Peace Came in the Form of a Woman: Indians and Spaniards in the Texas Borderlands

By Juliana Barr | Go to book overview

Conclusion

On the surface, it might seem that by the 1780s the signification of peace in the form of a woman had come a long way from the power invoked by the Virgin Mary’s image on Spanish banners in the 1690s. Yet, in many ways, individual native systems of conveying peace through the presence of women, brokering alliance through networks of real and fictive kinship, and maintaining political and economic ties through joint family settlement varied little in their core functions over the century. Of course, the distinct cultural and political economies of Caddos, Cantonas, Payayas, Apaches, Wichitas, and Comanches had determined the spectrum of practices and beliefs governing those diplomatic systems. In their turn, Spaniards had read, understood, and responded to those controls in different ways, at different times, with different peoples—with resultant relations often riding upon their successes and failures in understanding the world of native politics to which they were beholden for peace.

If we scan across the North American continent in the eighteenth century, cross-cultural relations in Texas appear far different from those in other regions. To the west, Pueblos had allowed Spaniards to return to New Mexico following the short-lived success of their 1680 Revolt, and chastened missionaries and settlers tempered the religious and labor demands made on their Pueblo neighbors. Yet, Spanish enslavement and Indian captivity together created a vast network of human exchange that would disrupt innumerable families and bands while incorporating untold numbers into the servile underclass of Spanish society. In the western region of the Great Lakes, called the pays d’en haut by the French, Frenchmen had learned the rhythms of calumet ceremonies and the rhetoric of trade jargons in order to foster a mutually lucrative fur trade network with numerous Indian nations. With French settlement focused far to the east in the St. Lawrence valley, it would be primarily unlicensed traders known as coureurs de bois and a handful of Jesuits who infiltrated these regions to the west. Establishing claim to Louisiana, French traders and agents extended their networks to the south among the Choctaws, Caddos, Wichitas, and others.

Through commercial exchange, mutual accommodation and mutual depen-

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