Year of Graduation:
Austin is a PhD. candidate that specializes in early American history, the Atlantic World, and the history of Native America through the early nineteenth century. His dissertation, Boundaries and Power: Western Cherokees, Territoriality, and the Politics of Land and Movement in the Trans-Mississippian West, 1763-1840, analyzes the substantial evolution of complex claims to land in the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century trans-Mississippian west through the eyes of Cherokee migrants, or Western Cherokees. This study of Cherokee migration and resettlement reveals how race, property, and sovereignty gradually merged in the nineteenth-century west. Even before the legal invention of the term “domestic dependent nation,” the ambiguous nature of Cherokee sovereignty in the west impacted how Euroamerican polities thought about the fluid relationship between territory, jurisdiction, and authority across ill-defined political boundaries. Western Cherokees influenced the construction and destruction of geopolitical borders through conflict, negotiation and collaboration with Anglo-Americans, indigenous peoples and European-descended polities. The relocation of the Western Cherokees to “Indian Territory” in present-day Oklahoma demonstrates how shared geopolitical spaces slowly began giving way to ideas and practices of establishing exclusive political control over space, which encouraged the hardening of racial lines, property lines, and lines of sovereignty in the nineteenth-century trans-Mississippian west.