Indigenous Proprietors Across Empires in North America, 1763-1891


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




The 1763 Treaty of Paris, the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, and the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo excluded Native Americans from negotiations over North American land and sovereignty. Yet, because they upheld property rights from prior empires, they created unique legal conditions for Native Americans to claim and defend territory. Three case studies of indigenous groups—Abenakis in Quebec after 1763, Louisiana’s petites nations after 1803, and Tongva and Tataviam peoples in California after 1848—reveal that these peoples seized imperial transitions as key moments to repurpose settler property as a tool of survival. Native Americans transformed property processes, often designed to exclude them, into political channels to assert sovereignty and defend land. Accounting for this history reveals the resourcefulness and creativity of indigenous actors, probes the flexibility of the legal institution of property, and reframes the trajectory of settler colonialism in North America as temporally irregular rather than linear.