Reading the West 5-25-09 |

Reading the West 5-25-09

“The Lipan Apaches: People of Wind and Lightning” by Thomas Britten is the first comprehensive history of this tribe. The Lipan Apaches played a vital role in Texas history for nearly 400 years, but they are among the least studied and poorly understood tribal groups in the West.

Britten’s new book, published by the University of New Mexico Press, is an interdisciplinary study of the tribal group. It focuses on their history, culture, and relationships with other Indians and people in the region. Like other Apache tribal groups, they were migratory people loosely gathered into hunting and gathering bands, and were perceived to be the greatest Indian threat to New Spain’s frontier. Their mobility ” Apaches had horses earlier than many other tribal groups ” would later be viewed by newcomers as a potential danger to the fledgling Republic of Texas.

Direct attempts to dissolve the Lipans as a tribal unit began in 1836 and the annexation of Texas by the United States meant the government was perceived as yet another enemy for the tribe to fight. They were forced to abandon their traditional homelands and as their ability to defend themselves was restricted, the Lipans attached themselves to the more numerous ” and certainly more well-known ” Mescaleros and Kiowa Apaches. This led to the Lipans themselves fading from written history in 1884.

Britten provides a good background about the tribe, their dealings in Spanish Texas from 1700-1749, the missions in Texas during the period 1750-1770, and then the war of extermination that took place from 1770-1800. He concludes with their relationship with both Mexico and Texas, and later with the United States.

Bitten is assistant professor of history at the University of Texas, Brownsville, and the author of “American Indians in World War One” and “A Brief History of the Seminole-Negro Indian Scouts.”

“The Choctaws in Oklahoma: From Tribe to Nation, 1855-1970” by Clara Sue Kidwell, takes a look at one of the better known Indian tribes. The book begins with an introduction outlining the removal of the tribe from their traditional homeland in the Southeastern United States. They were forced west following the 1830 Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, one of the “civilized” tribes that was moved into Indian Territory (Oklahoma) during the period of removal supported by President Andrew Jackson. This book begins in 1855. The Choctaws were already in present-day Oklahoma when they signed a treaty that “fundamentally reoriented the Nation’s relationship with the U.S. government.”

The Choctaws already had a long history of education and self-determination. They had sent tribal members to schools and colleges where they earned degrees in the law and other disciplines that would help the Choctaw National retain its independence and culture. The book outlines how the tribe worked to reassert tribal sovereignty in the late 20th Century.

This book points out that the Choctaws did not passively assimilate into American culture, but retained their own culture and beliefs while demanding justice under their treaty rights. The book is published by the University of Oklahoma Press.

Kidwell is director of the American Indian Center at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and the authors of many articles and books including “Choctaws and Missionaries in Mississippi, 1818-1918.”

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