Lightning Round: Indigenous and Immigration History in Conversation

Solicited by the OAH Committee on the Status of Women in the Historical Profession Endorsed by the OAH-Japanese Association for American Studies Japan Historians' Collaborative Committee, IEHS, SHGAPE, and WHA

Friday, March 31, 2023, 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Type: Lightning Round

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


This lightning round brings together scholars who are considering the relationship between Indigenous peoples and immigrants, especially Latinx immigrants. Rather than always see these two populations as distinct, speakers will also consider how Indigenous immigrants also change the conversation and considerations. The scholars on this panel are considering these intersections from the colonial period into the recent past and in a broad geographical context.

Papers Presented

Wartime Removals of the Indigenous and Immigrants

Immigrants and the American Indigenous share a common history of being forced into camps and places of incarceration by the US military. The US has a long history of Indigenous removals as a settler colonial project. These removals coincide with removals of immigrant populations during wartime including Japanese Americans during the Second World War. Settler colonial removals, carried out by the US military, coincided with subaltern populations displaced from their lands, where white residents more readily seized their resources, homes, farmlands, and small businesses. These removals also transcended transnational boundaries and included partnerships between the US and Latin American governments, where under pressure from the US, Latin American governments sent Japanese Latin Americans to camps in the US for surveillance during the war. A comprehensive look at the history of camps shows how Indigenous and immigrant histories overlap on a settler colonial landscape.

Presented By
Holly Miowak Guise, University of New Mexico

The Aesthetics of Entangled Histories

In this panel I will address questions of belonging and inclusion as they relate to the studies of non-white immigrants and Indigenous peoples in the United States. I want to think about the life and life cycle of settler colonialism paying special attention to the invitation to non-white immigrants into new narratives of belonging through a multi-cultural lens. Does the language of “belonging” hide exclusion and erasure? To answer this, I propose a discussion around the aesthetic of “entanglements,” or what Gunlög Fur calls concurrent histories, to address how we do history that can help us answer these questions.

Presented By
Yesenia Navarrete Hunter, Heritage University

The Indigenous and the Immigrant

Settler colonial studies has helped initiate a long-overdue rethinking of U.S. and Native history alike. Yet the fundamental division articulated in settler colonial studies between settlers and Natives has left little space for discussing topics like immigration. My comments will try to find a way out of this dilemma by exploring Indigenous people who emigrate, such as the Cherokees who relocated to Mexico and Hawaii in the nineteenth century as well as more recent examples, like Mayan people from Guatemala who came to the U.S. in the last few years. Related to these examples is the question of what should count as a “nation” and what should not. Are Choctaws who relocate (often unwillingly) to Osage lands as part of Indian Removal “immigrants” in that they now reside on a new Native homeland, even though they remain within the bounds of the U.S.?

Presented By
Karl H. Jacoby, Columbia University

Relational Restrictions: Federal Indian Law, Immigration Law, and Coalescing Regimes of Exclusion

In this presentation, Lim will discuss the development of federal Indian law and federal immigration law in the 1870s-1880s, and examine how two seemingly disparate areas of law culminated in similar legal doctrines that gave the U.S. sovereign authority over Indigenous nations and Chinese immigrants. While these two groups have been historically siloed into separate fields of study, Lim will begin to explore the territorial challenges that these two groups posed to U.S. sovereignty in the postbellum U.S. West. Focusing on a set of U.S. Supreme Court cases from the 1880s, Lim will address how white settler anxieties about Native and Chinese peoples found expression in new assertions of U.S. sovereignty over Indians and immigrants, and in the shared legal principle of "plenary power."

Presented By
Julian Lim, Arizona State University

Dispossession in Indigenous and Immigration Histories

My comments will link immigration restriction at the state level in the early nineteenth century US and federal policy towards Indigenous people in the same period. From the earliest years of the new nation, federal agents on Native lands experimented with techniques of migration control that we might more readily associate with Atlantic states. They hoped that surveillance, passports, and firm borders would serve the larger project of Indian removal. At the same time, focusing in on common techniques of migration control in the early nineteenth century highlights the aspiration of the new United States to be a settler colonial power, an aspiration that was itself dependent upon immigration. My comments will reflect on the contradictions of the removal era, which began long before the 1830s and continued long after it.

Presented By
Samantha Seeley, University of Richmond

Indigenous Autonomy between Southern Mexico and the US/Mexican Pacific Coast since the Late Twentieth Century

Indigenous migrants from Latin America challenge the often-assumed homogeneity of national- based migration narratives to the United States. This was the case during the 1970s and 1980s, in which the first large wave of Indigenous migrants from Oaxaca were incorporated into the agricultural fields of northwest Mexico and California. The racialization of these communities as Mexican, which did not recognize them as Indigenous people who were primarily monolingual speakers in their language and with their own worldviews, led them to different forms of vulnerabilities. These forms included incarceration, intra-Mexican violence, and incorporation as farmworkers at the bottom of the agricultural sector. Yet, I maintain that Indigenous Oaxacan migrant’s attempts to recreate their communal lives (comunalidad), showed different possibilities and relations that could exist outside of borders and settler logics. My participation in the lightning round begins to reflect on the importance of conversations among Indigenous and immigration scholars through the lens of autonomy. What might the experiences of Indigenous Latin American migrants asserting their autonomy between Oaxaca and California reveal about borders, nation- centered narratives of migration, and racial capitalism? How might we rethink immigration and Indigenous histories between the North and South? And what kinds of methods, theories, and frameworks can the history of Indigenous Oaxacans since the late twentieth century offer for our scholarship and dialogues?

Presented By
Jorge Ramirez-Lopez, Society of Fellows, Dartmouth College

Indigeneity, Fugitivity, and Sanctuaryscapes in Bordered Lands

Chicano activist, Reies Lopez Tijerina, the infamous leader of the land-grant movement (1957 - 1974) in northern New Mexico said, “The Indians owned the land first? Then isn't it lucky we're half Indian.” Indigeneity is a field of power shaped by overlapping colonialities and systems of knowledge and governance designed to displace and/or manage power relations between indigenous people and settlers, immigrants and natives, criminals and law-abiding citizens. Starting with the idea that sanctuary is an Indigenous survival strategy cultivated in regions of refuge and rebellion in the Americas, my contribution to this panel brings two different, yet interconnected sanctuary cases together: Dennis Banks, the AIM leader who took sanctuary in California and later with Haudenosaunee in New York State in 1983, after fleeing South Dakota in the aftermath of the Wounded Knee uprising in 1973; and Ínez Campos-Anzora, a pregnant refugee from El Salvador who crossed the US-Mexico border clandestinely with the help of faith-based sanctuary activists to give her baby up for adoption in Albuquerque in 1987. What is the relationship between Native American displacement, dispossession, and fugitivity and US immigration law and foreign policy? How might looking at this relationship through gendered time-traveling sanctuaryscapes shift our understanding of what it means to be an immigrant and what it means to be Indigenous? Are we all “half Indian” in the eyes of the settler-state?

Presented By
Aimee Marianna Villarreal, Texas State University

Session Participants

Chair: Rosina Lozano, Princeton University

Presenter: Holly Miowak Guise, University of New Mexico

Presenter: Yesenia Navarrete Hunter, Heritage University

Presenter: Karl H. Jacoby, Columbia University

Presenter: Julian Lim, Arizona State University

Presenter: Jorge Ramirez-Lopez, Society of Fellows, Dartmouth College

Presenter: Samantha Seeley, University of Richmond

Presenter: Aimee Marianna Villarreal, Texas State University