. edn (New York: Hill and Wang, 2003; first published 1983), 182–83, 58, 62, 69, 72, 74, 182. Quotations from 183, 182, and 72 respectively.

9 Cronon, 58, 62–65. First quotation is from 64 and all others from 63.

10 Patricia Albers and Jeanne Kay, “Sharing the Land: A Study in American Indian Territoriality,” in Thomas E. Ross, ed., A Cultural Geography of North American Indians (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1987), 47–91. Quotations are from 49, 80, 52–53, 54–55, and 82 respectively.

11 Richard White, The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650–1815, twentieth anniversary edn, repr. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011; first published 1991), 17.

12 Keith H. Basso, Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language among the Western Apache (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1996), xv–xvi, 115, 153, 157. The first two quotations are from 153, and the last two are from 115 and xvi respectively.

13 Karl Jacoby, Shadows at Dawn: A Borderlands Massacre and the Violence of History (New York: Penguin, 2008).

14 Alfonso Ortiz, “Indian/White Relations: A View from the Other Side of the ‘Frontier’,” in Frederick E. Hoxie and Peter Iverson, eds., Indians in American History: An Introduction (Wheeling, IL: Harlan Davidson, 1998), 1–16. Quotations are from 8, 2, 4, 8–9, 10, and 11 respectively.

15 See e.g. Maier, Charles S., “Consigning the Twentieth Century to History: Alternative Narratives for the Modern Era,” American Historical Review, 105 (June 2000), 807–31, 809, 819. Despite arguing for the centrality of territoriality in world history since 1500, this essay contains only two sentences treating Native peoples.

16 Baud, Michiel and van Schendel, Willem, “Toward a Comparative History of Borderlands,” Journal of World History, 8 (Fall 1997), 211–42, 216, 219–20. Samuel Truett and Elliott Young, “Introduction: Making Transnational History: Nations, Regions, and Borderlands,” in Samuel Truett and Elliott Young, eds., Continental Crossroads: Remapping U.S.–Mexico Borderlands History (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004), 1–32, 2. Karl Jacoby, “Between North and South,” in ibid., 209–39, 209. Samuel Truett and Elliott Young, “Borderlands Unbound,” in ibid., 326–27; Benjamin H. Johnson and Andrew R. Graybill, “Introduction: Borders and Their Historians in North America,” in Johnson and Graybill, eds., Bridging National Borders in North America: Transnational and Comparative Histories (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010), 1–29, 14, 19. For the same trend highlighted by an archaeologist see Parker, Bradley J., “Toward an Understanding of Borderland Processes,” American Antiquity, 71 (Jan. 2006), 77100 , 89.

17 Adelman, Jeremy and Aron, Stephen, “From Borderlands to Borders: Empires, Nation-States, and the Peoples in between in North American History,” American Historical Review, 104 (June 1999), 814–41, 816–17.

18 Wunder, John R. and Hämäläinen, Pekka, “Of Lethal Places and Lethal Essays,” Journal of American History, 104 (Oct. 1999), 1229–34, 1231–32.

19 Cynthia Radding, Wandering Peoples: Colonialism, Ethnic Spaces, and Ecological Frontiers in Northwestern Mexico, 1700–1850 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997), 10, 174, 199.

20 David J. Weber, Bárbaros: Spaniards and Their Savages in the Age of Enlightenment (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005), 12.

21 Cecilia Sheridan, “Social Control and Native Territoriality in Northeastern New Spain,” in Jesús F. De la Teja and Ross Frank, eds., Choice, Persuasion, and Coercion: Social Control on Spain's North American Frontiers (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2005), 121–48, 123.

22 Ibid., the first two quotations from 127 and the last from 142.

23 Alan Taylor, The Divided Ground: Indians, Settlers, and the Northern Borderland of the American Revolution (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006), 191.

24 Daniel K. Richter, Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001), 2–3, 7, 54. The first quotation is from 2–3, and the remaining ones are from 7.

25 Colin G. Calloway, One Vast Winter Count: The Native American West before Lewis and Clark (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003), the first three quotations from 2, and the last two from 11.

26 Stuart Banner, How the Indians Lost Their Land: Law and Power on the Frontier (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005), 9–10, 19, 23, 31, 34, quotations from 34 and 19 respectively; original emphasis.

27 Banner, 19–20, 31–32, 37, quotation from 37.

28 Taylor, the first two quotations from 35 and the last from 36.

29 Ibid., 17, 36, 38, quotation from 38.

30 Kathleen Du Val, The Native Ground: Indians and Colonists in the Heart of the Continent (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006), quotations from 7 and 28 respectively.

31 Juliana Barr, Peace Came in the Form of a Woman: Indians and Spaniards in the Texas Borderlands (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007), quotations from 2, 20, 21, and 20 respectively.

32 Hämäläinen, The Comanche Empire, quotations from 1, 2, 5, 324 respectively.

33 Hämäläinen, Pekka and Truett, Samuel, “On Borderlands,” Journal of American History, 98, 2 (Sept. 2011), 338–61, 351.

34 Barr, Juliana, “Geographies of Power: Mapping Indian Borders in the ‘Borderlands’ of the Early Southwest,” William and Mary Quarterly, 68 (Jan. 2011), 546 , first three quotations are from 8, the last three are from 25, and the remainder are from 9, 10, and 13 respectively.

35 Barr, “Geographies of Power,” 31–33, 36, 44–46, first two quotations from 31 and the last from 45.

36 Michael Witgen, An Infinity of Nations: How the Native New World Shaped Early North America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012), 1, 32, 34, 220, 314, 377; Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism rev. edn (New York: Verso, 2006; first published 1983), 6. Quotations in Witgen from 32 and 34.

37 Juliana Barr and Edward Countryman, eds., Contested Spaces of Early America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014), quotations from 1, 23, 5, 1–2, and 8 respectively; Martin Waldseemüller, The Naming of America: Martin Waldseemüller's 1507 World Map and the Cosmographiae Introductio, ed. John W. Hessler (London: Giles, 2008).

38 Anderson, The Indian Southwest, 4–6, 105, 264, quotation from 4.

39 James F. Brooks, Captives and Cousins: Slavery, Kinship, and Community in the Southwest Borderlands (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002), 30–35.

40 See, for example, Michael Witgen's critique of Daniel Walker Howe's Pulitzer Prize-winning What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815–1848 (2007) in Witgen, Michael, “Rethinking Colonial History as Continental History,” William and Mary Quarterly, 69 (2012), 527–30, 527 n. 2.

41 Robert M. Utley, Geronimo (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 4.

42 Banner, How the Indians Lost Their Land, 9, 23.

43 For the Southeast see, for example, Daniel H. Usner Jr., Indians, Settlers, and Slaves in a Frontier Exchange Economy: The Lower Mississippi Valley before 1783 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992); Allan Gallay, ed., The Indian Slave Trade: The Rise of the English Empire in the American South, 1670–1717 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002); Christina Snyder, Slavery in Indian Country: The Changing Face of Captivity in Early America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010); James Taylor Carson, Making an Atlantic World: Circles, Paths, and Stories from the Colonial South (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2007). For exceptions see Du Val, The Native Ground; Angela Pulley Hudson, Creek Paths and Federal Roads: Indians, Settlers, and Slaves and the Making of the American South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010). For the Pacific Coast see, for example, Robert H. Jackson and Edward D. Castillo, Indians, Franciscans, and Spanish Colonization : The Impact of the Mission System on California Indians (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1995); Steven W. Hackel, Children of Coyote, Missionaries of St. Francis: Indian–Spanish Relations in Colonial California, 1769–1850 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005); Ryan Tucker Jones, Empire of Extinction: Russians and the North Pacific's Strange Beasts of the Sea, 1741–1867 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014); David Igler, The Great Ocean: Pacific Worlds from Captain Cook to the Gold Rush (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013). I know of no notable exceptions.

44 See Robbie Ethridge and Sheri M. Shuck-Hall, eds., Mapping the Mississippian Shatter Zone: The Colonial Indian Slave Trade and Regional Instability in the American South (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009), 1–3; Pekka Hämäläinen, “The Shapes of Power: Indians, Europeans, and North American Worlds from the Seventeenth to the Nineteenth Century,” in Barr and Countryman, Contested Spaces of Early America, 31–68, 62–65.

45 For a recent notable exception see Paul Kelton, Cherokee Medicine, Colonial Germs: An Indigenous Nation's Fight against Smallpox, 1518–1824 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2015).


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