At the Border of Empires

The Tohono O'odham, Gender, and Assimilation, 1880-1934

Andrae M. Marak (Author), Laura Tuennerman (Author)
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The story of the Tohono O’odham peoples offers an important account of assimilation. Bifurcated by a border demarcating Mexico and the United States that was imposed on them after the Gadsden Purchase in 1853, the Tohono O’odham lived at the edge of two empires. Although they were often invisible to the majority cultures of the region, they attracted the attention of reformers and government officials in the United States, who were determined to “assimilate” native peoples into “American society.” By focusing on gender norms and ideals in the assimilation of the Tohono O’odham, At the Border of Empires provides a lens for looking at both Native American history and broader societal ideas about femininity, masculinity, and empire around the turn of the twentieth century.

Beginning in the 1880s, the US government implemented programs to eliminate “vice” among the Tohono O’odham and to encourage the morals of the majority culture as the basis of a process of “Americanization.” During the next fifty years, tribal norms interacted with—sometimes conflicting with and sometimes reinforcing—those of the larger society in ways that significantly shaped both government policy and tribal experience. This book examines the mediation between cultures, the officials who sometimes developed policies based on personal beliefs and gender biases, and the native people whose lives were impacted as a result. These issues are brought into useful relief by comparing the experiences of the Tohono O’odham on two sides of a border that was, from a native perspective, totally arbitrary.

“This in-depth study of feuding missionaries and conniving Indian agents trying to educate and ‘civilize’ Native Americans provides a gripping tale of paternalism, racism, and exploitation.”—Bill Broyles, Southwest Books of the Year

“Highlighting the themes of imperialism, gender, and Indigenous agency, Marak and Tuennerman deftly illustrate the unintended consequences of gendered assimilation efforts in which U.S. assimilation efforts occurred not in spite of, but rather because of, the peripheral location of the Tohono O’odham.”—Native American and Indigenous Studies

“The archival research and the chapter on Mexico are especially welcome since few works have examined the Tohono O’odham living on both sides of the border. The book also offers excellent insights into the role that gender played in the United States’ assimilation policy and indigenous responses to it.”—Eric Meeks, author of Border Citizens: The Making of Indians, Mexicans, and Anglos in Arizona

“A tidy and compact volume that contains keen insights into how the U.S. government’s efforts to assimilate the Tohono O’odham relied on constructions of gender."—Journal of Arizona History

"Scholars of indigenous studies, borderlands history, and transnational history will welcome this text as a small but powerful example of what can be accomplished in a field overflowing with similar research topics to be explored and stories to be told."—Catholic Historical Review

“Marak and Tuennerman focus on the gendered dimensions of efforts to assimilate the Tohono O’odham, a nation of people that have lived in what we now call the borderlands for over a millennium.”—Jeffrey Shepherd, author of We Are an Indian Nation: A History of the Hualapai People

"At the Border of Empires forms an important part of the growing body of scholarship on Native American assimilation during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries."—Journal of American History

“What sets this book apart from other scholarship on gender and assimilation is that the authors examine the experiences of the Tohono O’odham on both sides of the border.”—Gender and History
At the Border of Empires
232 Pages 6 x 9 Published: 2016 Hardcover (9780816521159)
Paperback (9780816536566)
Ebook (9780816535958)

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