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At the Border of Empires: The Tohono O'Odham, Gender, and Assimilation, 1880-1934by Andrae M. Marak
Synopses & Reviews
The story of the Tohono Oodham 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 Oodham 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 Oodham, 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 Oodham 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 Oodham on two sides of a border that was, from a native perspective, totally arbitrary.
The border between the United States and Mexico, established in 1853, passes through the territory of the Tohono O’odham peoples. This revealing book sheds light on Native American history as well as conceptions of femininity, masculinity, and empire.
About the Author
Andrae M. Marak is a chair of humanities and social sciences and a professor of history and political science at Governors State University. He is the co-editor (with Elaine Carey) of Smugglers, Brothels, and Twine: Historical Perspectives on Contraband and Vice in North America’s Borderlands. Laura Tuennerman is Chair of the Department of History and Political Science, and a professor of history at California University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Helping Others, Helping Ourselves.
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