Divided Peoples
240 pages, 6 x 9
1 b&w illustration, 3 maps
Release Date:01 Jun 2021
Release Date:05 Nov 2019
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Divided Peoples

Policy, Activism, and Indigenous Identities on the U.S.-Mexico Border

The University of Arizona Press
The border region of the Sonoran Desert, which spans southern Arizona in the United States and northern Sonora, Mexico, has attracted national and international attention. But what is less discussed in national discourses is the impact of current border policies on the Native peoples of the region. There are twenty-six tribal nations recognized by the U.S. federal government in the southern border region and approximately eight groups of Indigenous peoples in the United States with historical ties to Mexico—the Yaqui, the O’odham, the Cocopah, the Kumeyaay, the Pai, the Apaches, the Tiwa (Tigua), and the Kickapoo.

Divided Peoples addresses the impact border policies have on traditional lands and the peoples who live there—whether environmental degradation, border patrol harassment, or the disruption of traditional ceremonies. Anthropologist Christina Leza shows how such policies affect the traditional cultural survival of Indigenous peoples along the border. The author examines local interpretations and uses of international rights tools by Native activists, counterdiscourse on the U.S.-Mexico border, and challenges faced by Indigenous border activists when communicating their issues to a broader public.

Through ethnographic research with grassroots Indigenous activists in the region, the author reveals several layers of division—the division of Indigenous peoples by the physical U.S.-Mexico border, the divisions that exist between Indigenous perspectives and mainstream U.S. perspectives regarding the border, and the traditionalist/nontraditionalist split among Indigenous nations within the United States. Divided Peoples asks us to consider the possibilities for challenging settler colonialism both in sociopolitical movements and in scholarship about Indigenous peoples and lands.
Voices of Indigenous activists are centered in this accessible ethnography, which offers an imperative exploration into the ways Indigenous peoples, cultures, families, work and land are negatively impacted by US border policies.'—Karla Strand, Ms. Magazine

‘At this time more than ever, an understanding of the crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border needs to be understood from the perspectives of Indigenous peoples of the region. Christina Leza’s book provides us with deep insight into the responses of Native activists to the militarization of the border.’—Baron L. Pineda, author of Shipwrecked Identities: Navigating Race on Nicaragua’s Mosquito Coast ‘Divided Peoples delivers timely scholarship on the border region while constructively critiquing anthropological framings of how indigenous communities survive in settler colonial contexts.’—Joyce Bennett, American Ethnologist ‘Leza examines the many complexities in indigenous border identities and the various challenges activists face in overcoming intra- and intercommunity divisions. Hopefully, Divided Peoples will provide a ready blueprint for Native peoples to challenge nation-state restrictions on transborder movements.’— T. P. Bowman, Choice

Christina Leza is an associate professor of anthropology at Colorado College. She is a linguistic anthropologist whose research interests include Indigenous peoples, racial and ethnic discourses, Indigenous rights, grassroots activism, and the U.S.-Mexico border.
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