Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of History

Committee Chair

Dan L. Flores

Commitee Members

David R.M. Beck, Jody Pavilack


colonial Spanish history, ethnogenesis, genizaros, New Mexico History


University of Montana


As a result of the Indian slave trade in the American Southwest, a group of detribalized Indians emerged in New Mexico during the Spanish colonial period. These Indians came to be known as the genízaros and, through the process scholars call ethnogenesis, developed their own identity by incorporating Hispano-Christian cultural practices while preserving their native ways. The genízaros were products of a widespread and lucrative trade in Plains Indian captives and, as such, they represented various tribes, including Apaches, Navajos, Comanches, Kiowas, Pawnees, Utes and Wichitas. The term “genízaro” emerged as a caste label during the Spanish colonial period and usually refers to members of these Plains Indian groups who were captured in the Indian wars and raiding expeditions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and in turn sold to New Mexicans as servants to be instructed in Hispanic customs and baptized as Christians. The genízaro experience in New Mexico was an ongoing practice of cultural reinvention in the interest of self-preservation—a practice consistent with the cultural survival and legacy of other Native Americans in the region. As individuals, genízaros underwent social and cultural transformations upon leaving their native communities and entering Hispanic society through servitude. The extent to which these individual experiences produced a shared genízaro consciousness and legacy to survive and become a distinctly genízaro culture is the story that unfolds here.



© Copyright 2008 Doris Swann Avery