This sweeping, richly evocative study examines the origins and legacies of a flourishing captive exchange economy within and among native American and Euramerican communities throughout the Southwest Borderlands from the Spanish colonial era to the end of the nineteenth century.
Indigenous and colonial traditions of capture, servitude, and kinship met and meshed in the borderlands, forming a "slave system" in which victims symbolized social wealth, performed services for their masters, and produced material goods under the threat of violence. Slave and livestock raiding and trading among Apaches, Comanches, Kiowas, Navajos, Utes, and Spaniards provided labor resources, redistributed wealth, and fostered kin connections that integrated disparate and antagonistic groups even as these practices renewed cycles of violence and warfare.
Always attentive to the corrosive effects of the "slave trade" on Indian and colonial societies, the book also explores slavery's centrality in intercultural trade, alliances, and "communities of interest" among groups often antagonistic to Spanish, Mexican, and American modernizing strategies. The extension of the moral and military campaigns of the American Civil War to the Southwest in a regional "war against slavery" brought differing forms of social stability but cost local communities much of their economic vitality and cultural flexibility.
|Publisher:||Omohundro Institute and University of North Carolina Press|
|Series:||Published by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and the University of North Carolina Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
James F. Brooks is professor of history & anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is editor of Confounding the Color Line: The Indian-Black Experience in North America.
Read an Excerpt
Captives and Cousins
Slavery, Kinship, and Community in the Southwest Borderlands
By James F. Brooks
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright © 2002 The University of North Carolina Press.
All rights reserved.
Violence, Exchange, and the Honor of Men
To Dance with Yearning
They came at dusk, as the low winter sun slipped behind the snow-capped rim of Mount Taylor. Moving softly into the adobe-muffled plaza while the villagers attended Christmas Eve Mass, los Comanches fanned out to pilfer mantas (cloaks), ropes, and tools from the various automobiles, buggies, and wagons parked around the village church. Numbering some twenty men clad in buckskin, beaded tewas (moccasins), and feather headdresses, they took orders from their chief, El Capitán. This man also led his young daughter, La Cautiva, by a rawhide thong tied about her wrist. Her white communion gown mirrored the small drifts of snow that had settled on the leeward side of the massive church walls.
They searched for one house among the dozens that clustered around the plaza. There they would find El Santo Niño, or the Christ child, a commercially made male doll swaddled in new cloth and lying in a wooden manger in the home of his padrinos. El Capitán sang softly:
A los Padrinos del
le pido en primer
si me da paso y entrada
que al Niño vengo
From the Godparents of the
I ask first for
to come within
for I seek the Christ
Finally, at the seventh house the door swung open at the pressure of his hand.
congusto y con
pasaremos los Comanches
a ver a ese hermoso
Now that we are allowed
with pleasure and
we Comanches will enter
to see that handsome
They had found their quarry. Overcoming the defense of his protectors, the Comanches seized the sacred image and retreated into the plaza, where the villagers had begun to issue from the church in response to the padrinos' cries for assistance. A spirited fight ensued, but the raiding band made good their escape. Behind, however, they left La Cautiva, taken by the villagers in the fray.
Once beyond the village, the Comanches suddenly halted. Forming into a processional line, they turned about and reentered the firelit plaza. El Capitán led the column, carrying El Santo Niño before him. Pausing at the doors of elderly or ill villagers, he begged permission to bring the blessings of the Christ child into their homes and praised the child's healing powers. As each door opened, the Comanche chief continued to sing:
Por los enfermos In the name of the sick Niñito te pido I beg of you, Christ en primer Child that lugar con tus mano poderosa with your powerful touch Tú los tienes que sanar you will cure them.
Tú que eres tan bondadoso You who are so generous y me diste mi salud and gave to me my health aqui me tienes presente you now see me before you bailando con ansiedad. dancing with yearning.
While the Comanche visitations proceeded, the village men formed their own processional march. Leading La Cautiva by her small hands, they too called upon the homes of the infirm, proclaiming her pure and curative nature. Both processions were accompanied by the music of violin and guitar, whose players had taken seats in one of the wagons in the plaza.
At the conclusion of these visitations, ringing church bells and a staccato pounding of tombés (hand drums) summoned both parties to gather in the plaza before the church doors. Piñón farolitos (small bonfires) cast wavering shadows on surrounding walls as the two processions formed ranks facing each other.
Once silence had fallen, a rescate began. El Capitán, negotiating with the majordomo of the village, established terms of exchange for their respective captives. In return for the surrender of El Santo Niño, the Comanches were offered quarts of local wine, meals in the homes of the blessed, and hard cash in the form of quarters, dimes, and nickels. To regain his daughter, El Capitán promised that his people would again visit the village on its saint's day or when a villager wished to sponsor a velorio (death vigil). As darkness descended, another snow squall moved into the valley. The two leaders shook hands and exchanged their prizes. Los Comanches shed their headdresses and buckskins, becoming familiar aldeanos (village men) once again. Rejoined to their families, they moved from home to home for the feasts that would precede midnight Mass. La Cautiva changed into a warmer dress, then counted the pennies and sweet bizcochitos (cookies) given her during her captivity.
Whether performed by the residents of Placitas, New Mexico, in 1938 or in Hispano villages and Indian pueblos today, the conquest romance of "Los Comanches" variously summons and silences a past rich in social possibility and burdened with malign realities. Rituals of violence, exchange, and redemption were central to the men whose societies met in the Southwest Borderlands during the colonial era. Cloaking pragmatic need for social and economic transfers between antagonistic groups, these rituals allowed men to elaborate a shared understanding of honor out of traditions both indigenous and European. Native and European men fought to protect their communities and preserve personal repute yet participated in conflicts and practices that made the objects of their honor, women and children, crucial products of violent economic exchange. This nexus of honor, gender, and kinship provided the sacred canopy under which painfully profane intersocietal trade could occur. Beneath its poetic and performative architecture, a timeless transaction at once pious and erotic concealed the voices and deeds of people making history.
The Comanche Dance, which villagers in northern New Mexico continue to perform during the Christmas holy days and at saint's days throughout the year, suggests the long memory of this borderland region. The ritual makes visible one rendition of the area's deep history, where exchanges of captives and culture instigated conflicts and congruities between peoples of vastly different heritage. Those who enact the communal ritual re-create fundamental elements of their past, but now, through the prism of time, in performances that neatly suture some of the wounds that once marked its initial meaning. Beneath the shroud of artifice lie details that connect to a specific history in the Southwest Borderlands.
First, "Los Comanches" points to a long and ambivalent relationship between New Mexican villagers and their nomadic and pastoral indigenous neighbors and kin, a relationship both violently competitive and simultaneously mutualistic and cooperative. Although the Comanches were confined to an Indian Territory Reservation by 1875, their presence in the ritualized history of New Mexican villages during the ensuing century establishes in symbol their once-formidable role in life and death along the Río Grande.
Second, persistent ritual elements highlight the role of violence, gender, kinship, and masculine honor in long-term negotiations between colonists and Indians in the Southwest Borderlands. Mutual thievery between the groups is raised above the mundane by the capture of precious symbols: the contested icons of the Christ child and the Comanche chieftain's beloved daughter. Each is imbued with innocence, purity, and sacred healing power, qualities lent poetic immediacy by their vessel's vulnerability. But the everyday necessities behind these reciprocal captures are attested to in each group's implication in their loss: the padrinos succumb to the seduction of the Comanche's song, whereas El Capitán has brought his daughter along on a dangerous raid. In each case, these icons represent an essence of their communities, and their exchange through capture indicates the essential linkages between their communities.
Clearly, the rescate of these cherished symbols serves as the denouement of the drama. Through ransom, the symbols return to their natal homes but now carry with them webs of understanding and commitment. As in years past, and through the cycles of generations, villagers and Indians will prey upon one another and, in doing so, lose a little bit of themselves in return for vital exchanges. The struggle will always center on community preservation, but each community's survival will depend upon a capacity to surrender and adopt, exchanging self and other. The drama will always contain within its ritual a latent tragedy and hope of catharsis.
The origins of "Los Comanches" in New Mexico remain obscure. Popular memory conflates two events, one in 1760 and the other in 1777, as its genesis. The earlier date involves a Comanche raid on the fortified home of Pablo Villalpando in Ranchos de Taos, where, after the male defenders had been slain, some fifty women and children were carried into captivity on the Great Plains. Among those captured was María Rosa Villalpando, a criada, or house servant, who found herself traded to the Pawnees and then into a career that would reach its height only much later and in a distant place. Her story will emerge below and serve to illustrate one of the more satisfying experiences of a captive Nueva Mexicana.
The other point of origin lies to the south, where the village of Tomé suffered repeated raids by Comanches in the 1770s. These proved especially damaging in 1777, when some thirty villagers died in several different attacks, and two women, Dolores Baca and María Antonia Sánchez, were kidnapped. Later ransomed from captivity in New Orleans, where they came to reside after French traders purchased them from the Comanches, these young women faced social opprobrium upon their return and died spinsters in the village. Their fate was a common one within the captive experience, suggestive of how "redemption" as well as capture might be filled with pathos for those involved.
Common to both tales, however, is the popular understanding of the motive behind the raids. In each case, a Comanche chieftain had visited the villages some years before on a trading expedition and, while conducting his business, had cast eyes upon the beautiful young daughter of his host. Extracting from her father a commitment of marriage when the girl would be of age, the chieftain departed for the Plains. When the requisite number of years had passed, the Comanche returned to take his new bride, only to find her betrothed to a village youth. Filled with anger and wounded pride, the chieftain then led his men to sack the village and to seize what in honor had been promised him. The legend as enacted in the Comanche Dance remembers the conflict and praises the conciliation, with the massacre recast as resurrection of the ill or infirm.
The experiential roots of the drama actually lie much deeper and darker in time, with origins in native America and the Mediterranean. Honor, gender, and kinship remain central, however. La Cautiva occupies an ambiguous position in the social drama, coded as both the daughter of the chieftain, destined for captivity by her name, and the native equivalent of Christ in the ceremony of reconciliation. Yet kinship and captive statuses blur when considered within what we know of the captive exchange traditions of the borderlands. Plains Indian groups in general, and the Comanches in particular, had multiple social locations into which captives could be incorporated, not the least of which was as adoptive sons and daughters. So too did New Mexican villagers have adoptive institutions by which captive Indian children could become "kin": either as criadas ("servants," or, literally, "those raised up," from the root criar), or as godchildren of adoptive padrinos. "La Cautiva" is thus the blood daughter and the adoptive captive of the Comanche chieftain, with the tragic separations safely ritualized and the sometimes-favorable cultural consequences publicly celebrated.
The young girl's ambiguity reverberates even more richly when considered within a larger framework of village-based conquest drama. In "Los Matachines," a ritual dance performed often on Christmas Eve in both Hispano villages and the Río Grande pueblos, the sole female performer is La Malinche, a prepubescent girl clad in a white communion gown, Hernan Cortéz's slave/consort/interpreter in his 1520 conquest of Mexico. In the Matachines dance, she is presented in an elaborate ritual of courtship to "El Monarca," presumably Moctezuma, the Aztec emperor at the time of the Spaniards' arrival. Her age, purity, and the great deference paid her by the masked male dancers both conceal and intensify the sexual nature of this conquest romance. Amid pantomimes of sword combat by the male dancers, La Malinche makes several approaches as a supplicant to El Monarca, who finally "accepts" her by his side and orchestrates a concluding dance of reconciliation.
Like the Comanche Dance, "Los Matachines" borrows from "Los Moros y Cristianos" of the Iberian reconquest, where the object of contestation and redemption is usually the Santa Cruz (Holy Cross). But, in New Mexico, the solitary girl of virgin purity, whose exact ethnic and kin affiliations seem deliberately shrouded, is the focal point for expressions of masculine violence and sentimentality.
If El Santo Niño and La Cautiva serve as sacred symbols of intercultural contestation and accommodation in "Los Comanches," they do so within the broader field of violence, exchange, and honor that was mutually understood among the male protagonists. Without such understandings, the rescate, redemption, and negotiation of future obligations could not occur. What emerges from the drama is a sense that, despite the social distance between European and native societies, men from both groups share a need to protect the honor of their communities and construct avenues for intercultural transfers. "Trade" here is, not a matter of marketplace bargaining, but an exercise of power between "others" enacted by mutualistic and competitive bestowal of gifts. The tensions between community self-sufficiency, a matter of honor for male "providers," and the absolute fact of intercommunity dependency, a matter of shame for those same men, required that negotiations be both calculating and giving, both profane and sacred.
Shame, or vergüenza, turns deep in the male culture of New Mexican villages, the term often synonymous with honor. A man lacking a sense of honor is sin vergüenza, or without a shameful sense of poor behavior. Facundo Valdez, a native of Mora, writes that un hombre con mucha vergüenza is a rancher or farmer who owns his own land and rights to common land and is therefore "neither dependent on a boss nor taking advantage of others as a merchant." Dependence on outside resources beyond one's immediate control, whether it be wage labor or commercial exchanges, is inherently dangerous to a man's vergüenza and requires a sacred framework to divest it of its dishonorable qualities. Valdez makes explicit his view of the bicultural nature of the value, stating, "One reason [vergüenza] is so developed and has survived so long in rural New Mexico, in my opinion, is the Indian part of us. It was not a case of a clash of cultures but a reinforcement. . . . People I have known were personally acquainted with 'Indios de patarado' (loincloth), and knew criados and criadas who were Indians captured as children. The Indian usually has the role in jokes of the grave and reserved man, with wisdom and sagacity."
This idealization of self-sufficiency within the individual, family, and community suppresses resentment and justifies inequalities, however. A poor man without land of his own might work for low wages as a sheepherder but explain that "whether you accept a job for fifty cents or ten dollars, you must do it well and thoroughly." Hence, the honor of a job lies in the worker's willingness to fulfill his duty, regardless of the honorableness of the compensation. Likewise, the vergüenza of wives and children always reflects that of the husband or father; "if a woman is sin vergüenza, she has destroyed the manliness of the man." Since neither patrónes nor wives and children can be counted on to act honorably always, the threat of dishonor imbues all social relations.
The capture and ransom of sacred symbols allowed mundane, and latently shameful, economic transfers to occur as a subtext to the dominant narrative of men's contests over honor. In this sense, captive exchange fits within a larger honor-laden framework of gift exchange, where face is continuously reaffirmed yet constantly at risk. It is simultaneously egalitarian, in that only equals may contest honor, and competitive, in that honor is never secure. One gives not to receive but that others must, in order to maintain their honor, give. To borrow from a lifetime student of honor and shame, "The function of the concept of honor is precisely, despite the frailty of the logic involved, to equate [honor and shame] and establish thereby the dialectic between 'the world as it ought to be and the world as it is.'" "Los Comanches" as performed over the centuries in the villages of northern New Mexico is a condensed version of a once-was world as its male members thought it ought to be.
When cultural worlds collide and coalesce, the social languages that give them voice become mixed. New words and meanings are born; others are lost to the opacity of mixture itself. Hence any historical view is limited that treats notions of honor in the borderlands as simply a type of Mediterranean cultural baggage hauled across the Atlantic and deposited on the pristine landscape of El Nuevo Mundo. Honor, it has been claimed, served as a distancing value through which Europeans defined themselves as superior to natives, who lacked both the quality of and capacity for honorable action. In fact, there existed a particular resonance between indigenous and European notions of honor and shame, of male violence and exchange imperatives in the region, a resonance persisting well after the United States' conquest of the region in 1846. In the Southwest Borderlands, diverse social traditions of honor and shame, of violence, kinship, and community met, merged, and regenerated in new expressions. Over time, they produced an intricate web of intercultural animosity and affection that lingers today in the mixed sounds of hand drums and violins, of battle cries and love songs.
Behind the ritual of gentle memory in "Los Comanches" lie centuries of conflict, of many groups conducting violent exchanges to protect sacred honorand to force from their neighbors the "gift" of those things deemed most valuable. To see more clearly, we look back in time, toward the center of native North America, and witness similar transactions in the realms of the sacred.
She Wears the Clothes of the Shooting Star
Pahukstatu village, in the time before time. Across their floodplain fields along the Loup River, only stubble remained after the Skiri Pawnees' harvest of corn and squash. With dawn's break, news of the man's vision traveled quickly from lodge to lodge throughout the village. Tears staining his cheeks, he had run to the lodge of the Upirikutsu (Morning Star) Priest, crying, "He comes, he comes, father; I am seeking for you." The priest filled the pipe and smoked with the man, listening to his vision, and heard in his voice the words of the Morning Star: "I am the man who has power in the east. I am the great star. You people have forgotten about me. I am watching over your people. Go to the man who knows the ceremony and let him know. He will tell you what to do."
While four days passed, and the visionary was transformed into the earthly representation of Upirikutsu, other men of the village made preparations to travel. Their wives sewed special moccasins and prepared cornballs for the journey. Some of the assistants would represent stars themselves: Fools-the-Wolf, the Black Star, Wind-Ready-to-Give, traditional allies of the Morning Star as he journeyed westward to subdue and seduce Cupirittaka, the Evening Star. From the union of Morning Star and Evening Star had come the Girl Child, the first human, whose warm and moist breath represented the merging of (male) fire and (female) water.
The priest dressed the visionary in articles from the Morning Star bundlean otter skin, Mother Corn, a hawk skin, a pipe, soft down feathers, and a wildcat skin whose legs were stuffed with tobacco and paints. As the Morning Star rose in the darkness to the east, the visionary and his assistants set out westward, traveling fifteen or twenty miles before they rested. Each day's journey began with the Morning Star's rising, until finally their scouts reported that an enemy village had been sighted. Gathering his men, the visionary led them in a recitation of the process of creation, the sequences by which the Morning Star had overcome the Hard Things placed in his path by Evening Starthe floods, serpents, cactus thorns, thick woods, monsters, and evil animalsten hindrances in all, like the ten forms of human kinship.
As the Morning Star rose for the final time, the men approached the sleeping village. The visionary signaled the attack by opening his robe to expose his naked body, then closed his arms to symbolize taking the captive. His men attacked the dazed enemy until they found the girl for whom they searched, a girl at the dawn of puberty. Skiri scouts had already stampeded the village horse herd, retaining just enough mounts for the escape. With the girl placed behind her captor on his horse, they now retreated, knowing that a pursuit could not be undertaken. Retribution would surely come, but later, by a formal war party.
They set fire to the prairie to announce their return. As the warriors recounted coups and tallied war counts, the women of Pahukstatu village celebrated with a victory dance. The Morning Star priest took charge of the captive girl, calling to his lodge Fools-the-Wolf, the keeper of the Wolf Bundle. He would now watch over the girl and take her to the visionary's lodge for meals. The priest smudged both the Wolf Bundle keeper and the captive with the smoke of burning sweet grass, then took the girl's costume from the Morning Star Bundle. Rubbing her first with an ointment of red pigment and bison fat, he proceeded to dress her in a calfskin skirt, soft overblouse, warm buffalo robe, and black moccasins and finally placed a down feather in her hair. She was given a wooden bowl and buffalo horn spoon with which to eat and treated as an honored guest.
Winter passed, and the girl was taken along with the villagers on their winter buffalo hunt. The visionary warrior undertook to kill a fat buffalo cow, whose tongue and heart would be carefully dried for use in the impending ceremony. As months went by, the Morning Star priest watched the skies for the crucial sign, the rising of the Morning Star, ringed in red.
When finally the portent appeared, a five-day ritual began. The priest again clothed the visionary in the accoutrements of the Morning Star and directed that a ceremonial lodge be constructed in which holders of celestial bundles would conduct four days of prayer. The captive girl was bathed in Sweetgrass smoke and anointed with the red ointment, as ceremonies of the four semicardinal directions overcome by the Morning Star in his journey were performed. Elder men and her protector, the Wolf Bundle keeper, spoke soothing words to the girl, now transformed into the Evening Star, or White Star Woman.
During the four days of ceremony, other men erected a scaffold somewhat east of the village. Again, the semicardinal directions were represented by different types of wood, elm for the northeast, box elder for the southwest, cottonwood for the northwest, and willow for the southeast. Each symbolized as well the Evening Star's animal protectors: the bear, the mountain lion, the wildcat, and the wolf. Spanning the uprights was another cottonwood pole, representing the heavens, and to it was tied an otter skin, symbolizing the renewal of life. Beneath the scaffold the men dug a shallow rectangular pit, the Garden of the Evening Star, where all life originated. It was called Kusaru, or the "bed."
With the scaffold complete, the girl was taken from the lodge and brought out for her final role. The right side of her body was painted red, for day, the time of the Morning Star, and her left side black, for night, the time of the Evening Star. Around her hips hung a soft skirt, and across her shoulders a painted hide robe. As night passed and the rising of the Morning Star neared, the men sang to her of celestial transformation:
You wear the clothing of the
You wear the clothing of the
You wear the clothing of the
You wear the clothing of the
As the star appeared on the horizon, the girl was led up to the scaffold and her wrists and ankles tied to the supporting poles by elk hide thongs, facing east. The Southeast Bundle keeper approached her with a burning firebrand and touched her sides, symbolizing the seasons of the sun. The visionary warrior, using a bow from the sacred Skull Bundle, then loosed a single arrow into her heart. With a sacred flint, the Northeast Bundle keeper took her blood to anoint the sacred tongue and heart of the buffalo cow. As her body slumped in its bonds, "it was said that her soul went straight to the zenith [of the heavens], to Tiriwahat," the creator. He directed the Morning Star to clothe "her [soul] in his glowing flint" and make of her a star, "to look down upon the people for whom she had given her life."
Through the Morning Star ceremony, Skiri Pawnees restored the balance of contentious but complementary male and female powers that had first brought human life to the world. Its performance was so fraught with beauty and danger that it occurred only rarely. Like "Los Comanches," its origins are shrouded in timelessness. One earthlodge and burial mound in Geary County, Kansas, may represent a Pawnee Morning Star ritual complex dating to approximately a.d. 1300. Historical references to the ritual began in 1816, when a Ietan (Comanche) girl was taken captive and sacrificed at Pumpkin Vine Village, despite intervention by its political head, Knife Chief, whose accommodationist relation with Superintendent of Indian Affairs William Clark included a commitment to suppressing the ceremony. In 1817, Pawnees seized a ten-year-old "Spanish" boy accompanying a party of New Mexican ciboleros and dedicated him to the Morning Star, but Knife Chief was able this time to ransom the captive, with the assistance of the trader Manuel Lisa and his interpreter, Papin. Bloody factionalism accompanied an 1827 attempt to sacrifice a Cheyenne woman, who died in the fray. The last documented occurrence took place on April 22, 1838, when Haxti, a captive Oglala Sioux girl of fifteen, became a sacrifice to the Morning Star.
Although attracting polemical coverage, both condemnatory and apologetic, this ceremony is an archetype for a wider system of sacred violence and exchange in native North America. The Pawnees were perhaps the most central of "center-people" in the great captive exchange complex that operated throughout the continent, stretching from the Southwest Borderlands northward to the Great Lakes and beyond. Before European penetration of the area, the system combined sacred and secular exchange imperatives: sacrificial subjects, kin replacements for those lost in war, and forcible seizures of women and children for marriage and adoption. After the system connected to the Eurocolonial world, "Panis" (Pawnees) came to predominate among the several thousands of Plains Indian captives transported throughout its increasingly market-driven conduits to French Canada and British America, some even to the Spanish Caribbean. At least twenty-five Pawnee captives were baptized in colonial New Mexican parishes. As both captors and captives, Pawnees occupied a central node in the network of human exchanges that predated Europeans and intensified with Spanish, French, and British imperial intrusions. Whether sacred or profane, these transfers created an increasingly heterogeneous Indian world across the heartland of North America.
Underlying the Morning Star ceremony were wider implications concerning mixed descent. The intertwined displays of violence, honor, and gender facilitated the exchange system and its sacred resolution in the indigenous world. When Pawnee visionaries set forth westward to take captive a human representative of the Evening Star, they confirmed both the sophistication of their astronomical observations and their embeddedness in what anthropologist Patricia Albers calls "geographically far-ranging and ethnically mixed social formations." That the historically known captives dedicated to the Morning Star came from Comanche, Cheyenne, Sioux, and Spanish backgrounds lends credibility to this expansiveness, as does the fact that the sacred Morning Star pipe was decorated with a woven belt of "Navajo or other southwestern origin." In their renewal of the very first act of human creation, Pawnee warriors engaged in an act of sacred violence that confirmed the centrality of long-distance interethnic exchange to group genesis and survival. The action also brought honor to individuals and the lineage they represented. At the same time, the captive seizure was understood as a de facto dishonoring of the "enemy" villagers, who, although they accepted that the capture "was a kind of cosmic destiny," knew also that their honor required redemption. Within a formal pattern of warfare that pursued territorial, demographic, and strategic advantages, captive seizure was recognized by all as the offense to honor that energized future exchanges.
As in most ranked, matrilineal Plains Indian societies, Pawnee brothers "were called on to preserve the reputation of the family." Accumulation of wealth in horses, wives, kinspeople, and captive slaves served to enhance family honor and solidify its economic status. Since each of the thirteen Skiri villages reckoned kinship from legendary ancestral parents, family honor contributed to village honor generally. Dishonor was expressed in terms of poverty; "The worst insult one could hurl at a man was to call him ruti-kapakis-kawitat, 'the one who is-poor-ragged.'" Brothers sought to preserve family and village repute by sharing wealth among siblings and acquiring horses and captives to elevate the village itself. Thus, raiding enemies for captives, especially women and childrenthe special responsibility of fraternal obligationscombined honor and shaming in a single action.
Working within a guiding metaphor of sexual conquest, capture, and marriage, the Morning Star ceremony also establishes the centrality of gender and kinship to the larger exchange processes at work in native North America. Albers has made clear that mutually understood mobilizations of real or fictive kinship structured intertribal relations, whether competitive, cooperative, or symbiotic. Marriages across ethnic lines bound families in relations of reciprocal obligation, often providing the intermediate actors in economic exchanges. Likewise, membership in ritual and military sodalities involved affinal ties often expressed in adoptive terms, with no lessening in the weight of reciprocal obligation.
For the Pawnees, kinship fictions made possible diplomacy and trade relations with other groups:
People with whom one dealt as equals had to be placed in some kin category; lack of such a relation could only imply slave or enemy status. In the various trade or gift exchange ceremonials that were conducted between tribes or bands, a whole kin structure was built up so that they could communicate on a peaceful level.
Although this affirms kinship's importance to trade relations, it tends to reinforce an analytically troublesome dichotomy between productive peaceful exchanges and destructive exchanges of violence. Marshall Sahlins's typology of exchange reciprocity as generalized, balanced, or negative perpetuates thinking of exchange as an alternative to war: "The gift is the primitive way of achieving peace that in civil society is secured by the state." In reality, the political economy of captive exchange was not an alternative to violence but an assimilation of violence into mutually productive exchange relations.
The capture of "enemy" women and children was, therefore, one extreme expression along a continuum of exchange. As captives often assimilated to the kin nexus of their "host" society in affinal or fictive terms, they could serve as agents and objects of the full range of potential exchanges, from the peaceful to the violent. Albers describes the ambiguity of this process, arguing that abduction not only contained
the grounds for conflict, but it also embodied (quite literally) the terms of reconciliation. . . . The capture of women and children was both a quintessential element of war, and a fundamental opportunity for peace. It maintained, yet rearranged, the social nexus through which tribes were able to rework their relationships.
The Morning Star captive, clothed in honor while condemned to death, experienced perhaps the most permanent form of incorporation through her "marriage," reinscription, and ascension to the heavens as a new star in Pawnee cosmology. Few captives suffered this kind of "elevation" within the exchange system; many were slain in retribution for the loss of a loved one or traded throughout wide exchange networks. But the majority seem to have experienced some form of incorporation into their host society. From that position most lived out their lives in social and historical obscurity. Yet their importance was inescapable, both in their categorical role in the social sphere and in the individual cases that reveal the cultural sharing involved. Women and children were both "gift" and "offense": sometimes offered so that others must give, sometimes captured so that wounds to honor, salved by redemption or aggravated by refusals, might ensure continued cycles of "giving."
Like La Cautiva and La Malinche, the Morning Star captive served as the sacred symbol through which Pawnee men engendered vital exchanges in the interests of community renewal and survival. She was not alone in her role. In the 1780s, a Shoshone medicine man used sacred powers to locate and capture Walks-at-Dusk, a Hidatsa boy whom he thought strong enough to buy Shoshone sacred rites. Walks-at-Dusk would return to his Hidatsa people, but as a changed man and founder of a schismatic movement. In the 1820s the Cheyennes and some Sioux allies "moved against" the Crows on the Tongue River in an action that netted "over 100 young women and boys." These captives became Cheyennes through adoption, and the excuse for competitive feasts between Cheyennes and Crows in which they repeatedly tested the loyalties of the adoptees. By the nineteenth century, Comanches' and Kiowas' sun dances incorporated a sacred role for the captive women they seized from Spanish settlements, extending even further across cultures the stitching together of ritual spheres. And, throughout Plains Indian and Spanish colonial societies, more mundane exchanges "made kin" through blood brotherhood, adoption, marital ties, and the theft of women and children. Beneath sacred discourse, these transactions served the everyday exchange of material goods.
This phenomenon, however, was not confined to indigenous America. Its constellation of values, attractions, and oppositions had parallels in the "Old World" that would prove meaningful when both worlds met in the Southwest Borderlands.
I Cannot Marry You
In an anonymous ballad of the fourteenth century, King John of Castile summons to his side Abenámar, son of a Moorish father and a cristiana cautiva (Christian captive woman). The setting is on the Granadan frontier, the mountain fastness of southwestern Spain that remained the last foothold of Islam on the Iberian Peninsula. A long period of truce holds overt conflict in abeyance, a lull in the reconquista, summoning memories of the centuries of la convivencia that characterized Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Iberia since the ninth century.
King John looked across the rugged peaks to the gleaming city of Granada and asked
Que castillos son aquellos?
Altos son y relucían!
What are those castles?
How high they are and shining!
Abenámar responded, naming each in turn: the Alhambra, seat of Muhammad V; the Mosque; the Alixares; the gardens of Genaralif; and the Torres Bermejas, castillo de gran valía (castle of great value). The Christian King and Moorish kingdom then addressed each other, an exchange that suggests some of the ambiguities that confound any simple reading of the reconquest as a strictly religious military endeavor:
Si tú quisieses,
contigo me casaría;
daréte en arras
a Córdoba y a Sevilla. If you were willing,
I would marry you;
and for dowry I would
both Cordoba and Seville.
And Granada responded
Casada soy, rey don Juan,
que no vuida;
el moro que a mí
muy grande bien me queria. I am married, King John,
I am married, and not a
and the Moor to whom I
loves me very well.
Castilians were not alone in viewing the city through the poetry of romance. Beneath the landscape of ethnoreligious violence lay corresponding labyrinths of affection and desire, however paradoxical. "Abenámar" simply places in the domain of conquest contemporary imagery of Granada expressed in the court poetry of Ibn Zamrak, Muhammad V's chief minister, who personified and sensualized the city made beautiful by his patron:
Stay awhile here on the terrace of the Sabka [Alhambra], and look about you.
This city is a wife, whose husband is the hill:
Girt she is by water and by flowers,
Which glisten at her throat,
Ringed with streams; and behold the groves of trees which are the wedding
guests, whose thirst is being assuaged by the waterchannels.
The Sabka hill sits like a garland on Granada's brow,
In which the stars would be entwined,
And the Alhambra (God preserve it)
Is the ruby set above that garland.
Granada is a bride whose headdress is the Sabka, and
whose jewels and adornments are its flowers.
In these two poems from either side of the apparently impenetrable Christian-Muslim divide, metaphors of gender, sexuality, marriage, and conquest illustrate the forces of attraction that underlay the more overt conflicts in early modern Spain. Other examples abound, as in the ballad Pártese el moro Alicante (the Muslim is leaving Alicante), where a Muslim king gives a nameless morica doncella moÿa y loÿana (virginal Muslim serving girl) to his defeated and imprisoned adversary, the Christian Ganzalo Gustos. Ostensibly a gift to soothe the nobleman's loss of his seven sons in battle, the young woman's virginity, sexuality, and fecundity are in fact the avenue by which Gustos will obtain new sons and reconquer Muslim Iberia. Like the Comanche Dance and the Morning Star ceremony, men's poetry elevated and rendered sensible the strands of desire and repulsion that stretched across cultural frontiers. Romantic, erotic, and suffused with notions of military honor, such poetry responded to a specific unfolding of conflict and accommodation across the region in the Early Modern era.
At the end of the fourteenth century, the peninsula contained complex societies nurtured in war but driven as well by the need to coexist, if not to tolerate. As the demographic advantage swung in favor of the Christian kingdoms of Castile and Aragon, Islamic Spain gradually gave ground to Christian frontier raiders who more often sought land and cattle than religious conquest. The ethnically mixed social formation that had characterized Spain remained secure even following Christian advances, as the military orders showed a marked preference for settling their new lands with Muslim tenants, better equipped culturally and technologically for commercial agriculture and transport.
Whatever the large-scale antagonisms between Christian and Muslim empires, local relations in this multiethnic society remained relatively balanced, mirroring each other in widely shared values and expectations. One historian has explained that local Iberian
communities survived with strongly local loyalties and culture, linking up with other regions only for trade and, if they were of the same faith, for marriage. In these communities and pueblos, tolerance rested on mutual respect, on repute within the local society, on good opinion or "honour." . . . [The term] never lost its basic and most important meaning of good opinion within the community comprising one's kinfolk and one's home region or país.
As the reconquista expanded in scope during the fifteenth century, this tradition of economic mutualism and religious endogamy became strained, with frontier regions suffering endemic warfare punctuated only occasionally by truces that allowed the temporary return of economic prosperity. Each cycle of recovery would be followed by renewed hostilities. During this period, romances fronterizos (frontier ballads) like "Abenámar" achieved their highest elaboration. Beneath the obvious narrative of conflict, however, lay a continuing acknowledgment of shared values. L. P. Harvey argues:
In the Castilian ballads both sides are presented as imbued with the same admirable moral qualities, both respect the same chivalric code of conduct. What marks off the one group of men from the other is a purely superficial set of differences of dress and language.
A broadly held code of male honor superseded ethnic and religious differences in Early Modern Spain, providing the moral framework within which contests for honor, territory, subjects, and women took place. That men's control of women provided the focus of struggles to define honor and shame, evoked in the conquest romance of "Abenámar," appears more clearly in Spanish village dramas of "los moros y cristianos," whence "Los Comanches" in essence derives.
The earliest reference to this version of the conquest drama occurs in 1150, when companies of Moors and Christians feigned combat in honor of the marriage of Queen Petronilla of Aragon to the Catalan Count Ramón de Berenguer IV. By the fifteenth century it appeared throughout Spain, especially in frontier towns most involved with the violence of the reconquista. Commonly, the drama unfolded in a manner by now familiar: the Moors besiege a Christian village and either by guile or force of arms capture a "miraculous image" of the town. This is usually the Santa Cruz, but in some cases the cause of the attack is attributed to the failure of the town to pay an annual tribute of cien doncellas (one hundred maidens), and the Moors take a fuerza de armas what has been denied them in honor. After their initial setback, the Christian knights always prevail in subduing the jinetes and returning the sacred symbols, either the Holy Cross or the town maidens, to their proper place.
This sanguine conclusion, like that in the Comanche Dance, was what people wished to "remember" and perhaps influenced later intercultural tactics. The practice of rescate, or ransom and redemption, mentioned earlier has its immediate origins in the Spain of the reconquista. The Redemptionist Orders of the Mercedarians and Trinitarians appeared during this period, charged with the task of raising alms for ransom and negotiating captives' repatriation. The years between 1529 and 1830 found some 9,500 Christian captives rescued from Muslim bondage in North Africa, and similar thousands must have preceded these before the conquest of Granada in 1492. In the Granadan sack of Zahara in 1410, for example, 61 women and 122 children were carried into captivity, and their redemption became a point of honor for Ferdinand I of Aragon.
Not all captives were rescued, however, and many from both sides remained to become either mozárabes (Christians living under Muslim rule), mudéjares (Muslims living under Christian rule), moriscos (Muslim converts to Christianity), or muladí (Christian converts to Islam). Captured women and children formed only a portion of these categories, as most were composed of families and villages over which the tides of battle raged without displacing them, but captives played crucial roles as intermediaries between societies. A Christian captive scout of the Moors saved Infante Ferdinand by exaggerating the size of the enemy's rear guard, thereby persuading him to retreat from Sentil (1407). The scout was a nephew of Juana Martínez, a servant in Ferdinand's household staff. On the other hand, the Kingdom of Navarre maintained a core of artillery specialists who were Muslim and who proved their loyalty over several generations. Likewise, Ridwan Bannigash (Vanegas), born of Christian parents and taken captive when still a child, became chief minister under Muhammad VIII (1428-1430) but maintained contacts with his Christian relatives during his tenure.
Religious endogamy seems the rule in Early Modern Spain, but captives who converted (whether moriscos or muladí) could, and did, marry into the "host" society. In time, however, the loyalty both of "New Christians" and muladí like Ridwan Bannigash became suspect; this seems primarily a sixteenth-century development, when limpieza de sangre (purity of blood) became increasingly important to membership in noble families, military confraternities, or religious orders. Earlier, during the centuries of the reconquista, marriage was largely a matter of fostering social stability; interethnic marriages were condoned and even encouraged. In Alfonso X's (1252-1284) legal code Las Siete Partidas, marriage was defined as a state necessary "to avoid quarrels, homicides, insolence, violence, and many other wrongful acts that would take place on account of women if marriage did not exist." Accordingly, crown and church authorities promoted unidad doméstica as part of their frontier policy, offering significant property and citizenship rights to married or marriageable women who would migrate to frontier towns. In their charters, many of these same towns decriminalized the kidnapping and forcible abduction of Moorish women if the captive could be converted and married to her abductor.
Although preoccupations with purity of blood had become profound by the time of Spanish colonialism in the Americas, the pragmatics of creating a stable colonial society required that this issue be subordinated on the new frontiers. La Malinche, the central symbol in the New Mexican conquest drama of "Los Matachines," serves well as a starting point for questions about sexual violence, colonialism, and mestizaje in the New World. Enslaved when sold to the Huastec Maya by her Aztec family to simplify an inheritance, she became at age fourteen Cortéz's concubine and interpreter during his entrada into Mexico. Her children by Cortéz were hardly the first from such conquest unions but hold a special place in the ideology of la raza cósmica. Less often recognized is the fact that her oldest child, Martín Vallejo, died fighting Muslim corsairs in the Mediterranean. At least one child of New World interethnic relations found himself embroiled in similar patterns of the Old.
Spanish crown policy in the early years of conquest reflected the Spaniards' experiences in Iberia. In 1500, Queen Isabella appointed as governor of the Indies Fray Nicolás de Ovando, comendador major of the military order of Alcántara, who had experience in the governance of the conquered provinces of Granada. Acknowledging that capture and concubinage had become the rule in the Indies (with native women fetching as much as one hundred castellanos), Ovando recommended formalization of these unions under Spanish law. Accordingly, Isabella instructed that Spanish men be induced to marry Indian women, and Indian men marry Spanish women (although the latter was hardly likely), in order more rapidly to attain full Christian conversion.
After Isabella's death, Ferdinand continued her policies, prohibiting in 1514 any discrimination against Spanish men who took Indian wives. In practice, few marriages were confirmed (in 1514 in Española, only 63 of the 672 encomiendas granted to Spanish men included formalized unions of grantees with Indian women), and concubinage continued as common practice. But the policies themselves reflect an administrative willingness to continue customary conquest marriages even in the more foreign setting of the Americas. Policy failures had more to do with differential power relationships in the Indies than changes in Spanish values.
In the sixteenth century, indigenous and European traditions of violence, exchange, and honor and shame began to meet in the Southwest Borderlands. While confusion, revulsion, and massacre characterized much of this encounter, such conflicts' roots in shared customs and values of honor would also promote long-term patterns of coexistence and cultural exchange.
He Left a Child among the Heathen
The indigenous and Iberian societies that met in the borderlands shared several broadly sketched notions about the nature and negotiation of intergroup relationships. First among these was the idea that men's repute rested largely in their ability to preserve, protect, and dominate the well-being and social relations of their families and communities. Concurrent with this idea existed the acknowledged (and disquieting) reality that in-group survival depended to some degree on social and economic interactions with out-groups, a continual challenge to men's sense of honor. Second, men undertook exchange relations within an honor-and-shame nexus that would allow interdependency without lessening their normative control over women and children, the mutually understood focus of contestation, negotiation, and exchange.
Finally, long-term interdependency produced unresolved tensions in the maintenance of stable cultural identities. The exchange of culture-group members fostered accommodation, eroded linguistic and cultural boundaries, and concomitantly placed stress on the production and preservation of in-group identity. So painful were these pressures that they found expression in terms of the sacred, where beauty and danger, death and healing, tragedy and romance reflected in the spiritual realm the violence of everyday life. Resolutions to violence also lay in the realm of the sacred, whether in the rescate at Placitas, the sacrifice on the Morning Star scaffold, or the metaphoric marriage of Castile and Granada (or Spain and Mexico). Although the capacity to maintain shared levels of violence between societies lay as much with military and economic parity as it did with any divine intervention, the fact that such resolutions took place in sacred discourse confirmed the primacy of these mutual values for both sets of social protagonists.
Where sacred or secular parity did not exist, intergroup exchanges took on a real and tangible aura of tragedy. Consider the following passage from the relación of Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. Some years into his journey across the Southwest (probably 1532), he and his companion Andrés Dorantes spent some eighteen months with the "Mareames" of the Gulf Coast, a hunting and gathering group perhaps later known historically as the Muruam. The castaways reported that, among these Indians,
when daughters are born to them they let the dogs eat them and throw them away. The reason they do this, according to them, is that all the Indians in that land are their enemies and they carry on continual warfare with them; and if by any chance their enemies should marry their daughters, these enemies would increase so much that they would conquer them and take them as slaves; and for this reason they preferred to kill their daughters rather than let a possible enemy be born to them.
When he asked why they did not marry these girls themselves, Dorantes received further details that reveal how prescriptive exogamy could become distorted by unequal power relations:
They said that to marry women to their kinfolk was a bad thing, and that it was much better to kill them than to give them to their own kin or to their enemies; and both they and their neighbors called the Yguazes have this custom, but only they, for none of the other tribes in the land practice it. And when these Indians [Mareames and Yguazes] want to marry they buy wives from their enemies, and the price each man gives for his wife is a bow, the best that can be procured, with two arrows, and if perchance he does not own a bow, a fishing net two cubits wide and one long; they kill their own children and trade in those of others.
Even if we discount its sensational aspects, this remains a description of exogamous bands practicing bride-price exchange amid a larger atmosphere of violent conflict and captive seizure. It seems from Nuñez's account that these Coahuiltecans were trapped between the Gulf Coast and more numerous and more powerful endogamous bison-hunting Jumanos to the north. In this shrinking niche Coahuiltecans resorted to female infanticide to preserve their group identity, while taking wives from their neighbors. Here we see a most desperate expression of women's sacrifice in the name of group survival, and one destined to fail, for Coahuiltecans disappeared by the end of the eighteenth century.
More often than not, however, the exogamous exchange of women seems to have bolstered group vitality, albeit at the expense of women's security. A variation operated in the borderlands through the "gift" of a woman-as-wife to an out-group man toward establishing diplomatic, trade, and kinship connections: the woman remains with her natal group and the man cohabits with her only seasonally. It may well have organized Plains Indian-Pueblo relations during the protohistoric period in New Mexico. Turning the conventional notion of hypergamy (Pueblo Indian women's marrying into more prestigious Plains Indian bands) around, one wonders whether underprivileged Pueblo men, deprived of wives by their male seniors, married out into matrilocal Plains Apache or Jumano bands, given what seems intense competition for women within Pueblo Indian society.
These marriages might have been only seasonal, after autumn harvest had ended and as autumn antelope or bison hunts commenced on the Plains. A Pueblo man would travel onto the Plains and take a wife, thereby gaining kinship rights to products of the hunt. He then brought his family back to winter "under the eaves" of the pueblo, carrying along meat products to exchange for less perishable corn. As the spring "season of want" approached on the Plains, his family migrated eastward, carrying the agricultural products to their kinspeople. Among the historically Plains-dwelling Jicarilla Apaches, at least, corn-growing knowledge was attributed to the efforts of men, suggesting a possible link to migrating Pueblo males.
With the advent of Spanish colonialism in New Mexico the practice stretched to admit new players. In the early autumn of 1660, Diego Romero, alcalde ordinario of Santa Fe, and five companions, including one Pecos Indian and the villa's mestizo blacksmith Juan de Moraga, set out for the eastern Plains under orders from Governor Bernardo López de Mendizábal to "barter for skins of buffaloes and antelopes." Arriving among the rancherías of the "Apaches of the Plains," Romero announced thatlike his father Gaspar Pérez before himhe had come to trade and to leave a son "among those heathens." After his hosts debated his proposal,
at about four in the afternoon they brought a tent of new leather and set it up in the field; they then brought two bundles, one of antelope skins, and the other of buffalo skins, which they placed near the tent. Then they brought another large new buffalo skin which they stretched on the ground and put Diego Romero upon it, lying on his back. They then began to dance the catzina, making turns, singing, and raising up and laying Diego Romero down again on the skin in accordance with the movements of the dance of the catzina. When the dance was ended about nightfall, they put him again upon the skin, and taking it by the corners, drew him into the tent, into which they brought him a maiden, whom they left with him the entire night. On the next day in the morning the captains of the rancherías came to see whether Diego Romero had known the Indian woman carnally; seeing that he had known her, they anointed [his] breast with the blood. They then put a feather on his head, in his hair, and proclaimed him as their captain, giving him the two bundles of skins and the tent.
Aside from the anomalous reference to the catzina dance, which seventeenth-century Spanish observers seem to associate with any ceremonial activity of sensual content, we have here a description of a marriage and adoption ritual that probably vastly predated Spanish presence in the borderlands. Like his father before him (whose expedition had occurred in 1634 and who escaped Inquisitorial punishment), Romero established commercial connections with the "Apaches Vaqueros" (bison-hunting Apaches) by participating in the gift exchange of an Apache maiden. By "leaving sons" among the rancherías, these Spanish men established kinship linkages that would be recognized, at least on the Apache side, across generations. In years to come, some socially marginal Pueblo and Spanish men would desert the colony altogether in pursuit of Indian kinship, assuming new identities as culturally indeterminate plainsmen, or llaneros, and generate real concern among their colonial administrators.
During the decades leading up tothe Great Southwestern Revolt of 1680, other Athapaskan (Apache and Navajo) groups expanded their attacks on the southern Piros and western Pueblos. But the Apaches Vaqueros remained relatively peaceful, attending seasonal rescates at Pecos Pueblo, the main Spanish connection to the Plains. Although they arrived laden with hides and dried meat to trade for corn and knives, they also brought with them captives from Quivira (probably Wichitas), whom they sold to Pueblos and Spanish alike. Honoring connections to Pueblo and Spanish kin, they also became suppliers in a burgeoning colonial slave trade.
Native American and Spanish colonial men found that the survival of their communities depended, in part, on their ability to exchange both human and material resources across cultural boundaries. Often undertaken in acts of violence, these exchanges also produced unexpected, often fortuitous results because the women and children who crossed cultures proved remarkably adept at making something of their unfortunate circumstances. The combined product of these structural imperatives and the creative potential of human action emerged as a system of slavery unique to the Southwest Borderlands but with strong similarities to other regions where colonial and indigenous people met in relative parity. Old- and New-World traditions of honor, violence, and captivity that had emerged from very different circumstances were to mesh in a far-flung tapestry of conflict and exchange across their borderlands meeting ground. Over several centuries, borderland peoples would be drawn, in the words of the poet, "closer and closer apart."
This, then, is a story about how peoples of markedly different cultural heritage found solutions to the crises of the colonial encounter. In the Southwest Borderlands, two powerful social impulses, inclusion and exclusion, met on the historical terrain of colonialism and resolved themselves in forms of slavery that were at once particular and mutual. Diverse traditions of capture, servitude, and kinship met and meshed to accommodate both the community-forming impulse of assimilation and the community-preserving impulse of alienation. These were the most visible aspects of borderland political and cultural economies that bound indigenous and Spanish colonial peoples in long-term relations of violence, exchange, interdependence, and interdevelopment. Within their system, native and colonizing peoples crafted a locally negotiated distribution of wealth and power that led not simply to distinctions between captives and cousins or to hierarchies of masters and victims but to the interpenetration of cultures.
The reciprocal seizure, sale, and exploitation of people by American Indians and Euramericans offers a challenge to integrated analysis. Motivations seem disparate, cultural institutions mutually inscrutable, and moralities widely at odds. Yet in the Southwest Borderlands indigenous and colonial practices joined to form a "slave system" in which victims symbolized social wealth, performed services for their masters, and produced material goods under the threat of violence. Although captives often assimilated through institutions of kinship, they seldom shed completely their alien stigma, and even then their numbers were regularly renewed through capture or purchase, thereby reinvigorating the servile classes. Grounded in conflict, the pattern developed through interaction into a unifying web of intellectual, material, and emotional exchange within which native and Euramerican men fought and traded to exploit and bind to themselves women and children of other peoples. As these captives became cousins through native American and Spanish New Mexican kinship structures, they too became agents of conflict, conciliation, and cultural redefinition.
Essential to this story was the borderlands' relatively long freedom from control by western centers of powerSpain, Mexico, or the United States. Other scholars have stressed the importance of this "distance" for understanding the region. One historian has pointed out how weak Spanish and Mexican economic and political control in the area from 1780 through 1847 allowed New Mexican colonists and native Americans to maintain "all kinds of local arrangements . . . , some of which were based on mutual economic needs." Ethnohistorical work with New Mexican villagers and their Ute Indian neighbors led one anthropologist to define the region as a "non-dominant frontier community," one persisting well after the American conquest of 1847. "Because of the weakness of the government," she argued, "rank-and-file settlers in outlying communities had to learn to coexist with Indian neighbors without being able to keep them subordinate" in ways "contrary to the prescribed model . . . that . . . never gained official recognition."
Middle distance from the Atlantic World's market economy was also crucial. Physical and political isolation underlay the New Mexicans' "relations with Indians in day-to-day living" and the elaborate webs of ethnic tension, friendship, conflict, and kinship that complicate regional history even to the present. This study emphasizes the relative distance from the burgeoning international economy as well. It tells a story of how local societies distributed power, organized production, and exchanged resources with little disruption by centralizing forces. Thus it becomes a case study of how noncapitalist societies engaged with the growing power of the Atlantic economy and avoided incorporation for more than a century before becoming both agents and victims of its successful expansion.
Comanche, Kiowa, Apache, and Navajo raid-and-trade networks extended as far south as Sonora and Durango, Mexico, as far west as the Colorado River, as far north as the Yellowstone, and eastward nearly to the Mississippi. As they connected with other market circuits, commodities like horses and captives could end up in New England, Louisiana, Cuba, Mexico City, or California. Likewise, despite their distance from these power nodes of mercantile capitalism, Spanish colonists in New Mexico traveled and traded extensively, confounding characterizations of the region as "isolated and tradition-bound." Yet, because the Atlantic economy penetrated these borderlands only haphazardly, local actors were able to control their own exchanges and to meet that larger economy for centuries largely on their own terms.
To explore this region's slave economy is to complicate and enrich our understanding of North American slavery. Indigenous peoples like Apaches, Comanches, Utes, Navajos, Pawnees, and Pueblos (to name but a few) had practiced the capture, adoption, intermarriage, and occasional sacrifice of outsiders since well before European entry into the region. Similarly, the Spanish colonists who came to northern New Spain (later Mexico) in the sixteenth century also carried with them customs of capture, enslavement, adoption, and exploitation of non-Christian peoples, dating from the Iberian reconquista, when the Muslim-Christian borderlands formed a field of violence and intercultural negotiation within which a volatile coexistence prevailed across several centuries. Where Spanish conquest by arms and disease of New World peoples was overwhelming, such traditions faded, but convivencia persisted in the daily life of the Southwest Borderlands. Here, beneath the profound cultural differences and steady conflicts punctuating Indian and Spanish colonial relations, native and Spanish men shared similar notions of honor, shame, and gender, with the control of women and children as a central proof of status. Both branches of borderland slavery could interact because they grew from shared patriarchal structures of power and patrimony that contrast sharply with the racial divisiveness and labor exploitation around which the more familiar forms of Euramerican enslavement of Africans functioned.
These common cultural motifs allowed the Indian and Spanish systems to become interwoven in the region. Unlike chattel slavery elsewhere in North America, borderland slavery found affinity with kin-based systems motivated less by a demand for units of labor than their desire for prestigious social units. The kin-embedded structures of borderland slavery created immensely different gender and class realities from those contained in labor-oriented American slaveries. Because the captive women and children in this system often found themselves integrated within the host community through kinship systemsadoption and marriage in the indigenous cases or compadrazgo and concubinage in the Spanish colonial casesthey participated in the gradual transformation of the host society. Most such slaves became members of the capturing society, often in marginal categories but in ways that allowed them to bring useful cultural repertoires and mediation to their new kinspeople. The ties between gender and power in the Southwest take more fertile meaning from the fact that the hapless women and children who became slaves also became the main negotiators of cultural, economic, and political exchange between groups. Yet over the years the slave system of the area displayed growing tensions between the social needs of participant societies and the economic value of bound labor, a dynamic that casts new light on just how "societies with slaves" might have in time become "slave societies."
While the powerful steadily exploited the weak in all systems of slavery, the volatility of Southwest Borderland slavery and the thinness of formal, state-level support for the institution made those who had the most social wealth in slaves and livestock natural targets of attack by those who had the least. Hence there existed a redistributive transfer of wealth from the higher orders (caste, rank, age) in Indian and Euramerican societies to men of lower status. Of course, these lower-status entrepreneurs often reproduced the social inequalities that had initiated their own actions, triggering new cycles of brigandage. Southwest Borderland slavery, with its peculiar kin and class realities, constituted only the most dramatic aspect of larger borderland political economies operating between colonial and indigenous peoples roughly equal in power. Despite cultural differences in the region, native and colonizing peoples came to share some understanding of the production and distribution of wealth and status as conditioned by social relations of power. In this case, these mutual understandings involved a convergence in patriarchal notions about the socially productive value and exchangeability of women and children as well as sheep, cattle, and horses. This borderlands violence was not solely destructive but produced enduring networks of economic and social relations. Described by contemporary observers and later historians as a chaotic and unceasing predatory war, it was a system that allowed virtually all of the protagonists in the borderlands to experience demographic or economic growth during much of the period. Stressing simply the corrosive effects of the "slave trade" on Indian and colonial societies diffuses its major contributions to intercultural trade, alliances, and communities among groups often antagonistic to Spanish, Mexican, and American modernizing strategies.
The story is not only that of a developing web across local cultures but also of its unraveling. During the several centuries between 1500 and 1880, Southwest Borderlands societies went through four major periods: the Reconquest and Bourbon reform era (1680-1810), Mexican nationalism (1810-1846), the U.S. conquest (1847-1866), and territorial incorporation (1867-1880), at which point any "distance" from the Atlantic world's capitalism ended. In the latest of those periods, American administrators fulfilled their regional war against slavery. Hence, this study gestures to broad American transitions toward wage-labor capitalism, with attendant changes in kinship systems, family structure, and ethnic identities. Whereas, in the sixteenth century, kinship served as the primary means of group and collective identity, by the nineteenth century, citizenship, both national and tribal, competed as a new level of identification. Where once patrimony lay beneath most social relations, property became by the middle years of the nineteenth century a powerfully organizing concept among Euramericans and Indians alike. Concurrently, capitalist development and state order brought a measure of security to the region's women and children but foreclosed some arenas of their communal influence and participationand severed the human heart of the intercultural network.
When this study ends, each regional community had lost much of its economic vitality and cultural flexibility. Navajos, Comanches, Kiowas, Utes, Apaches, and New Mexicans found themselves negotiating new, exclusive identities among themselves and with the American state. In some cases, this involved their recruitment as scouts, fighters, or laborers for American armies and enterprises; in others, it meant their defeat or dispossession or death. Yet vestiges of the earlier formations remained, primarily in quietly acknowledged kin connections, cultural celebrations, and a modern propensity to reclaim various mixed-descent identities.
This pattern of cultural sharing through systems of violence and kinship deepens our understanding of how "mixed" groups became peoples in the Southwest and how ethnic communities themselves were historically and culturally sorted and produced. Identities like Comanche, Kiowa, Apache, Navajo, Ute, Pueblo, Spanish-American, and Hispano seem timeless and unquestioned in much historical literature. The intergroup economic, cultural, and biological exchanges across the centuries show that ethnicities in the Southwest were often a matter of biological interchange, strategic reconstruction, and political invention, as sexual enslavement, market penetration, and state pacification policies closed some avenues of identity while fostering others. Current Indian reservations and closed, corporate Spanish-American villages are less romantic enclaves of premodern cultures than homelands and townships devoted to labor regulation and the commodification of culture for tourist markets.
Any long-term historical study of borderland dynamics requires a blending of social theory with empirical research and sources. Along with the insights of a legion of Spanish Borderland and American Indian specialists, this work is especially indebted to several important analytical frames: it emphasizes cycles of conquest by Spanish, Mexican, and American colonizers, focuses on land-tenure systems as sites of conquest and resistance struggles, and takes cognizance of world-systems theory to describe the engulfment of local societies by Euramerican capitalism. Earlier scholars cue this work about broad patterns, periodization, and development.
The many archaeologists, historians, folklorists, and ethnographers who have made New Mexico and the region's indigenous people their subject of studytoo numerous to list here but whose work is levied throughouthave done the exhaustive work in archives, in mountain placitas and on Indian reservations that bring the "messiness" of history-as-lived into this analysis, in ways that meet one of the region's most revered anthropological standards for ethnohistory: "A basic yardstick of acceptability would be that the people portrayed be able to recognize themselves in the portrait." The detailed work of these scholars on life, settlement patterns, marriage choices, feuds, friendships, and community politics grounds this study in the rich contortions of historical experience, while social theory speaks to broader patterns that ultimately extend meaning and clarify paradoxes. Finally, this exploration of intercultural relations brought together in a system of slavery maintains depth of field by placing anthropological and historical scholarship in productive dialogue with a wealth of underused primary materials and my own ethnohistorical fieldwork in the region.
These sources are surprisingly rich because the system of slavery excited moral and military anxiety among church and state administrators, whether Spanish, Mexican, or American. Captive seizure and exchange data appear repeatedly in traditional archival sources like baptismal and burial registers, diligencias matrimoniales, and military reports. Likewise, since captive exchange combines elements of romance and danger, the custom inspired an extensive body of written and oral folk literature in both Indian and New Mexican communities, heretofore untapped partly because of interpretive difficulties and partly because of the value charge attached to "slavery."
Between 1540 and 1880, several thousands of Indian and Euramerican women and children in the Southwest Borderlands crossed cultures through the workings of a captive exchange system that knit diverse communities into vital, and violent, webs of interdependence. These women and children, whether captives of Euramerican origin or native Americans ransomed at rescates, proved crucial to borderlands political and cultural economies that used human beings in far-reaching social and economic exchange. Whatever the large-scale antagonisms between European colonists and native Americans, at the local level, problems of day-to-day survival required cross-cultural negotiation. Prolonged, intensive interaction between Spanish colonial pobladores and nomadic and pastoral Indian societies required some mutually intelligible symbols through which cultural values, interests, and needs could be defined. Horses, sheep, guns, and buffalo hides spring immediately to mind as customary exchange items, but women and children proved even more valuable (and valorized) as agents (and objects) of cultural negotiation. In the Southwest Borderlands, as elsewhere in North America, the exchange of women through systems of captivity, adoption, and marriage provided European and native men with widely understood symbols of power with which to penetrate cultural barriers. Their tales must be fretted from more familiar narratives where they have long lain hidden beneath epics of exploration and conquest. Yet, while in their vulnerability they knit diverse peoples in webs of painful kinship, their captures and exchanges violated the masculine cultures of honor and social integrity of the victimized group and inspired the raids and reprisals that would punctuate everyday life in the Southwest Borderlands for three centuries.
The slave system of the borderlands grew from the exercise of power between the native American and Euramerican inhabitants of the Southwest. Struggling to preserve and protect the integrity of their power within families and communities, men from both sides of the Atlantic negotiated interdependency and maintained honor by acknowledging the exchangeability of their women and children. Disguising necessity in sacred artifice, they produced a mutually recognizable world of violence and retribution, of loss and redemption that drew the protagonists together while forcing them apart. Eventually the power, economy, and moralism of the broader modernizing world ended this local system, though its remnants are what give special qualities to the region even today where these local political and cultural borderlands once flourished.
Excerpted from Captives and Cousins by James F. Brooks. Copyright © 2002 by The University of North Carolina Press. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
What People are Saying About This
Brooks's broad and ambitious interpretation of the Southwest is carefully argued in its details and is based on exhaustive research in Spanish-language archives. It is furthered bolstered by an impressive use of anthropology, especially the well-developed literature on African kinship slavery. . . . An innovative and truly important work. It will inform scholarship on early America and on borderlands regions for many years to come.William and Mary Quarterly
An interesting study of [a] little-known slave system. . . . Brooks illustrates the similarities of Spanish and Indian cultural traditions of capture, enslavement, adoption, and exploitation of outsiders, then examines the groups' similar notions of honor, shame, and gender. . . . Reveal[s] [a] heretofore incompletely understood social and economic Southwest slave tradition.Choice