I am not pleased with this book at all. I was excited to read it because it looked fascinating and I have always had an interest in 19th-century Ameri...moreI am not pleased with this book at all. I was excited to read it because it looked fascinating and I have always had an interest in 19th-century American history. In fact, this is my field of study currently (I'm majoring in history and soon to graduate.) So, with my perspective of having learned and read much about this period and about white westward expansion during this period and earlier, I was truly shocked by some of the innaccuracies and inflammatory, racist assertions that are all over this piece of writing. S.C. Gwynne has written a piece of trash that could be mistaken for turn-of-the-century sensationalist journalism, and if I didn't know better and remember that I picked this up at a modern-day bookstore, I would think someone like Frederick Jackson Turner had written this. It explores Comnache history from a purely white, expansionist point of view, and implies that the white Texan settlers were taking Indian lands from pure naivete, and only planned to peacefully settle with their families, and had no intent of robbing the Comanches of their territories. Furthermore, this book uses very heavy-handed and offensive language to discuss Comanche people and their culture. I mean, using words like "primitive" and "Stone Age barbarians" is NOT an acceptable way to discuss Native people, EVER. I thought well-read, educated Americans knew this by now, but reading reviews of this book that praise Gwynne for his accuracy and straightforwardness has shown me otherwise.
Gwynne is not straightforward or balanced in his writing, he is racist and Eurocentric. He also forgets that the Comanche tribe was completely distinct from other Native tribes, and sweeps them all under his "barbarian" category that he has made up. For example, he makes a comment about Native languages being primitive- how would he know that? He doesn't speak any, and probably doesn't even know about the extensive variety of Native languages still spoken to this day, nor knows of their characteristics. He seems entirely unaware of the distinct cultures and histories of the Plains tribes especially, and lumps them all into one entity. I am just shocked that someone who is apparently so well-educated and well-read could be so ignorant.
I think Gwynne's failure is due to the fact that he uses absolutely no Native primary sources. All of his sources are from the white perspective. It is fine to represent that side of things, but you must balance that with the other perpspective. This is a classic "history written by the victor" narrative. The silence of Comanche people in this book which claims to be all about them is deafening.
Also, I would warn that the book is harrowing to read. It illuminates the tragic and incredibly brutal violence that was inflicted by both sides of the conflict in the Texas territory. But again, Gwynne's writing always makes the white-inflicted violence seem to have reasoning behind it, and the Comanche violence always appears to be due to their aggressive, bloodthirsty natures and unprovoked. Somehow I doubt this is the unbiased reality. Again, Comanche perspective is desperately needed here. I don't deny that Comanches could have been responsible for atrocities against white settlers, but Gwynne never puts those atrocities into perspective, and he doesn't judge white settlers and their actions the same way.
This just underscores the need for a more complete telling of Native history, and bringing Native perspectives into the narrative of our history in America. The fact that SO MANY have read this book and find little to no problems with it shows me that most of us are very ignorant and have only viewed American history from one lens. (less)