In Legal Codes and Talking Trees: Indigenous Women's Sovereignty in the Sonoran and Puget Sound Borderlands, 1854-1946
(Yale University Press, 2016), Katrina Jagodinsky
recovers the stories too often presumed lost in the silences of colonial archives: those of Indigenous women operating within systems of American law. In doing so, she argues that Indigenous women in the American southwest and Pacific northwest used Indigenous epistemologies, legal codes, and community connections, to navigate American settler colonial legal regimes and in some cases emerging victorious. Jagodinsky, an Associate Professor in the history department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, uses unique methodologies combining traditional legal history, poetry, and non-written knowledge networks to recount the histories of six women from the border regions of what is today Arizona/Sonora and Washington/British Columbia. Legal Codes and Talking Trees
shows how even under ardently white supremacist power structures and within settler colonial societies designed to dispossess Indigenous communities, people not only straddled racial lines individually, but also made families that run counter to easy narratives. Jagodinsky's book is a call to arms for historians and archivists not to take their academic privilege for granted, and to use innovative research methods to locate and retell difficult to find stories, even when the archives may seem as incomprehensible as the language of the trees.
Stephen Hausmann is a doctoral candidate at Temple University and Visiting Instructor of history at the University of Pittsburgh. He is currently writing his dissertation, a history of race and the environment in the Black Hills and surrounding northern plains region of South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana.