Comanches and Germans on the Texas Frontier: The Ethnology of Heinrich Berghaus

Comanches and Germans on the Texas Frontier: The Ethnology of Heinrich Berghaus

Comanches and Germans on the Texas Frontier: The Ethnology of Heinrich Berghaus

Comanches and Germans on the Texas Frontier: The Ethnology of Heinrich Berghaus

Synopsis

In 1851, an article appeared in a German journal, Geographisches Jahrbuch (Geographic Yearbook), that sought to establish definitive connections, using language observations, among the Comanches, Shoshones, and Apaches. Heinrich Berghaus's study was based on lexical data gathered by a young German settler in Texas, Emil Kriewitz, and included a groundbreaking list of Comanche words and their German translations. Berghaus also offered Kriewitz's cultural notes on the Comanches, a discussion of the existing literature on the three tribes, and an original map of Comanche hunting grounds.

Perhaps because it was published only in German, the existence of Berghaus's study has been all but unknown to North American scholars, even though it offers valuable insights into Native American languages, toponyms, ethnonyms, hydronyms, and cultural anthropology. It was also a significant document revealing the history of German-Comanche relations in Texas.

Daniel J. Gelo and Christopher J. Wickham now make available for the first time a reliable English translation of this important nineteenth-century document. In addition to making the article accessible to English speakers, they also place Berghaus's work into historical context and provide detailed commentary on its value for anthropologists and historians who study German settlement in Texas.

Comanches and Germans on the Texas Frontier will make significant contributions to multiple disciplines, opening a new lens onto Native American ethnography and ethnology.

Excerpt

In 1851 an article appeared in the Geographisches Jahrbuch (Geographic Yearbook, Gotha) claiming to establish definitive connections, using language observations, among the Comanches, Shoshones, and Apaches. the author of the article, Heinrich Berghaus, was a well-established cartographer but had no history of original anthropological research. Titled “Über die Verwandtschaft der Schoschonen, Komantschen und Apatschen” (“On the Relationship of the Shoshones, Comanches, and Apaches”), the article was based on lexical data gathered by a young German settler in Texas and included a list of 366 Comanche words and their German translations. To his discussion of this material Berghaus added cultural notes on the Comanches from his informant, discussion of the existing literature on the three tribes, and an original map of Comanche hunting grounds. Probably because it was published only in German, Berghaus’s article has been almost completely ignored by us scholarship, even though it offers valuable insights into Native American languages, toponyms, ethnonyms, hydronyms, and cultural anthropology, and at the same time is a significant document in the history of German-Comanche relations in Texas.

It is the goal of this book to make available for the first time a reliable English translation of Berghaus’s 1851 article, to provide an account of its historical context, and to present a detailed commentary on its value for the anthropologist, the student of German settlement in Texas, and the general reader. We are especially pleased to think that it will be useful to members of the Comanche Nation who are striving to preserve their native language. in addition, it is hoped that this work will resonate with the burgeoning scholarship in German history and cultural studies on such themes as German contributions to the development of science, the significance of writer Karl May, and the German fascination with American Indian life.

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