From Dominance to Disappearance: The Indians of Texas and the Near Southwest, 1786-1859

From Dominance to Disappearance: The Indians of Texas and the Near Southwest, 1786-1859

From Dominance to Disappearance: The Indians of Texas and the Near Southwest, 1786-1859

From Dominance to Disappearance: The Indians of Texas and the Near Southwest, 1786-1859

Synopsis

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 Drawing on a variety of published and unpublished sources in Spanish, French, and English, F. Todd Smith traces the differing histories of Texas's Native peoples.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.

Excerpt

In October 1785 three chiefs, representing the Eastern Comanches, or Kotsotekas, entered into a peace treaty with the governor of Spanish Texas at a meeting held in San Antonio. The agreement, which both parties had been negotiating off and on for thirteen years, was a watershed moment on the Southern Plains. The Comanche Treaty was the last in a series of 1785 agreements in which the Spaniards in Texas, following more than three decades of war, established peace with a group of formerly hostile tribes, known as the Norteños. The treaties proved successful since the Indians and the Spaniards maintained relative peace in Texas for the next twenty-five years, until relations were disrupted by the movement for Mexican independence and the ensuing arrival of American colonists from the United States.

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 . . .

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