November 30, 2009


Brown, Dee, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West (Thirtieth-Anniversary Edition) (New York: Henry Holt, 1970, 2000) ("The Fetterman Massacre made a profound impression upon Colonel Carrington. He was appalled by the mutilations--the disembowelings, the hacked limbs, the "private parts severed and indecently placed on the person." He brooded upon the reasons for such savagery, and eventually wrote an essay on the subject, philosophizing that the Indians were compelled by some paganistic belief to commit the terrible deeds that remained forever in his mind. Had Colonel Carrigngton visited the scene of the Sand Creek Massacre, which occurred only two years before the Fetterman Massacre, he would have seen the same mutilations--committed upon the Indians by Colonel Chivington's soldiers. The Indians who ambushed Fetterman were only imitating their enemies, a practice which in warfare, as in civilian life, is said to be the sincerest form of flattery." Id. at 137.).

Hamalainen, Pekka, The Comanche Empire (New Haven & London: Yale U. Press, 2009) (I suspect the "average" American's perspective on history of Native Americans in the American West and Southwest is pretty much bracketed by the end of the American Civil War, Custer’s comeuppance at the Little Big Horn, and Turner's thesis regarding the closing of the West. It is a perspective that, at best, sees Native Americans in decline, in defeat, or near defeat as European Americans expand westward. Little thought is given to the century or centuries before that period of defeat and decline, and to a period when Native Americans were very vibrant, powerful and, yes, imperial. Here we are provided the counter-perspective. "This book is about an American empire that, according to conventional histories, did not exist. It tells the familiar tale of expansion, resistance, conquest, and loss, but with a reversal of usual historical roles: it is a story in which Indians expand, dictate, and prosper, and European colonists, resist, retreat, and struggle to survive." Id. at 1. The Comanche Empire won the 2009 Bancroft Prize.).