Divided Peoples

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

Christina Leza (Author)
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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.
"Divided Peoples is a poignant critique of how colonial and national geographic boundaries have affected Indigenous autonomy and reconfigured alliances and politics. Leza
invites readers to consider the lived experiences of Indigenous communities along the Borderlands and the grassroots efforts initiated to create new cartographies of belonging and cooperation."—Diana Negrín, New Mexico Historical Review

"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

"Christina Leza’s Divided Peoples offers a compelling examination of the fraught U.S.-Mexico borderlands. Given recent times and contentious debates about immigration, her thorough examination is much needed and timely, especially from Indigenous perspectives."—Edison Cassadore, Tribal College Journal

"As the flourishing field of Indigenous studies continues to examine the ways in which Native peoples enact a transnational politics of sovereignty, books like Divided Peoples are integral. As nation-states continue to run roughshod over the histories, cultures, and rights of border peoples (Native and non-Native), books like Divided Peoples are imperative."—Nicholas Barron, Native American and Indigenous Studies

"Through [this] book, we see the complexities and contradictions of Indigenous activism and the multiple negotiations of identity and community boundaries necessary to achieve rights of mobility and passage of Indigenous peoples."—Rocío Gil, American Anthropologist

“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


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