The Chichimeca Arc: War, Peace, and Resettlement in America’s First Borderlands, 1546- 1616


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars




For residence at the Huntington Library during academic year 2020-2021


The war against stateless peoples in the second half of the sixteenth century in America’s first borderlands—New Spain’s emerging near northern silver mining district—devastated nomadic indigenous populations (generically called Chichimecas). Traditional native hunting and foraging lands experienced intense ecological change and native men and women were killed or sold into long-term enslavement. Worn down by years of violence and deprivation, native peoples gradually submitted to Spanish rule in the late 1580s, agreeing to resettlement in reducciones (reservations). The focus on state peoples and events casts Iberians and sedentary indigenous migrants from central Mexico as the main subjects of this foundational borderland’s history. This book recovers and repositions Chichimecas as central protagonists. It considers how they experienced the war, took an active role in peacemaking, responded to social reorganization in reducciones, and navigated the state’s attempts to transform their lifeways.