“A straightforward chronological reference . . . significant and much-needed.”—Daniel J. Gelo, Journal of American History
Daniel J. Gelo
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From Dominance to Disappearance is the first detailed history of the Indians of Texas and the Near Southwest from the late eighteenth to the middle nineteenth century, a period that began with Native peoples dominating the region and ended with their disappearance, after settlers forced the Indians in Texas to take refuge in Indian/i>
From Dominance to Disappearance is the first detailed history of the Indians of Texas and the Near Southwest from the late eighteenth to the middle nineteenth century, a period that began with Native peoples dominating the region and ended with their disappearance, after settlers forced the Indians in Texas to take refuge in Indian Territory.
Drawing on a variety of published and unpublished sources in Spanish, French, and English, F. Todd Smith traces the differing histories of Texas’s Native peoples. He begins in 1786, when the Spaniards concluded treaties with the Comanches and the Wichitas, among others, and traces the relations between the Native peoples and the various Euroamerican groups in Texas and the Near Southwest, an area encompassing parts of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. For the first half of this period, the Native peoples—including the Caddos, the Karankawas, the Tonkawas, the Lipan Apaches, and the Atakapas as well as emigrant groups such as the Cherokees and the Alabama-Coushattas—maintained a numerical superiority over the Euroamericans that allowed them to influence the region’s economic, military, and diplomatic affairs. After Texas declared its independence, however, the power of Native peoples in Texas declined dramatically, and along with it, their ability to survive in the face of overwhelming hostility. From Dominance to Disappearance illuminates a poorly understood chapter in the history of Texas and its indigenous people.
“A straightforward chronological reference . . . significant and much-needed.”—Daniel J. Gelo, Journal of American History
Daniel J. Gelo
“A comprehensive narrative of the interactions that occurred between American Indians, these three European powers, and the United States. . . . Smith’s account is breathtakingly complex, and clearly reflects his painstaking research in primary sources written in three languages. . . . Encyclopedic in scope, this book is a must read for any serious scholar of American Indian History.” —Byron E. Pearson, Western Historical Quarterly
Byron E. Pearson
"Here we have, at last, the first really comprehensive survey of the history of all Indians of Texas, including tribes that spilled over into Louisiana and Oklahoma. . . . This book is a valuable reference source."—Richard H. Dillon, True West
Richard H. Dillon
"From Dominance to Disappearance: The Indians of Texas and the Near Southwest, 1786-1859 is a skillfully written, captivating history on this understudied and often overlooked topic in southern history."—Journal of Southern History
Sheri M. Shuck-Hall
All right reserved.
Until the late twentieth century few people were aware of the momentous
agreements that had been reached two hundred years before. In 1975, however,
the publication of Elizabeth A. H. John's Storms Brewed in Other Men's Worlds: The
Confrontation of Indians, Spanish, and French in the Southwest, 1540-1795, dramatically
changed the way people perceived relations between Indians and
Euroamericans in Texas. Prior to Storms Brewed, an enormous narrative history
that climaxed with the 1785 Spanish-Comanche accord, the few studies of the
region's Native Americans tended to neglect the colonial era entirely. They
also portrayed the Indians as savage barbarians who presented an obstacle to
civilization, which the American settlers were forced to heroically overcome
in the nineteenth century. For example, one of the period's most respected
works, Rupert N. Richardson's 1933 study, bore the title The Comanche Barrier
to South Plains Settlement: A Century and a Half of Savage Resistance to the Advancing
White Frontier, and only ten of two hundred pages dealt with the era prior to the
Americans' entrance into Texas.
John's monumental effort focused exclusively on the colonial era and
stressed the central role the various Indian tribes played in the Euroamerican
settlement of the region between the Red River in Louisiana and the
Rio Grande in New Mexico. Storms Brewed presented the Native Americans as
rational beings who followed their own material interests in dealing with the
Spanish and French newcomers. Using archival sources, John showed how
the Indians closely interacted with the Euroamericans, forging advantageous
military and trading alliances with whichever power they felt had the most
to offer. The work expertly delineated the various tribes, pointing out that
most of the region's Indians did not primarily hunt buffalo from horseback,
as a majority of movie-fed students believed (and still do), but that some were
sedentary agriculturalists, while others hunted and fished near the Gulf Coast.
In the quarter of a century since the publication of Storms Brewed, all worthwhile
scholarly studies of the colonial Southwest, no matter how focused on the Euroamerican
settlement of the region, have had to consider the importance of
the area's Indians.
John's book also launched a series of monographs on the individual Indian
tribes of Texas and Louisiana, which traced their histories into the nineteenth
century and beyond. A majority of the works focused on the numerous
Comanches, the classic buffalo hunting tribe of the region. Fewer studies
looked at the Lipan Apaches and the Tonkawas, other tribes that primarily
rode horses and hunted game. A number of books examined the history of
the settled, farming Caddoan-speakers from the precolumbian era up to the
late twentieth century. A few scholars studied the coastal Karankawas and
finally succeeded in demonstrating that they were not primarily cannibals, as
most Texas schoolchildren have traditionally been taught. Histories of the
Cherokees, Delawares, Shawnees, and Alabama-Coushattas, tribes that immigrated
to the region in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, were
also written. Of all the area's Indians, scholars neglected only the Atakapas, a
group of people that hunted and fished near the Texas and Louisiana coasts.
These works successfully overcame the triumphalist nature of the regions'
Native American historiography by matching the quality of the sophisticated
studies of Indians that had already been completed for the Northeast, Southeast,
and Great Lakes regions of the United States.
Despite the recent multitude of individual tribal studies, only a few scholars
have followed John's example of producing a general history of all of the
region's Indians and their relations with Euroamericans. William B. Gannett's
1984 doctoral dissertation examined the conflict between the various tribes
and the American settlers of Texas during the period of Mexican independence
and the Lone Star Republic. This work was hampered, however, by
the fact that the author did not consult any Spanish language sources and
that he dealt with the Indians by location rather than as a whole. More interesting
was Howard Meredith's 1995 book, which traced the movements
and cultures of the various tribes that were placed on reservations in the Indian
Territory-present day Oklahoma-during the late nineteenth century.
Using traditional native dances as a metaphor for the relationship between
Southern Plains tribes and Euroamericans, Meredith's book concentrated on
the Indians' dealings with the federal government in the twentieth century and
neglected the many groups of the region that did not end up in southwestern
Oklahoma. Three years after the publication of Meredith's work, David La
Vere produced the first complete overview of Texas's Indian tribes in a forty-ix
page introduction to his edited work of native oral histories that the Works
Progress Administration gathered during the Great Depression. La Vere succinctly
traced the history of the various tribes from precolumbian times to the
1930s, paying particular attention to how the Indians' material culture evolved
following the arrival of the Euroamericans. This book was followed in 1999 by
Gary Anderson's revolutionary study of the Indian economy of the Southwest
between the beginnings of Spanish settlement in the late sixteenth century
and the advent of the Americans' domination of the area in the early 1800s.
Through the innovative use of a wide variety of archival sources, Anderson
persuasively demonstrated how many tribes altered their lifestyles following
the Spanish and French intrusion in order to forge a thriving exchange-based
economy relatively independent of the Euroamerican newcomers. Finally, in
2004 La Vere built upon his previous short essay by using secondary works and
published primary sources to produce an excellent book-length history of the
Texas Indians from their arrival in the region to the present.
Although the past quarter of a century has witnessed a profusion of scholarly
studies of the region's Native Americans that have greatly altered and made
clearer our understanding of the various groups' experiences in Texas, no
author has yet taken up John's unstated challenge of producing a successor to
Storms Brewed, a detailed narrative history that would trace the tribes' interactions
with Euroamericans from the establishment of peace at the signing of the
Comanche Treaty to the Indians' expulsion from the state just prior to the Civil
War. During this period of three quarters of a century, the Native Americans
continued to play a very important role in the area. For the first half of the era
the Indians maintained a numerical superiority over the Euroamericans that
allowed them to influence the region's economic, military, and diplomatic affairs
to a heretofore unrecognized degree. Although the fortunes of the various
tribes declined rapidly following Texas independence, the Indians were not the
barriers to civilization that previous scholars have described, but were a race
of people desperately trying to survive in the face of overwhelming hostility.
By the end of the period almost all of the few remaining Indians were forcibly
driven from Texas.
This book, then, attempts to fill the void in the literature by being a worthwhile
successor to Storms Brewed and, thus, examines the relations between
the Indian tribes and the various Euroamerican groups in Texas and the Near
Southwest from 1786 to 1859. In order to maintain clarity, however, this work
is more limited geographically than Storms Brewed. Many readers have complained
that John's book, by going back and forth from New Mexico to Texas
and Louisiana over a period of two and a half centuries, was confusing and
nearly impossible to follow. Actually, the respective colonies' Indian affairs
bore very little relationship with one another and, therefore, Storms Brewed was
actually two separate books rolled into one. This study concentrates on Texas
and a region I call-with apologies to Dan Flores-the Near Southwest, an area
bordered on the east by the Red River, on the west by the Llano Estacado, on the
south by the Nueces River, and on the north by the Canadian River. Throughout
the period encompassed by this book, events in this zone-which traverses the
political boundaries of Texas, Louisiana, and the Indian Territory-impacted
all the area's tribes while having little if no effect on the Native Americans in
I also decided to begin this book a decade earlier than the conclusion of
Storms Brewed, which ended, for little apparent reason, with the agreement
reached between Spain and the United States in the 1795 Treaty of San Lorenzo.
In reality, John's study built toward the agreement reached in San Antonio in
October 1785-and one concluded a few months later between the Western
Comanches and the Spaniards in New Mexico-and terminated soon thereafter.
In part, this was a consequence of the fact that the English language
translation of the Béxar Archives (the most important original unpublished
source for colonial Texas) abruptly ends in 1789. As a result, few of the above-discussed
works deal in any significant way with Indian-Euroamerican relations
in the thirty-year period between the last decade of the eighteenth century
and the American colonization of Texas in the 1820s, when English sources
again become plentiful. Therefore, the histories of important tribes such as
the Lipan Apaches, Tonkawas, Karankawas, and Atakapas, remain incomplete
due to the continued scholarly neglect of the Spanish and French sources of
the period. One of the most important contributions I hope to make with this
book, then, is to fill the gaping hole that remains in the studies of Native
Americans in Texas and Louisiana from around 1790 to 1825 or so. Therefore,
I have thoroughly examined original microfilmed copies of the Béxar Archives
from 1789 to 1836, as well as other contemporary Spanish language sources
held at the Center for American History at the University of Texas. In addition,
I have traveled to Seville, Spain, to look at the most important source for
Spanish Louisiana, the Papeles Procedentes de Cuba, which contains, for the
most part, French language documents held in the Archivo General de Indias.
Through the use of these unpublished archival sources, most of the contemporary
published material, as well as the new wave of studies that have
appeared over the last quarter of a century, I have attempted to produce a
detailed narrative history that provides a clearer and deeper understanding
of the nature of the Native Americans' dealings in the Near Southwest with
Spaniards, Frenchmen, Mexicans, and Americans during an era of great transition.
This work pays particular attention to the Indians' population, for I
believe that one of the most important keys to the tribes' success or failure was
their numbers in relation to the region's Euroamericans. Simply put, the Native
Americans maintained their dominance in Texas and the Near Southwest
only as long as they outnumbered the Hispanics, French, and Americans in
their midst. I have also maintained a focus on the various tribes' locations and
trading and military alliances, for the Indians played a very important role in
the diplomatic affairs of the region well into the nineteenth century. Even after
the general decline of the Native Americans following Texas independence,
the different tribes followed widely disparate paths as they vainly attempted to
maintain their position in the state. Unlike what most people today presently
believe, not all of the Indians fought the Euroamerican settlers of Texas; in
fact, most tried to reach an accommodation with the Texans that would have
allowed them to peacefully remain in what they considered to be their traditional
homeland. Unfortunately, Texan antipathy to the Native Americans was
so intense that the state's citizens were not satisfied until only but a handful
of Indians were driven from its borders. This book, then, narrates the story,
formerly only told in piecemeal, of the Indians of Texas and the Near Southwest
from the late eighteenth century to the middle nineteenth century, a period that
began with the Native Americans dominating the region but ended with their
disappearance from it altogether.
Special thanks must be given to four people, in particular, who helped me
produce this book. Three of them are friends and colleagues, as well as being
among the foremost experts on colonial and antebellum Texas. Mike Campbell,
Don Chipman (now retired), and Gregg Cantrell (now at Texas Christian
University) all read the manuscript and corrected errors I had made concerning
the non-Indian Near Southwest, as well as providing important suggestions
that greatly improved the original manuscript. The fourth person is my wife,
Sophie Burton, who received a Fulbright Award in 2002 to conduct research in
Spain on her own dissertation, and allowed me to tag along with her to Seville.
Not only did she help me translate the documents I found in the Archivo
General de Indias, she also read this manuscript countless times. I now have
to repay the debt by doing the same for her. I can hardly wait!
Excerpted from From Dominance to Disappearance
by F. Todd Smith
Copyright © 2006 by University of Nebraska Press.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
F. Todd Smith is an associate professor of history at the University of North Texas. He is the author of several books on Texas Indians, including The Caddo Indians: Tribes on the Convergence of Empires, 1542–1854, The Wichita Indians: Traders of Texas and the Southern Plains, 1540–1845, and The Caddos, the Wichitas, and the United States, 1846–1901.
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