Indigenous Sovereignty

Endorsed by the Immigration and Ethnic History Society (IEHS)

Type: Panel Discussion

Tags: Legal and Constitutional; Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples


From the beginning of the English invasion, Native nations have held an uncertain and evolving status in Anglo-American law. This panel discussion brings together junior and senior scholars researching how indigenous groups sought to maintain their autonomy and resources during the critical nineteenth century in North America. The session will consider broad questions in the evolving status of Native communities including, in keeping with the theme “Pathways to Democracy,” the conflicts between indigenous sovereignty and the systems and claims of democracy in the United States and Canada

Session Participants

Chair: Michael Leroy Oberg, State University of New York at Geneseo
Michael Leroy Oberg is Distinguished Professor of History at SUNY-Geneseo and director of the Geneseo Center for Local and Municipal History, founded in February of 2019. In addition to his textbook, Native America, he has written the following works: Dominion and Civility: English Imperialism and Native America, 1585-1685 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999); Uncas: First of the Mohegans (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003); Samuel Wiseman’s Book of Record: The Official Account of Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2005); The Head in Edward Nugent’s Hand: Roanoke’s Forgotten Indians (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007); Professional Indian: Eleazer Williams’s American Odyssey (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015); and Peacemakers: The Iroquois, the United States, and the Treaty of Canandaigua, 1794 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015). He has published, as well, articles and reviews, and has worked as a historical consultant for native communities in New York and North Carolina, as well as for the Indian Resources Section of the United States Department of Justice. He has won awards for his teaching and research in Montana and in New York, including the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. He earned his Ph.D. from Syracuse University.

Panelist: Zachary Isaac Conn, Yale University
Zachary Conn is a historian of eighteenth and nineteenth century North America. He is currently a doctoral candidate in History at Yale University. His dissertation examines the role of the Native peoples of the Great Lakes region in early U.S. foreign policy. He has shared findings from his dissertation in such venues as the American Society for Ethnohistory’s annual meeting, the John Carter Brown Library, Oxford University’s All Souls College, and Purdue University’s 2019 Remaking American Political History conference.

Panelist: Julia Lewandoski, California State University San Marcos
Julia Lewandoski is a historian of early America, Native America, law, and cartography. She is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Southern California in History and Digital Humanities. In 2019, she received her PhD in History from the University of Southern California, with a Designated Emphasis in Science and Technology Studies. Her book project explores how Indigenous communities across North America used property ownership to defend land and sovereignty during a century of transition from empires to nation-states. Her work has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Society for Legal History, the American Philosophical Society, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, among others.

Panelist: Daniel Richard Mandell, Truman State University
Daniel R. Mandell earned his Ph.D. in History from the University of Virginia in 1992, and has been professor of history at Truman State University since 1999. His most recent book, _The Lost Tradition of Economic Equality in America, 1600-1870_, is being published by Johns Hopkins University Press in spring 2020. All of Mandell’s previous books and articles focused on Native Americans in New England between 1600 and 1900, considering their shifting differences, similarities, and relationships with others in the region; the most noteworthy were _Behind the Frontier: Indians in Eighteenth-Century Eastern Massachusetts_ (1996); _King Philip's War: Colonial Expansion, Native Resistance, and the End of Indian Sovereignty_ (2010); and _Tribe, Race, History: Native Americans in Southern New England, 1780-1880_ (2008), which received the inaugural OAH Lawrence Levine Award for best book on American cultural history. He has received research fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Massachusetts Historical Society, Library Company of Philadelphia, and American Antiquarian Society. In 2018-2019 he was the Distinguished Research Fellow at the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy at the University of Missouri, beginning a study of the evolution of Native American policies and laws and the conundrum between individual and collective rights.

Panelist: Craig Yirush, University of California, Los Angeles
Craig Yirush is an Associate Professor of History at U.C.L.A., where he teaches early American history. He is the author of Settlers, Liberty, and Empire: The Roots of Early American Political Theory (Cambridge, 2011); and the co-editor of the multi-volume Exploring the Bounds of Liberty: Political Writings of Colonial British America from the Glorious Revolution to the American Revolution (Indianapolis, 2018), which was chosen as an ‘Outstanding Academic Title’ by Choice magazine in 2019. He is currently working on a book about indigenous legal and political arguments in North America, from first contact to the early twentieth century. He has been awarded fellowships at the Charles Warren Center at Harvard and the John Carter Brown Library.