Captives & Cousins: Slavery, Kinship, and Community in the Southwest Borderlands

Captives & Cousins: Slavery, Kinship, and Community in the Southwest Borderlands

Captives & Cousins: Slavery, Kinship, and Community in the Southwest Borderlands

Captives & Cousins: Slavery, Kinship, and Community in the Southwest Borderlands


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.


Fatigued with disappointment and bitter fighting throughout a hard winter among the Tiguex pueblos of the Río Grande, Francisco Vásquez de Coronado arrived at the Towa pueblo of Cicúye (Pecos) in the spring of 1541 with renewed hope. Situated on a high mountain pass that bridged the Río Grande valley with the Great Plains, the fortified town was perhaps the most powerful ally the enterprising conquistador might make among the peoples of the region. the Zuñi town of Hawikuh had failed to fulfill the riches promised by Cabeza de Vaca and Fray Marcos de Niza, tales that had inspired Coronado’s entrada in the first place. Moving on to the pueblos of the Tiguex along the Río Grande, the Spanish found a reluctant and belligerent people who had only been subdued after sieges, executions, and enslavement. Indian peoples to the east seemed to promise more.

Capable of fielding five hundred warriors, Cicúye was “feared throughout the land,” according to chronicler Pedro de Castañeda. Among the gifts laid before Captain Hernando de Alvarado at Cicúye during his reconnaissance the previous autumn were piles of thick bison robes, indicative of the pueblo’s situation on the edge of the Plains grasslands. These probablyderived from two sources—seasonal bison hunting by Cicúye sojourners and a vigorous trade network in specialized commodities between the pueblo and nomadic huntergatherers residing on the Plains. Pueblo trade goods like obsidian, turquoise and shell jewelry, ceramics, and pipes appear abundantly in presumably Athapaskan camps dating from the sixteenth century. the trade went beyond luxury items, however: one of Coronado’s men later reported that the Querechos (Athapaskans) and Teyas (Jumanos) of the Plains exchanged “cueros de Cíbola [bison hides] and deer skins that they do not need, and the meat dried in . . .

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