The Comanche Empireby Published 28 May 2008
|The Comanche Empire.pdf|
|Publisher||Yale University Press|
In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, a Native American empire rose to dominate the fiercely contested lands of the American Southwest, the southern Great Plains, and northern Mexico. This powerful empire, built by the Comanche Indians, eclipsed its various European rivals in military prowess, political prestige, economic power, commercial reach, and cultural influence. Yet, until now, the Comanche empire has gone unrecognized in American history.
This compelling and original book uncovers the lost story of the Comanches. It is a story that challenges the idea of indigenous peoples as victims of European expansion and offers a new model for the history of colonial expansion, colonial frontiers, and Native-European relations in North America and elsewhere. Pekka Hämäläinen shows in vivid detail how the Comanches built their unique empire and resisted European colonization, and why they fell to defeat in 1875. With extensive knowledge and deep insight, the author brings into clear relief the Comanches’ remarkable impact on the trajectory of history.
"The Comanche Empire" Reviews
When I was growing up in eastern Missouri it was de rigueur that the man-children of the clan become Boy Scouts. Thus, despite little aptitude or interest, I was duly enrolled in the Cub Scouts and spent summer weekends attending den meetings and going on the occasional camping trip. (Don’t fear that this diversion is going to descend into horror stories about mental and physical abuse – happily my life as a Scout was quite banal. I never got beyond the Cub stage, truth be told, and my parents were “cool” with that.) I bring this episode in my life up because it was as a Scout that I first encountered the Native American. Admittedly it was a highly white-washed (there’s a loaded word!) version that stressed the most admirable aspects of Indian culture (at least “admirable” in Anglo eyes) and ignored the complexities and less savory history of relations between Indians and Europeans (and between Indians and Indians). It also tended to focus exclusively on Plains Indians, blinkering my perception of non-Plains tribes for the longest time. Subsequent reading (remember, I’m not the Grizzly Adams type) led me to other works sympathetic to the Native perspective. In particular I remember a YA biography of the Seminole chieftain Osceola (giving me the animus I bear toward Andrew Jackson to this day). It was a kid’s book so the more gruesome details of the war against the Seminoles didn’t figure in the narrative but I understood that the white man had been grossly unjust to the Indian. Even my fiction reading favored the Indian (or at least sympathized with their plight). I remember a book about the lost Roanoke colony (they were saved and incorporated into one of the local tribes); and Andre Norton wrote many novels with Native characters (The Sioux Spaceman, among others, and one (title unremembered) where, in an alternate Earth, there’s a powerful, modern Iroquois empire). All this prepared me to accept the great myth of our national epic with an appropriately jaundiced eye; all this prepared me to accept this wonderful book about a near-forgotten era in the history of the New World.
Despite a writing style that’s sodden with academic jargon (like “fundamentally a study of indigenous agency”), I’m giving this book four stars because of the intense pleasure I felt discovering a world and era I never realized existed and enriching my understanding of my country’s history. To be fair, Hamalainen’s language becomes less turgid once you get past the first chapter or so (he only relapses in the Conclusion but I’m all for forgiving him). This book is divided into eight chapters that cover an era from about 1700, when the Comanches arrived in the southern Great Plains with their then-allies the Ute, to 1874, when the tribes were finally confined to reservations by the US Army. The author chronicles the Comanches’ rise as the dominant power on the plains and their sudden, catastrophic collapse.
Before going on, I wanted to say that one of the strongest overall features of the book is that Hamalainen doesn’t ennoble or demonize anyone. The Comanches are not noble-but-doomed indigenes standing up to European imperialism; nor are they mindless savages futilely resisting the advance of modern civilization. They (and the other actors in our drama – Spaniards, Mexicans, Texans, Americans and other Native nations) are just human beings acting like human beings have acted for thousands of years. There are instances of noble and generous behavior just as there are instances of the most savage cruelty. That balance, for me, makes the book all the more convincing.
What follows are brief synopses and impressions gleaned from reading each chapter. If you’re interested in Hamalainen’s arguments and proofs, read the book yourself :-)
Introduction: If you can hack through the jargon, the Introduction sets up the basic arguments of the book. Thus: (1) The rise of a Comanche hegemony on the southern Great Plains (roughly from the Arkansas river south to the Rio Grande, and stretching c. 200 miles from the eastern face of the Rockies) foiled Spain’s (and Mexico’s) attempt to create a stable inland empire. (2) Again, we have an examination of a frontier zone as a region of flux and innovation similar to the situation along the Rhine in the Roman histories I’ve been reading lately. And (3), an examination of the character of Comanche imperialism and an analysis of why it failed in the face of US expansion.
The first five chapters - Conquest, New Order, The Embrace, The Empire of the Plains, Greater Comancheria - document the Comanches’ rise from just one of many tribes moving into the area in the 18th century to the zenith of their power in the first half of the 19th.
In the early 1700s, the first tribes that could be called “Comanche” wandered down out of Utah with the Utes, one of the first Native cultures to adopt the horse. “Comanche” is the Spanish form of a Ute word that probably meant “enemy” or “those guys who won’t stop attacking us” (I freely paraphrase here as I don’t have the reference in front of me but that’s the gist). Comanches called themselves numunu, which (as is often the case) simply means “The People” (cf. German deutsche).
Though Spain claimed northern Mexico and the southern Great Plains it could not colonize it nor even properly hold it, and the Comanches moved into the power vacuum. The Apache, the original, dominant power in the territory, were overmatched by the newcomers’ command of horses and their more cohesive political organization. This shouldn’t suggest that the Comanche had any form of government recognized by Western eyes nor that they had a conscious plan of expansion. To the Spaniards (and their American successors) the Comanche appeared as savage marauders without mercy, appearing out of the plains to murder and ravish. To most of them. Spain was fortunate in mid-century to have a man named Cachupin as the territory’s governor. He possessed an understanding of Comanche culture and sensibilities that allowed him to create a modus vivendi that gave the provinces of New Mexico room to prosper in (relative) peace. Not surprisingly, it was rare that a man of Cachupin’s quality occupied the post so Spanish/Comanche relations always hovered close to outright hostilities. Even under Cachupin, Hamalainen argues that the Spaniards made a fundamental error in believing that they were in control of the situation. Much like our own politicians in Washington, those in Mexico City and Madrid ignored the reality and the reports of their agents on the ground in preference for a world where their desires and power signified. It made for a delicate balance that only the ablest governors could maintain.
Spanish policy attempted to make the Comanche dependent upon them but the exact opposite occurred – the Spanish colonies became dependent upon the Comanche for their survival. This dependence became so great in New Mexico’s case that she had practically severed relations with the Mexican government. Texas’ case became so desperate, Mexico invited American colonists into the province.
Internally, Comancheria (the region dominated by the Comanche) could be divided into eastern and western halves, which developed differently and faced different challenges along their borders but which maintained unity via complementary trade and periodic general councils that met to deal with regionwide issues. Below these councils, Comanche political/economic society rested on nomadic rancherias of a few hundred souls (at their largest). Chiefs, called paraibos, ruled by common consent of the adult males. Warriors (sometimes from several rancheria) would organize under warchiefs for raids but such figures only commanded during the raid, they had no authority otherwise (though often paraibos in their own right).
In the 1820s, Spain disappeared as a factor in plains history to be replaced by a newly independent Mexico and a rapidly, aggressively expansionist US. For the moment, though, no one enjoyed an overwhelming advantage. Mexico’s position steadily eroded as it proved incapable of creating an effective presence north of the Rio Grande (and only a minimal one south of the river). The US’s attention was focused on lands beyond the Rockies – the plains were just a path to the riches of the far West. Without direct interference from the Americans, Comancheria continued to expand and tighten its economic stranglehold over the region. In 1840, no Comanche would have believed that in a little over a generation they would be a broken remnant dependent upon American generosity to survive.
Children of the Sun – the anthropology chapter: And one of the most fascinating. Comanche society was in a constant state of flux, balancing hunting vs. pastoralism, a market vs. a subsistence economy, localism vs. centralization, egalitarianism vs. inequality, the individual vs. the group and slavery vs. assimilation.
Two animals – the horse and the bison – were essential to creating and maintaining Comanche superiority. Hamalainen contends that the Comanche were the only Native culture to wholly devote itself to an equine-based, pastoral lifestyle. In the process, they sacrificed the “gathering” side of their previous hunter-gatherer existence, becoming dependent upon the more sedentary Native and European societies around them for goods (like metal tools and guns) and staple crops. In essence, the Comanches became the New World equivalent of the steppe tribes of Eurasia.
Becoming pure pastoralists brought about a significant change in the division of labor and a deleterious shift in women’s status: Boys tended the great horse herds; women maintained the households and provided much of the labor that converted horse and bison products into marketable goods; and men occupied themselves with scouting for pasture, taming feral horses, raiding and commerce (two sides of the same coin in Comanche eyes). Beyond relegating women to servility, the changeover to pastoralism also militarized Comanche society – a man’s worth depended upon his prowess in battle and his ability to secure and protect his wealth (i.e., horses). This chapter is all too short and I would have liked more information about Comanche society. Evenso, I haven’t touched upon the author’s discussion of slavery or the Comanche tradition of individualism and meritocracy that mitigated the strong pressure toward political centralization and economic stratification.
As the final chapters - Hunger and Collapse - show, by the 1830s, the Comanche had created a flourishing and stable polity that preserved much of traditional Comanche culture while accommodating the demands of “empire.” But it was supremely vulnerable to the disruption of its foundation – the horse and the bison. Comancheria’s tragedy was that its success sealed its doom. Access to the wealth generated by their trade monopolies led to larger populations and pressure to expand. Combined with treaties which allowed outsiders to hunt the bison, the Comanche fatally weakened the herds. A 20+ year drought beginning in 1845 broke the “empire.” The only reasons the Comanche didn’t succumb until 1874 was that America was distracted in the 1850s and 1860s with the slavery question and the Civil War and the rains returned in the mid-1860s. Comancheria enjoyed an “Indian” summer (sorry, couldn’t resist) but when the US government determined to eliminate the Comanche threat, it unleashed a total war against them (tactics perfected in the Civil War); Comancheria proved unable to survive the onslaught.
In a pattern repeated a few years later in the northern Great Plains, the final days of Comanche resistance were dominated by an apocalyptic religious movement that fell apart at the “battle” of Adobe Walls, when its leader (Isatai) fell to US Army-issue bullets. In 1874, all resistance disappeared and the remnants of the Comanche nation were herded into reservations and forced to give up their way of life, enduring second-class status in the triumphant American empire. This last point brings up a characteristic of Comancheria that I neglected to mention earlier: the Comanches’ Roman-like capacity to accommodate and assimilate. Like Rome, as long as Comanche partners adopted or accommodated Comanche culture, stable and relatively peaceful relations pertained. A far cry from America’s xenophobia. It still smacks of imperialism but of a “gentler” species. (And we shouldn’t forget that when neighbors couldn’t mesh with the Comanche, they suffered the savage raids the nation was known for.)
In concluding, Hamalainen asks, “Why the Comanches?” and comes up with 5 answers:
1. Geography favored horse breeding and bison hunting, and the Comanches were in the right place at the right time to exploit it.
2. Their timing was also fortunate in that they could play the Europeans off against each other to achieve hegemony.
3. Comanche culture was remarkably flexible and innovative.
4. The horse allowed Comanches to shift wholly to pastoralism, opening routes to wealth and the ability to dominate the trade routes across the plains.
5. Diseases which decimated more sedentary Native tribes had a smaller impact on the dispersed populations of Comancheria, and the Comanche were able to maintain a relatively larger population up through the 1840s.
This is only a snapshot of the wealth of information contained in this volume. Considering the rating I’ve given Comanche Empire it should come as no surprise that I highly recommend this book to the interested, especially as you don’t need a particularly deep background in Southwest American history.
Wow. Really wow. A truly great work of history. This book has everything. It is a compelling story, a mind bendingly different view of commonly accepted fact and a very well researched uber serious history with over one hundred pages of notes. Oh yes and it is well written. It has clear structured prose that is a pleasure to read.
All I knew about the Comanche before I read this book were that they were a fierce tribe who lived in the south west of present day U.S.A. and had a deadly rivalry with the Apache. That is all true but everything one assumes one knows about Indigenous/European relations is simple not true in the case of the Comanche.
They were definitely an empire. They had a considerable portion of what is todays South West U.S. under their sway. I reckon about 10 to 15% of the present continental U.S. This was called Comancheria by the Spanish. They virtually held the Spanish colonies of New Mexico and Texas as vassal states who gave them 'gifts' which were a lot more like tribute to keep the peace. They so influenced this part of the world that they had soft power ie they held cultural power over political entities they dealt with. The peasants of New Mexico often identified with them. Other tribes tried to emulate them. Some individuals moved into Comancheria to become part of the strongest hegemonic power in the region. They were a flexible, multicultural dynamic society that saw all human relations through the lens of kinship. Trading was about kinship. If you traded with them you became a category of kin. If they lost members of their rancheria ( the basic unit of people numbering between 100 to 2000) they simply replaced them with captives from other peoples be they Mexican, Indian or European.
Their empire was built upon the horse. With the horse they could hunt bison. With the horse they raided far and wide but mostly concentrated on horse and mule theft with a considerable secondary trade in kidnapping for the slave trade. This raiding and trading was astounding in its scope. They supplied horses to the Northern Plains peoples and to the American colonizers in the south. In fact America could not have been settled and the wilderness tamed without the stolen mules and horses the Comanche supplied.
At the zenith of their power there were chiefs who resembled 19th Century capitalists rather than the hardened warrior one thinks of as an Indian chief. One had to borne on a litter because he was so corpulent!
I will tell no more since half the pleasure of this book is the constant surprisingly new way of viewing an astonishing piece of American history. I will leave you one little puzzle. How are the Comanche indirectly responsible for the American Civil War? I bet you can't guess.
Okay, I'll get this out of my system first: skip chapter 6. There, that's better.
It's not often that I read a book that fundamentally changes my sense of a major part of American history, especially not in one of the areas I read a lot in. PH's reconsideration of the history of the southern plains and Southwest does just that. The basic argument is clear: in order to understand the history of the region she (he? Finnish names confuse me) focuses on the areas encompassing Texas, New Mexico and extending both north and south, concentrating on the 18th and 19th centuries. The way I was taught the story, it focused on the struggle for dominance between Spain, France, the United States and the Republic of Texas. If the Comanche appeared at all, it was as a savage tribe impeding the march of European conquest: what PH refers to as the "barrier hypothesis."
Toss that one in the dumpster.
What PH shows is that Comanche were in fact the controlling presence in the story. Not simply warriors and raiders, they constructed a complex multi-ethnic, economically diversified society capable of manipulating the other players in the game for its own needs. It was far more important for settlers around San Antonio or the pueblos around Taos to accommodate the Comanche than Mexico City or Washington. The Comanche formed alliances with various powers (Native and European) at various times; by the early 19th century they pretty much ran the joint. As PH argues, the key is recentering our attention to the interior and rethink events from there. It's a brilliantly executed book, one that illuminates all sorts of moments. To cite just one example, she argues convincingly that the American victory in the Mexican war happened in large part because the Comanche had already routed Mexican defenses. Equally fascinating and convincing is PH's discussion of the decline of the Comanche power, which took place in two waves: the first caused in large part by economic over-expansion and drought; the second by the ascendency of American military power in the 1870s.
Back to chapter six. The one clunker, and it's not trivial, is PH's superficial treatment of Comanche culture. In the rest of the book, she deals very nicely with sources that are pushing their own agendas: Spanish bureaucrats and governors, trappers, captives. IN chapter six, she goes simplistic, relying on reports from white outsiders who very clearly don't understand the difference between various Native cultures. She glides over Comanche religion in a couple of superficial pages. I don't know the literature on Comanche culture in any detail, but I do know that any treatment that purports to reflect the internal dynamics needs to know something about how the Comanche themselves understand the story. Oral tradition is key to that. It's not a minor glitch because the image of the comanche in chapter 6 reduces them back to stereotype. PH contradicts herself on the nature of Comanche slavery and the question of hierarchy within the tribe. It's just a mess.
On a more general level, while I'm convinced of PH's argument, I'm not convinced that what they had was an "empire" in any meaningful sense. In the epilog (which is a nice overview in general), she defends the phrasing, but to my mind undercuts it every two or three sentences. The Comanche relationship with the ethnic groups (Native and European) they incorporated into the tribe differs so starkly from that of the Brits or Romans (take you pick of other clear empires) that what's left doesn't feel imperial at all tome. The key to Comanche relations with the world, as PH makes clear, was in kinship, fictive or otherwise. Not in simple domination. I'm guessing that a deeper understanding of the culture would result in a clearer sense of the differences.
Despite the quibbles, this is a major work of Native, Western and American history.
This is described as part of the Lamar Series in Western History, which includes scholarly works of interest to the general reader for the purpose of understanding human affairs in the American West and adding a wider understanding of the West's significance to America's existence. This is certainly a book fit for academic use, but it also is informative to the general historical reader. The extensive source material used in the book's research produces extensive documentation of the facts while providing a fresh look at the way Native Americans, and particularly the Comanches, are portrayed in print.
Hamalainen's title drives home his point that the American Southwest was dominated for over a century, from roughly 1750 to 1850, by an indigenous imperial society, similar to the Aztecs, Incas and the Iroquois confederacy before them. Unlike those other societies, however, the Comanches, while fighting and subjugating other Native groups, ascended in power while reducing Euro-American colonial regimes to serve their dominance. Proof of this was New Spain's (Spain's Mexican empire) failure to colonize the interior of North America and, indeed, the erosion of Spain's, and later Mexico's imperial authority in its own northern provinces of New Mexico and Texas.
The Comanches established an empire without a single central authority. There were no large settlement colonies; no ostentatious architecture was created; no effort was made to maintain control over subject peoples. Their power's reach was demonstrated in their ability to impose their will upon their neighbors (Native and European-based), harness the economies of others for their own use, and persuade their rivals to adopt their customs.
Hamalainen explains the American Southwest as a place where disparate ethnic groups clashed and competed bitterly with one another, but where resources, people and power gravitated to Comancheria, which dominated the region through trade exchange, organized raiding and deliberate destruction fused into a complex economy of violence.
The various Plains Indian groups are firmly fixed in our imaginations as horse riders but most didn't become equestrians until the eighteenth century. The Comanches were among the earliest Plains horse riders. Their ancestry is the Shoshone, who left the Great Basin for the Great Plains over the sixteenth century. Late in the seventeenth century, they splintered into two factions, the smaller group emerging in Spanish records in the early 1700's with the name Comanche. They were introduced to the iron manufactured goods and the horses of the Spanish by their kinsmen, the Utes. They began an equestrian culture of using horses to follow and hunt buffalo herds in the Southern Plains. They traded buffalo hides and slaves for tools, tobacco, flour, cloth, iron tools, firearms and horses at Spanish trade fairs held at Taos and Pecos Pueblos. This was mostly beneficial for the Spanish at first, since they benefitted doubly by the Comanche practice of eliminating their mutual enemies, especially the Apache from New Mexico, and by obtaining Apache captives from the Comanche for use as servants, and slaves in Northern Mexican silver mines.
As the eighteenth century progressed, however, the Comanches started obtaining their horses and mules, and Spanish/Mexican captives for their domestic uses, by engaging in raiding of New Mexican settlements that they would also, at times, alternatively trade with. Hamalainen describes the early 1750's as a time of explosive Comanche growth. He provides helpful maps to show how the area of Comancheria grew. Essentially, the entire plains of new Spanish colony Texas, and northeastern New Mexico, were Comanche dominions. Hamalainen's point is that, over the next several decades, the Comanches became a territorial superpower who called the shots regarding trading and raiding over a wide area which witnessed constant bloodshed.
The Spanish government in Mexico was eventually able to wrangle a workable treaty with the Comanches in 1786 which brought peace to its northern provinces of New Mexico and Texas, but the Spanish were not able to use the treaty to further their aims of making the Comanches their dependents. In fact, their schemes in this regard backfired. The gifts bestowed on Comanche leaders to bribe them into submission became mandatory, periodic payments needed to keep the Indians from destroying New Mexico and Texas.
Spain's Mexican empire collapsed in 1821. The ensuing Mexican governments did not follow Spain in providing even minimal military protection to its northern provinces. The Hispanic residents of the provinces became politically estranged from Mexico City and identified even more culturally, economically and in many cases, through intermarriage with the native groups.
The Comanches used all of these changes in their environment to grow and prosper. They could deal with the Spanish, the Mexicans, the French, or the various native tribes who constantly pushed at their borders, They therefore took in stride the arrival of American traders and immigrants who began flooding into the area after the United States purchased Louisiana from France. The almost inexhaustible demand for livestock by the new immigrants was met by an equally boundless supply. Whatever the Comanches could not supply from their own huge stock, they could obtain by stealing herds from New Mexicans. Very rapidly, Americans became the Comanche preferred trading partners.
Before the American war with Mexico began in 1846, New Mexico was basically an orphaned province with no allegiance to Mexico, and Texas was splintered into two distinct halves: the section East of the Colorado River was populated mostly by Americans, who were duplicating the Deep South's cotton-growing, slave-holding economy; Mexican (West) Texas was under the domination of the Comanches.
The collapse of the Comanche civilization occurred fairly rapidly during the 1850's, a time in which the United States experienced explosive economic and population growth. Part of the decline was environmental, with the start, in 1845, of a prolonged dry spell in the Southern Plains. Part of it was due to the Comanches' own practices of over-hunting, and at times allowing other native groups to hunt, bison on their hunting grounds; this bison depletion, combined with the practice of the Comanche to maintain probably the largest Plains Indian horse herds, had a great impact on the ability of their main source of food and commerce (the buffalo) to replenish. There was also the factor of viruses (cholera and smallpox) which hit the Comanche population especially hard at this time in their history.
The Comanche became weak at the time forces wanted to take advantage of them for economic exploitation. Return of rain and rejuvination of the buffalo herds was matched by the entrance of commercial hide hunters to Comencheria during the 1870's, turning the Plains into the scene of heaping piles of rotting bison viscera. By this time, the U.S. government, trying to control the rampant Comanche raiding in Texas and Indian Territory (Oklahoma) after the American Civil War, negotiated the Medicine Lodge Creek Treaty which intended to keep them on reservation land at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. The Comanche dislike of staying confined to one place led to the government's decision to use the Army to engage the non-reservation Indians with force and by destroying their economic lifeline with the Comencheros (New Mexican itinerant traders). A Comanche assault on Adobe Wells, a buffalo merchant trading center, in 1874 spurred the government's position on ending Indian resistance. The end of Comanche freedom as a Plains-living tribe began with their defeat against General Mackenzie's 4th Calvary at Palo Duro Canyon.
Hamalainen states his primary purpose in writing this book is to change the misconceptions which were made prevalent in Twentieth-Century histories and literature to the effect that memories of Comanches have become linked to impressions of nativistic resistance and mindless violence. He wishes to revise these visions of early American history by recovering the Comanches as full-fledged humans and key actors under the distortions of historical memory.
"The Comanche Empire" is also an effort to revise certain historical assumptions about the conquest of America's West. Hamalainen states the following:
New Mexico and Texas did not perform as intended, as buffers shielding Spain's northern Mexican silver mining district from incursion by hostile Indians. Actually, the Comanche subjugation of these two "buffer provinces" drained the Spanish empire financially. Concurrently, the Apaches who had been displaced from the Plains by Comanches pillaged the silver districts of Nueva Vizcaya and Coahuila at will.
The effect of the Comanches on Plains Indian horse culture was central, not tangential. They were pioneers among Indian societies in the horse-centered way of life and their example forced, and enabled, all of the plains tribes to adopt the horse as a necessary economic and military device.
The U.S. Army's invasion across the Rio Grande into Mexico in 1846 was greatly enabled by the earlier actions of the Comanches in turning vast areas of the Mexican heartland into an economically underdeveloped and psychologically shattered area that was ripe for invasion. As Hamalainen states, U.S. imperialism in northern Mexico descended directly from Comanche imperialism. This is at odds with historians who have traditionally downplayed the idea of American imperialism, explaining American expansionism in the West as a process of merely the occupation of semi-virgin land, overcoming natural obstacles along the way, including bad weather, lack of water, rough terrain, and, oh yes, Indians. As Hamalainen writes, the American invasion of Mexico in 1846 was nothing if not a result of imperialism.
Finally, there is the issue of the modern legacy of an Indian empire which supported a slave complex: the capture, assimilation, and ransoming of thousands of northern Mexicans in the nineteenth century, which profoundly affected the process of "mestizage" in the current U.S. Southwest. This mixing and reconfiguration of racial identities framed official "notreamericano" opinions about the place of Mexicans in the Southwest. In many instances, Mexicans could not be easily distinguished from Comanches, and this Mexicanness-Indianness and its resulting incompatibility with Anglo-Americanness and U.S. citizenship has given birth to Anglo-American understandings of Mexicans as a mixed, stigmatized and subordinated class.
A straight, no chaser, ethno-history book on the rise and fall of what author Pekka Hamalainen accurately call the Comanche Empire of the mid-18th to mid-19th centuries on the southern plains region of what is now the United States.
The rise of the Comanche hegemony was facilitated by an economic system based on their mastery and perfection of equestrian culture and husbandry. Their fall hinged on the failure of that culture modify the basic economic model due to climatic change and environmental degradation.