William & Mary Quarterly
The OI is an independent research organization sponsored by William & Mary.
Interactive Digital Projects
Geographies of Power:
Mapping Indian Borders in the “Borderlands” of the Early Southwest
By Juliana Barr
These three interactive maps illustrate that no part of North America went unclaimed by Indians. The continent did not merely constitute their homelands but more concretely was divided into bordered domains of Indian bands, nations, chiefdoms, and confederacies. Beginning in the sixteenth century, European imperial powers might superimpose their own lines in attempts to legitimize vying territorial claims, but they did not negate the reality of Indian sovereignty and the power Indian nations exerted within unambiguous borders. The two Spanish maps from 1728 and 1744 make clear that Spaniards recognized Indian borders and that, in charting their own colonial goals in North America, they would have to negotiate the rules and controls of political and economic Indian jurisdictions.