This introductory chapter provides an overview of the book's main theme, namely the Indigenous “interior world” forged by a diverse group of Indian communities that linked present-day California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Sonora, and Baja California. At its farthest reaches, the interior world stretched west to east along the San Bernardino Mountains and Gila River Valley and north to south across the Great Basin and the Colorado Delta. The interior world was a region loosely shaped by geographic borders (mountains, rivers, and deserts), economies (tools, commodities, captives, livestock), food systems and ecologies (plant/animal resources, water sources, grazing/farming land), and transportation (Indian highways, trading middlemen). This study explores all of these themes but also argues that the interior world was largely defined by the paradoxical relationship between political-economic autonomy (from Spaniards, Mexicans, and Americans) and captivity (by Indian communities). Indian trading and raiding shaped all of these dimensions as the interior world expanded and contracted over four centuries.
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