Native People in Motion—Crossing Boundaries

AHA Session 188
Saturday, January 9, 2016: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Room 309/310 (Hilton Atlanta, Third Floor)
Jace Weaver, University of Georgia

Session Abstract

This panel will bring together four historians working in one of the most exciting developments in American Indian and Indigenous history in recent years, and a topic that aligns strongly with this year’s AHA theme: the study of Native people and mobility at national and global scales. For many years, the historiography on indigenous people has emphasized their relationship to and rootedness to particular homelands (including reservation lands). Historians have explored the effort to defend and retain homelands, the meaning of homelands in defining identity, and the endurance of community on homelands, among other issues. While this work has been on the whole essential and laudable, it has had the unfortunate tendency to fall in line with notions of Native people as static, even despite the efforts of these same historians to resist the notion of “the people without history.” Each of the scholars in this panel uses mobility to challenge essentialist notions of Indigenous people, and to demonstrate their engagement with spaces and peoples far from their homes. Shoemaker forces us to reconsider the boundaries of what “Indian” means, and Chang, Reid, and Cahill demonstrate that Native people were no respecters of geographic boundaries. The movement of Native people reveals the way they embraced new possibilities that “modernity” opened up, and that they in fact insisted on their right to do so. Moreover, considered together, the story of movement of American Indians, Hawaiians, Marquesans, Fijians and others across boundaries suggests the ways that Indigenous people were creating their own geographies of connection among Native people that countered the isolating and atomizing colonial geographies that states tried to erect around them.

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