“Northern Indigenous Crees were native to Montana and the northern Plains long before the US-Canada border divided the region. But bisected by the line, Crees became asylum-seekers on their own lands 150 years ago. Though some were granted political refugee status, Crees were still denied basic rights. Instead, many were killed, ignored and deported on both sides of the border. … The Chippewa Cree story is little-known outside the tribe, but it echoes the uncertainty in the immigration crises the US faces today.”
So writes Brenden Rensink, author of a new book, “Native But Foreign: Indigenous Immigrants and Refugees in the North American Borderlands.” In the book, Professor Rensink presents an innovative comparison of indigenous peoples who traversed North American borders in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, examining Crees and Chippewas, who crossed the border from Canada into Montana, and Yaquis from Mexico who migrated into Arizona. The resulting history questions how opposing national borders affect and react differently to Native identity and offers new insights into what it has meant to be "indigenous" or an "immigrant." “Native But Foreign” recently won the 2019 Spur Award for the Best Historical Nonfiction Book from the Western Writers of America.
Brenden Rensink is assistant director of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies and assistant professor of history at Brigham Young University. He hosts the Writing Westward Podcast, featuring conversations with authors of new books on the North American West.