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Heather Roller

Heather Roller

Associate Professor of History; Director, Benton Scholars Program
History, 322 Alumni Hall
p 315-228-7563
Amazonian Routes book cover


BA 2002, Yale University
MA 2005, PhD 2010, Stanford University


Amazonia and Brazil; ethnohistory; indigenous peoples under colonial rule; autonomous indigenous groups; mobility and migration; borderlands; environmental history

Publications and Works-in-Progress

Contact Strategies: A History of Independent Indians in Brazil (book manuscript in progress).

"Autonomous Indian Nations and Peacemaking in Colonial Brazil," in Borderlands of the Iberian World: Environments, Histories, Cultures, ed. Cynthia Radding and Danna Levin Rojo (Oxford: Oxford University Press, expected 2018).

“On the Verge of Total Extinction? From Guaikurú to Kadiwéu in Nineteenth-Century Brazil,” Ethnohistory (expected October 2018).

Amazonian Routes: Indigenous Mobility and Colonial Communities in Northern Brazil (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2014).

“River Guides, Geographical Informants, and Colonial Field Agents in the Portuguese Amazon,” Colonial Latin American Review 21:1 (April 2012), 101-126.

“Colonial Collecting Expeditions and the Pursuit of Opportunities in the Amazonian Sertão, c. 1750-1800,” The Americas 66:4 (April 2010), 435-467. [Em português:  “Expedições coloniais de coleta e a busca por oportunidades no sertão amazônico, c. 1750-1800,” Revista de História 168 (July 2013), 201-243.]


  • NEH Fellowship for Contact Strategies (2017-2018)
  • Roberto Reis Book Prize, Brazilian Studies Association (2015)
  • Howard Francis Cline Memorial Prize, Conference on Latin American History (2015)
  • ACLS Fellowship (2013-2014)
  • Picker, Major Grant, and Garrison Fellowship, Colgate Research Council (2012, 2014)
  • Warren Dean Prize, honorable mention, Conference on Latin American History (2011)
  • Tibesar Prize, Conference on Latin American History (2010)
  • Helen Hornbeck Tanner Award, American Society for Ethnohistory (2009)
  • Mabelle McLeod Lewis Dissertation Fellowship (2008-2009)
  • Fulbright-Hays Research Abroad Fellowship for Brazil (2006-2007)
  • Mellon Fellowship in Humanistic Studies (2003-2004)

Selected Courses

CORE 193: Brazil
FSEM 192: Ethnohistory of the Amazon
HIST 231: Resistance and Revolt in Latin America
HIST 322: Race and Ethnicity in Latin America
HIST 358: Conquest and Colony: Cultural Encounters in the New World
HIST 399: Reading Seminar on Toxic Exposure and Contamination (Fall '18)
HIST 480: Seminar in Latin American History

Documenting the Amazon Project

This is a small collection of archival and published primary sources on the historical Amazon that I translated into English (see note on translations).  Each of the PDFs contains several related documents, along with an introduction that provides context and draws attention to the main themes.

The Portuguese Inquisition Comes to the Amazon (1764 and 1767)
  • Themes: popular religion; sorcery and magic; resistance; gender and sexuality; race and ethnicity
  • Document genre:  Inquisition records
“They are the Hands and Feet of the Europeans” (1758-1776)
  • Themes:  labor regimes; colonial economy; social hierarchies
  • Document genre:  missionary chronicle
Exploits of an Indigenous Headman (1769 and 1770)
  • Themes:  resistance; colonial Indian administration; violence
  • Document genre: village-level correspondence
Bringing Indians into the Colonial Sphere (1775 and 1766)
  • Themes:  cultural intermediaries; colonial Indian administration; cross-cultural encounters and communication
  • Document genre:  village-level correspondence
A Voluntary Slave, 1780 and 1784
  • Themes:  slavery and servitude; resistance; social hierarchies
  • Document genres:  notarial documents; official correspondence
Petition from Alter do Chão (1824)
  • Themes:  resistance; social hierarchies; race and ethnicity
  • Document genre:  village-level correspondence