Thomas E. Sheridan

Thomas E. Sheridan

Professor of Anthropology
Research Anthropologist, Southwest Center

Southwest Center, Little Chapel of All Nations, 1052 N. Highland Ave, Tucson, AZ 85721-0185

About Thomas E. Sheridan

I am a historical and environmental anthropologist and have held a joint appointment as Research Anthropologist at the Southwest Center and Professor of Anthropology at the School of Anthropology of the University of Arizona since 2003. I have conducted ethnographic and ethnohistoric research in the Southwest and Northern Mexico since 1971. Prior to my current position, I directed the Mexican Heritage Project at the Arizona Historical Society from 1982-1984, and was Curator of Ethnohistory and then Director of the Office of Ethnohistorical Research at ASM from 1984 to 2003. In 2016, I was named a Distinguished Outreach Professor at UA.  A video of that award can be found at:

I have written or co-edited fourteen books and monographs including Arizona: A History, Revised Edition (UA Press 2012), Landscapes of Fraud: Mission Tumacácori, the Baca Float, and the Betrayal of the O’odham (UA Press 2006), Stitching the West Back Together: Conservation of Working Landscapes (with Susan Charnley and Gary Nabhan: U Chicago, 2014), and Moquis and Kastiilam: Hopis, Spaniards and the Trauma of History, Vol. I (with S. Koyiyumptewa, A. Daughters, D. Brenneman, TJ Ferguson, L. Kuwanwisiwma, and L. Lomayestewa, UA Press, 2015). 

Since 1997, I've been involved in landuse politics in Arizona and the Southwest. I was Chair of the Canoa Heritage Foundation during the fight to prevent the southern half of the San Ignacio de la Canoa Spanish land grant from being developed.  That land was purchased by Pima County in 2001, and I now serve as chair of Pima County's Canoa Ranch Conservation Committee.  For more information, see the county's webpage:

I have also been heavily involved in Pima County's visionary Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan (SDCP) since 1998, chairing the Ranch Conservation Technical Advisory Team. I am a member of the county's Conservation Acquisition Commission, which advises the county on lands to purchase in order to conserve biodiversity, open space, and working ranches. For more information on the SDCP, go to the county's webpage:

I currently serve on the board of the Altar Valley Conservation Alliance (AVCA), a not-for-profit organization of ranchers dedicated to the conservation of open space, biodiversity, and working ranches in the Altar Valley southwest of Tucson. I also chair the AVCA's Science Advisory Board.  The AVCA was awarded the Quivira Coalition's Clarence Burch Award in 2010.  Our website is:

I was President of the Anthroplogy & Environment Section of the American Anthropological Association from 2003 to 2005. I received the Sonoran Institute’s Faces of Conservation: Sustainable Communities Award in 2007, the Earl Carroll Fellowship from the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Arizona in 2009, the Alene Dunlap Smith and Paul Smith Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Tucson Pima County Historical Commission in 2016, and the Byron Cummings Award from the Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society in 2016. 


Selected Publications

1979   Rarámuri:  A Tarahumara Colonial Chronicle, 1607‑1791 (co-edited with Thomas Naylor).  Flagstaff:  Northland Press.

1986   Los Tucsonenses:  The Mexican Community in Tucson, 1854‑1941.  Tucson:  University of Arizona Press.  Reissued in paper, 1992.

1988   Where the Dove Calls:  The Political Ecology of a Peasant Corporate Community in Northwestern Mexico.  U of Arizona Press. Reissued in paper, 1996.

1988   How to Tell the Story of a "People without History":  Narrative vs. Ethnohistorical Approaches to the Study of the Yaqui Indians Through Time.  Journal of the Southwest 30(2):168‑89.

1992   The Limits of Power:  The Political Ecology of the Spanish Empire in the Greater Southwest.  Antiquity 66(250):153‑‑71. Special Issue: The Spanish Empire in the Americas, edited by Kathleen Deagan and Thomas Dillehay.

1995   Arizona:  A History. U of Arizona Press.

1996  Paths of Life:  American Indians of the Southwest and Northern Mexico (co-edited with N.Parezo). U of Arizona Press.

1997   The Presidio and Militia on the Northern Frontier of New Spain, 1700‑1760, Vol. II, Part A:  Baja California and Sinaloa‑Sonora (co-edited with C.Polzer).  U of Arizona Press.

1998   Contested Ground:  Comparative Frontiers on the Northern and Southern Edges of the Spanish Empire (co-edited with Donna Guy).   U of Arizona Press.

1998   A History of the Southwest: The Land and Its People.Southwest Parks and Monument Association .

1999    Empire of Sand: The Seri Indians and the Struggle for Spanish Sonora, 1645-1803. U of  Arizona  Press.

2001   Cows, Condos, and the Contested Commons:  The Political Ecology of Public-Lands Ranching in the Arizona-Sonora Borderlands.  Human Organization 60(2):141-152.

2006   Landscapes of Fraud: Mission Tumacácori, the Baca Float, and the Betrayal of the O’odham.  Tucson: University of  Arizona Press.  Reissued in paper 2008.

2011   Last Water on the Devil’s Highway: A Cultural and Natural History of Tinajas Altas (co-written with Bill Broyles, Gary Nabhan, Gayle Hartmann, and Mary Thurtle).  Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

2012   Arizona: A History (Revised Edition).  Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

2014   Stitching the West Back Together: Conservation and Working Landscapes in the American West. (co-edited w. Susan Charnley, Gary Nabhan).  Chicago: University of Chicago Press

2015   Moquis and Kastiilam: Hopis, Spaniards, and the Trauma of History, Vol. I. (w. Anton Daughters, Stewart B. Koyiyumptewa, Dale Brenneman, Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, and LeeWayne Lomayestewa.  Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2015

Courses Taught

I teach six courses: Native Peoples of the Southwest (ANTH 347), Southwest Land & Society (ANTH 418/518), Anthropology of Rural Mexico (ANTH 423/523), Anthropology & History (ANTH 696B), and Conservation & Community (ANTH 301 and ANTH 696B).


My colleagues and I are completing Vol. II of Moquis and Kastiilam: Hopis, Spaniards, and the Trauma of History, 1680-1780. A formal collaboration between the University of Arizona and the Hopi Tribe, Moquis and Kastiilam: the Hopi History Project began in 2000 with a series of grants from the National Historic Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) and the National Endowment for the Humanities.  It compares and contrasts Spanish documents about the Hopis, whom the Spaniards called Moquis, and Hopi oral traditions about the people they called the Kastiilam.

In March 2016, twelve anthropologists from the U.S., Mexico, and Canada participated in a four-day research seminar entitled "The Border and Its Bodies: The Corporeality of Risk along the U.S.-México Line."  It was held at the Amerind Foundation in southwestern Arizona.  Participants discussed how the trauma of crossing an increasingly militarized border across harsh desert terrain becomes embodied in the lives, and deaths, of migrants from Mexico and Central America.  We also explored the impacts of the migrant surge on rural residents, especially ranchers, in southern Arizona. An edited volume resulting from the Amerind Research Seminar has just been accepted for publication by the University of Arizona Press in October 2018.

Research Interests

Anthropology & History; Conservation & Community; Production of Space; Wilderness and Working Landscapes; Common Property Theory; Ranching, Urbanization, and Environmentalism; Political Ecology of American West; Political Ecology of Northern Mexico; Ethnology & Ethnohistory of Southwest