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Peoples in Between – A history essay

March 28, 2011

Western expansion turned natural boundaries into contested borderlands in 19th-century North America

Francisus and Katarina - Wedding photo - 1898

At the dawn of the twentieth century, Francisus Verzuh[1] crossed the line from Montana into Canada apparently without being noticed by the authorities that had policed the borderlands regions along the forty-ninth parallel separating the United States and Canada since the mid-1870s. By earlier standards, this was a quiet crossing. There were no United States Army patrols on his tail and no Mountie out to get his man. Francisus was neither aboriginal nor Asian, so he might easily have gone undetected. After all, it was these two groups that the law creating the relatively unguarded border was meant to control and assist to assimilate into a culture that was quickly supplanting First Nations’ traditional ways. Clearly he was not seen as a threat to either nation as they sought to protect their white settler populations, clear the way for capitalist entrepreneurship and secure their grips on sovereignty.
Peoples in Between – review essay – June 15, 2009

[1] The 1900 United States Census records him as Frank Verzah. He also appears in the R.L. Polk and Co. city directories for East Helena, Montana, as Verzuk, Varzuh and Versoe.

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