Indigenous Borderlands: A Book Celebration and Dialogue



On January 25, renowned ethnohistorians Cynthia Radding, Erick Langer, and our own Joaquín Rivaya-Martínez will discuss the contributions and potential impact of the edited collection Indigenous Borderlands: Native Agency, Resilience and Power in the Americas (University of Oklahoma Press, 2023). This work is the culmination of a project whose first step was a symposium held at Texas State University under the sponsorship of the Center for the Study of the Southwest and the Department of History in 2018. The book brings together selected national and international scholars whose research engages with past and present Native communities across the Western Hemisphere. Indigenous people, who often occupy a marginal space in the scholarship on the history of the Americas, are the protagonists of this far-reaching revisionary work, in which pervasive myths of European domination and Indigenous submission receive an overdue corrective. Despite initial upheavals caused by the European intrusion, Native people often thrived after contact, preserving their sovereignty, territory, and culture, and shaping Indigenous borderlands across the hemisphere. Borderlands, in this context, are spaces where diverse populations interact, cross-cultural exchanges are frequent and consequential, and no polity or community holds dominion. Within the Indigenous borderlands of the Americas, as this volume shows, Native peoples exercised considerable power, often retaining control of the land, and remaining paramount agents of historical transformation after the European incursion. Conversely, European conquest and colonialism were typically slow and incomplete, as the newcomers struggled to assert their authority and implement policies designed to subjugate Native societies and change their beliefs and practices.


Dr. Cynthia Radding is the Gussenhoven Distinguished Professor of History and Latin American Studies at The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Her scholarship is rooted in the imperial borderlands of the Spanish and Portuguese American empires, emphasizing the role of Indigenous peoples and other colonized groups in shaping those borderlands, transforming their landscapes, and producing colonial societies. She is an international corresponding member of the Academia Mexicana de Historia; she served as book review editor of Hispanic American Historical Review and on the Editorial Boards of American Historical Review, Hispanic American Historical Review, and The Americas. Radding is also President of the Board of Directors of the Americas Research Network. She is co-editor of the Borderlands of the Iberian World with Danna Levin Rojo, an Oxford University Press Handbook (2019). Her publications include Landscapes of Power and Identity: Comparative Histories in the Sonoran Desert and the Forests of Amazonia from Colony to Republic, 2005 (published in Spanish 2005, 2008); Wandering Peoples: Colonialism, Ethnic Spaces, and Ecological Frontiers (Northwestern Mexico, 1700-1850), 1997 (published in Spanish, 2016); Borderlands in World History, co-edited with Chad Bryant and Paul Readman (2014); and Bountiful Deserts: Sustaining Indigenous Worlds in Northern New Spain (2022).

Dr. Erick D. Langer is Professor of Latin American History in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and in the History Department at Georgetown. He specializes in the history of the Andes in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with an emphasis on economic history, Indigenous peoples, frontiers, and Catholic missions. He has authored almost fifty scholarly articles and eight books, including Expecting Pears from an Elm Tree: Franciscan Missions on the Chiriguano Frontier in the Heart of South America, 1830–1949 (Duke University Press, 2009), and coedited with Miléna Santoro Hemispheric Sovereignties: Native Identity and Agency in the Andes, Mesoamerica, and Canada (University of Nebraska Press, 2018). Dr. Langer served as Director of the Center for Latin American Studies at Georgetown from 2009 to 2013. He is the History Commission Chair for the Pan American Institute of Geography and History, part of the Organization of American States. He has received multiple awards, including four Fulbright Research and Lecturing Awards, two Social Science Research Council Awards, two National Endowment for the Humanities Research Awards, and the Orden de la Universidad Central de Venezuela. He was elected Honorary Member of the Academia Boliviana de Historia in 2016 and recently received the Vicennial Medal from Georgetown University for twenty years of service.

Dr. Joaquín Rivaya-Martínez is an associate professor of History at Texas State University. He specializes in the early history of the Indigenous peoples of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands and the southern Great Plains. His main lines of inquiry include Spanish-Indigenous relations, captivity, and the presence of U.S.-based independent Natives in nineteenth-century Mexico. His multidisciplinary scholarship combines archival, ethnographic, archaeological, linguistic, and environmental evidence. He conducts his research in close contact with members of the Comanche Nation of Oklahoma. The Wenner-Gren Foundation, the American Philosophical Society, the Newberry Library, the Philips Fund for Native American Research, UC MEXUS, and Mexico’s CONACyT have funded his research. Dr. Rivaya-Martínez is the editor of Indigenous Borderlands: Native Agency, Resilience, and Power in the Americas (University of Oklahoma Press, 2023) and the author of numerous essays, including “The Unsteady Comanchería: A Reexamination of Power in the Indigenous Borderlands of the Eighteenth-Century Greater Southwest” (The William and Mary Quarterly, April 2023) and “Territorialidad y territorio entre los nómadas del norte de Nueva España y México. El caso Comanche” (Memorias de la Academia Mexicana de la Historia, 2021). He is currently working on a book manuscript provisionally titled Comanche Captivity.