Mapping Sovereignty: Indigenous Borderlands

Thursday, April 11, 2013
4:00 pm, reception to follow
Communications 120
University of Washington, Seattle Campus

Audra Simpson (Anthropology, Columbia University) “Indian Territory, the Racialized Life of Treaty and Settler Sovereignty”

Haudenosaunee – or “The Iroquois” – are an Indigenous Confederacy of Six Nations that interrupt the narratives that attempts to explain them as well as the states that purport to lawfully own and administer their land. Nowhere is this made clearer than in Iroquois interpretations of the Jay Treaty of 1794 and Iroquois movement across the US-Canada border—an international border that cuts through their historical and contemporary territory and is, simply, in their space and in their way. It is through their actions, and in particular, their mobility on their own terms, that Indigenous border crossers enact their understandings of history and law, understandings that are then received in particular ways – racializing, criminalizing, and delimiting. Nonetheless, Haudenosaunee push against all of this as they move across various borders: territorial, temporal and juridical, in their active relationships to land and to each other.  Audra Simpson explores the historica! l, legal, political and ethnographic life of Iroquois nationhood across borders, and contends that their continued life and action calls into deep question the conceit of territorial certainty and settler sovereignty itself.

Ofelia Zepeda (American Indian Studies, University of Arizona) “The Tohono O’odham and the Border: A Personal Perspective”

Ofelia Zepeda is a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation. She contends, “Early on we were not really aware of an international border since movement between the U.S. and Mexico was fairly free, especially for the Tohono O’odham. The understanding of a political border is something fairly recent and does not come into play when one moves with family and kin back and forth in this desert space, where the political border is situated is all one great extension of a people’s home, culture, language and land. This in a sense is my perspective as a member of the O’odham Nation. But, things have changed.” In her talk, she shares her personal perspective, moving back and forth from the time before the true realization of a border and today when things are magnified by the border.
Presented as part of B/ordering Violence: Boundaries, Gender, Indigeneity in the Americas, a John E. Sawyer Seminar in Comparative Cultures generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and co-sponsored by the Latin American & Caribbean Studies program, the Jackson School of International Studies, the Simpson Center for the Humanities, and the Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race, & Sexuality (WISER).
For more on the B/ordering Violence Seminar Series, visit and


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About mjj22

Current research project The Multi Dimensions of Blackness: Cultural Hegemony in the US and Abroad I am interested in how the concept of race and identity plays a role in how we perceive difference. Moreover, I would like to investigate how colonial powers such as the United States have shaped ideas of race and identity while maintaining colonial rule abroad. This past summer (2012) I was a participant in the Summer Institute in the Art & Humanities. This opportunity allowed me to explore questions concerning race and representation. Why were my peers studying abroad and returning with the same preconceived notions of developing countries? Why were my college classmates representing people and places in the Global South as underdeveloped, religious radicals, uneducated, disease stricken, and confrontational? These questions have driven my interest in globalization, power, borders, and how a variety of people and institutions located in "the West" represent the Global South.

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