“The Indian” and “the Immigrant”: At the Intersections of Native American and U.S. Im/migration Histories

Solicited by the Immigration and Ethnic History Society (IEHS). Endorsed by the OAH Committee on National Park Service Collaboration

Saturday, April 17, 2021, 2:15 PM - 2:45 PM

Type: Paper Session

Tags: Immigration and Internal Migration; Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples; Race


This panel brings together three research projects that sit at the intersections of U.S. immigration and Native histories. Exploring questions of migration control, settler colonialism, and state power during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, each of the papers complicate the usual frameworks for studying immigration and Native histories, which are at times set in opposition to each other but more frequently studied in isolation. Each of the presentations on this panel, however, point to the ways in which the borders between immigration and Indigenous histories can overlap and blur: Taparata will examine a century-long battle for refugee relief by Creek refugees of the U.S. Civil War; Lozano will analyze the activities of Bureau of Indian Affairs school officials and their regulation of students suspected of having "too much Mexican blood"; and Guise reframes our understandings of the World War II internment experience by drawing our attention to the relocation, internment, and forced labor of the Aleut people in Southeast Alaska. Each of the papers thus connect federal Indian policy to immigration frameworks, presenting important case studies in which contestations over the legal definition of “refugee,” “Mexican,” or “wartime internee,” for example, were shaped by histories of indigenous enslavement, land dispossession, displacement and forced relocation, and labor exploitation. The speakers will discuss a variety of actors involved in the struggles for federal recognition and relief; present new spatial, temporal, and conceptual parameters for the study of U.S. immigration and Native histories; and deepen our understanding of the connections between U.S. immigration policy, settler colonialism, and federal Indian policy since the Civil War. Raising larger questions about state power, indigenous agency and resistance, migration, race, and gender, the panel highlights the ways in which state actors and indigenous peoples defined the sources, possibilities, and limits to American democracy during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Bringing scholars trained in immigration history into conversation with scholars trained in Indigenous studies, this panel will generate new vantage points from which to explore the interrelated constructions of the “Indian” and the “immigrant” in U.S. history.

Papers Presented

“Loyal Refugee Indians” and the Indian Claims Commission, 1866—1951

In 1866, the United States entered into a treaty with the Creek Nation in which the U.S. government promised economic relief to “loyal refugee Indians” who were persecuted and displaced by Confederate sympathizers during the Civil War. When the U.S. government failed to follow through on the treaty, the Creek Nation launched a decades-long legal battle in which they pursued the compensation promised to Creek refugees until 1904. In that year, Congress offered the Creek Nation an additional payment in exchange for their agreement that they would never again pursue the remaining money owed to Creek refugees. The creation of the Indian Claims Commission in 1946—80 years after the Treaty of 1866—opened up a new avenue for the Creek Nation to pursue the relief promised to Creek refugees of the Civil War. At the same time, however, officials in the U.S. and around the world began to reach a new consensus on the legal definition of “refugee” that hinged on displacement across international borders. This paper uses the Creek Treaty of 1866 and the legal arguments of both the United States federal government and the Creek Nation in this nearly century-long legal dispute over refugee relief to explore the changing definition of “refugee” over time, and the relationship of U.S. settler colonialism to refugee policy more broadly.

Presented By
Evan Taparata, Harvard University

Expelled for Having “Mexican blood”: Regulating BIA Schools

In December 1909, Charles L. Davis, of the Chilocco, Oklahoma Indian school, sent an inspection report to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs complaining about suspected Mexican students in the school. He wrote about 32 Pueblo and Apache children whose parents he judged were “made up of considerable Mexican blood.” He believed a few of them were from Mexico. Parents with “too much Mexican blood” hoped to send their children to Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) schools, which offered a better educational opportunity than underfunded or non-existent village schools. These parents also often believed they were Indigenous peoples due to their family claiming they were genízaros, in other words, they had family members who were Indigenous captives or slaves of Spanish and Mexican settlers. They rarely convinced officials. Reports from various BIA schools complained of similar transgressions. This paper will focus on the suspected ethnic Mexican children in BIA schools and the investigations into their heritage by BIA officials, which determined their federal status as Indigenous peoples. If the students were determined to not be Indigenous, the BIA ejected them from BIA-sponsored programs and relegated them to state authorities. These completely distinguishable groups, at least in the eyes of the federal and state government, should receive very different rights and privileges. The records of the BIA offer many such intersections between Mexican Americans and Indigenous peoples. This paper examines what it means for a federal agency to determine racial status.

Presented By
Rosina Lozano, Princeton University

Aleut Internment: Indigenous Relocation, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the U.S. Military

After Japan invaded the Aleutian Islands in June of 1942, the US military responded by evacuating the Aleut to six relocation camps in Southeast Alaska. Aleut evacuation relied on race formation and the familiar pattern of the US dispossessing Native people from their lands. Removal of Native people from their land continued after the Indian Wars of the nineteenth century and persisted into the twentieth century as far north as Alaska. More uncommon is the narrative of the U.S. that partnered with a private corporation to profit from laboring Aleut men who harvested seal pelts during the war. Aleut families were separated during the war with the children sent to the Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding schools and the men sent to the warzone to harvest seal pelts for profit of the U.S. government. While this story of Indigenous relocation and forced labor represents significant marginalization of the Aleut people, a subversive narrative must be uncovered to show Aleut resistance. In combing through the National Archives, tribal archives, and in conducting oral histories with internment camp survivors, I hope to reframe the narrative of Aleut internment as a story of resistance.

Presented By
Holly Miowak Guise, University of New Mexico

Session Participants

Chair and Commentator: Julian Lim, Arizona State University
Julian Lim is an assistant professor of history at Arizona State University. Trained in history and law, she focuses on immigration, borders, and race, and has taught in both history department and law school settings. Lim's award-winning first book, Porous Borders: Multiracial Migrations and the Law in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands (University of North Carolina Press, 2017), examines the history of diverse immigrants in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, and the development of immigration policy and law on both sides of the border. Lim will be the inaugural speaker for the Al Camarillo ALANA luncheon at the 2020 OAH conference. She is currently a fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center, where she is working on her second book: a history of the plenary power doctrine in U.S. immigration law, and its intersections with federal Indian law and American empire.

Commentator: Maurice Crandall, Dartmouth College
Maurice Crandall is a citizen of the Yavapai-Apache Nation of Camp Verde, Arizona. He is a historian of the Indigenous peoples of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands (primarily New Mexico, Arizona, and Sonora). From 2016–2017, he was the Clements Fellow for the Study of Southwestern America at the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Prior to that, Professor Crandall worked as the Historical Projects Specialist at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a museum, archives, and cultural center owned and operated by New Mexico’s nineteen Pueblo Indian nations. His first book, These People Have Always Been a Republic: Indigenous Electorates in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands (University of North Carolina Press, David J. Weber Series in the New Borderlands History, 2019), examines the ways in which Indigenous communities in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands implemented/adapted/indigenized/subverted colonially imposed ideas of democratic town government and voting during the Spanish, Mexican, and U.S. Territorial periods. Professor Crandall is also collaborating with his tribe on historical projects. He is particularly interested in the crucial role played by Yavapai and Western Apache Scouts in building and strengthening their communities after the so-called Indian Wars.

Presenter: Holly Miowak Guise, University of New Mexico
Holly Miowak Guise (Iñupiaq) is a University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Irvine. In Autumn 2020, she will join the Department of History at the University of New Mexico as an Assistant Professor. Her manuscript, “World War II and the First Peoples of the Last Frontier” focuses on gender, Aleut internment, Indigenous segregation, Native activism, and Indigenous military service during war in Alaska. Her research methods bridge together archives, tribal archives, community-based research, and oral histories with Alaska Native elders and veterans. She has received funding for her research from the Ford Foundation Pre-doctoral Fellowship, the Western History Association’s Walter Rundell Award, the American Philosophical Society, and various fellowships from Yale University. Her forthcoming digital humanities project: worldwar2alaska.com will feature oral histories with elders she interviewed. She has a forthcoming article about Native women’s political activism in Suffrage at 100 by Johns Hopkins University Press.

Presenter: Rosina Lozano, Princeton University
Rosina Lozano is an associate professor of history at Princeton University where she teaches and researches Mexican American history, the American West, migration and immigration, and comparative studies in race and ethnicity. Lozano's first book, An American Language: The History of Spanish in the United States (University of California, 2018), examines how after the U.S.-Mexican War, the Spanish language became a language of politics as Spanish speakers in the U.S. Southwest used it to build territorial and state governments. She is working on her second book, tentatively entitled, Intertwined Roots: Mexican Americans and Native Americans in the Southwest, which tells the story of the ever-changing relationship between Mexican Americans and Native peoples from 1848 through the 1970s.

Presenter: Evan Taparata, Harvard University
Evan Taparata is the 2018-2020 Jack Miller Center Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy. His research focuses on migration, law, and empire in the modern United States. He is currently at work on his first book, tentatively titled State of Refuge: The Origins of Refugee Law and the Modern United States, which traces the legal, political, and cultural history of U.S. refugee policy from the American Revolution through World War II. He has published in the Journal of American Ethnic History and has been a regular contributor to PublicRadioInternational.org. He has also contributed to several public history projects, including the #ImmigrationSyllabus and the Humanities Action Lab’s “States of Incarceration” initiative, and he currently serves as a co-editor of AbusablePast.org, an open-access online companion to the Radical History Review. Taparata received his PhD from the University of Minnesota in 2018.