What Side Are You On?

A Tohono O'odham Life across Borders

By Michael Steven Wilson, José Antonio Lucero

214 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 15 halftones, 1 map, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-7558-9
    Published: June 2024
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-7557-2
    Published: June 2024
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-7559-6
    Published: April 2024

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Renowned human rights activist Michael "Mike" Wilson has borne witness to the profound human costs of poverty, racism, border policing, and the legacies of colonialism. From a childhood in the mining town of Ajo, Arizona, Wilson's life journey led him to US military service in Central America, seminary education, and religious and human rights activism against the abuses of US immigration policies. With increased militarization of the US-Mexico border, migration across the Tohono O’odham Nation surged, as did migrant deaths and violent encounters between tribal citizens and US Border Patrol agents. When Wilson's religious and ethical commitments led him to set up water stations for migrants on the Nation's lands, it brought him into conflict not only with the US government but also with his own tribal and religious communities.

This richly textured and collaboratively written memoir brings Wilson's experiences to life. Joining Wilson as coauthor, José Antonio Lucero adds political and historical context to Wilson's personal narrative. Together they offer a highly original portrait of an O’odham life across borders that sheds light on the struggles and resilience of Native peoples across the Americas.

About the Authors

Michael Steven Wilson (Tohono O’odham) is a human rights activist, US military retiree, and film documentarian. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.
For more information about Michael Steven Wilson, visit the Author Page.

José Antonio Lucero is Chair and Professor of the Comparative History of Ideas Department at the University of Washington, Seattle and holds a joint appointment in the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies.
For more information about José Antonio Lucero, visit the Author Page.


"Brilliant, moving, and wholly unique.... Wilson and Lucero have produced a groundbreaking book that mixes memoir, testimonio, political science, and history to tell the complex story of an Indigenous man's journey through the civil rights era, the Cold War, and America's war on undocumented migrants along the US-Mexico border."—Jason De León, author of Soldiers and Kings: Survival and Hope in the World of Human Smuggling

"Mike Wilson's life history and varied experiences reveal that Native lives are complex, adaptive, and entirely modern. Wilson and Lucero’s unique dual-story approach is extremely effective. I can’t think of another book quite like this one."—K. Tsianina Lomawaima, Arizona State University

"An engaging and valuable book. By tacking between Wilson’s first-person life history and Lucero’s contextual 'interludes,' this collaborative work provides both an intimate account of lived experience and a historical analysis of the larger structures of power that have a hand in shaping life as an Indigenous person along the US-Mexico border."—Shannon Speed, University of California, Los Angeles