Thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Sam Truett, associate professor of History and director of the Center for the Southwest at The University of New Mexico, will present the Indigenous Borderlands in North America Symposium this week.

This symposium will bring together historians, scholars in other disciplines, and Indigenous community members to develop new borderland and border-crossing approaches to continental North America that center Indigenous peoples, homelands, political concerns, and related dynamics. The symposium will be held Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 2 - 5 at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, Albuquerque. The event is free and open to the public.

Sam Truett

As director of the Center for the Southwest, Truett is the PI for the project Indigenous Borderlands in North America and the World: Borders, Crossings, Histories, and Futures, which was awarded a Collaborative Research Grant of $50,000 from the NEH, one of 12 such grants nationwide.

“We live in an age of unprecedented social and environmental change in which borderlands-the world’s meeting places and crossing-over places, whether among nations, homelands, humans and more-than-human kin, or the social and ecological systems that sustain them-are shifting. What do our planetary entanglements hold in store, and what might we learn from histories of borderlands and their crossings as we look toward uncertain futures?” Truett said. “In this gathering of scholars and community members, we will anchor visions of past and future to a Native-centered approach to borderlands. Pushing against older habits of sequestering Native peoples to the margins or a remote past, we seek to put Indigenous pasts, presents, and futures at the center of our planetary view.”

The symposium will bring together a diverse group of scholars and community members from across the North American continent—from Guatemala and northern Mexico north to Canada and the Indigenous Arctic.

“By placing scholars and community members in dialogue about the changing borderlands and crossings of Native America, we seek to develop more robust, locally rooted, and ethically accountable visions of North America, past, present, and future,” Truett noted.

Keynote speakers include:

  • Theresa Dardar (Pointe-au-Chien Tribe), a lifelong resident of the small American Indian fishing community of Pointe-aux-Chenes in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, one of the most fragile coastal areas in the world. She is a strong local leader advocating for the restoration and protection of not just the ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico and its coastal areas but also for the people and communities who call coastal Louisiana home.
  • Patty Ferguson-Bohnee, also of the Pointe-au-Chien Tribe, director of the Indian Legal Clinic, faculty director of the Indian Legal Program, and clinical professor of law, at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. She has substantial experience in Indian law, election law and voting rights, and status clarification for tribes.

The speakers will discuss their tribe’s position as one of the first refugees of sea level rise in the continental U.S.

The event launches a larger multi-year initiative, with international symposia and publications on Indigenous borderlands in American and global contexts. Led by Truett and partners Joshua L. Reid (University of Washington), Elizabeth Ellis (Princeton), Nakia Parker (Michigan State), Boyd Cothran (York University), and Rani Henrik-Andersson (University of Helsinki), the initiative seeks to generate collaborations and open new conversations among scholars and Indigenous communities.

The Albuquerque symposium is supported by the NEH grant and a range of other sources, including major funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and a variety of UNM sources, including the Center for Regional Studies, the Alfonso Ortiz Center for Intercultural Studies, the Latin American and Iberian Institute, the Institute for American Indian Research, the Office of the Vice President for Research, the College of Arts & Sciences, the Sustainability Studies Program, the R.H. Mallory Center for Community Geography, and the Department of Biology. Co-sponsors also include UNM departments of History, American Studies, and Native American Studies, as well as the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

The Albuquerque symposium will be followed by a workshop at the Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest at the University of Washington in the spring of 2023, and a second series of symposia and workshops on Global Indigenous Borderlands in 2025 and 2026 that will conclude with a Spring symposium sponsored by the Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University, held at its Taos campus.

Details for the symposium, including the schedule, speakers, registration, and abstracts are available on the event website.