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Volume 16, Number 10
September 24, 2010


culture

Also in this section:
Books: Empire of the Summer Moon
The God of Carnage at the Ancon Theater
Creative Change in Coco Solo
Video: Paradise Stolen 2
George Scribner's paintings of the canal expansion
Sparky the Wonder Dog
Cool Internet sites
Poets' Corner
Short fiction: Rosaura
Sandra Eleta photo retrospective
Coraza dance troupe is 20 years old
Groundwater: A Listening Project
Theatre Guild wants to bolster its archives for its 60th anniversary



Quanah Parker

Empire of the Summer Moon
a book review by Bill Phillips

Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History
by S.C. Gwynne Scribner (New York 2010)
384 pp., $27.50 in hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-1416591054

This is a good book, well packaged and very helpful, but not a great one. It is not of the same stature as Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, as the cover jacket promises. The concept is simple: red and yellow kill a fellow / red and black, friend of Jack. A fine take on the role and fate of the Comanche nation. The author makes a case for this tribe's stature as the greatest fighters of the western plains. Its young war chief Quanah Parker is an intriguing subject, and the author pares him to match the rare data of his battles and sightings. Much detail is given to other Comanche notables such as, Pa hah yuco (which translates as, hard penis, one who is perpetually aroused, or simply an amorous person.) Also, Isa tai (coyote's vagina, or coyote droppings.) I need to know these things. I would have preferred a modern map to trace the travels from one Panhandle town to another, but I had the advantage of having visited most of these places. Palo Duro Canyon is, of course, greatly featured. I had not known much of brevet Colonel Raynold Slidell McKenzie, a General McChrystal sort, who brought final ruin to the Comanche and retirement to Quanah Parker.

Like much of the best selling history novels, these days, this one was published to meet marketing deadlines. The complex nature of Quanah Parker barely breaks through the historical detail, yet is implied in the narrative of his birth to a captured white woman, (Cynthia Ann Parker) the murder of his Indian father (Peta Nokona), the death of his brother and re-capture of his mother, by whites. Consider his own participation in brutality (possibly gang rapes) and his rise to leadership in frontier warfare. He was helpful in tribal transition to reservation life and influential through his institution of the American Indian Religion and its use of peyote; it is noted that he directly benefited from favors in much the same way as a Chicago ward boss --- with a large ranch and home. He was a fascinating creature of paradox --- Yes, he wore braids and often Indian finery, but he also did not hesitate to wear a fine top hat and carry an umbrella.

Modern Native Americans might be tempted to call him an "apple," that is, red on the outside but white on the inside. I would rather think not, but I would have thought that the writer would have had left more room for opinion.



Also in this section:
Books: Empire of the Summer Moon
The God of Carnage at the Ancon Theater
Creative Change in Coco Solo
Video: Paradise Stolen 2
George Scribner's paintings of the canal expansion
Sparky the Wonder Dog
Cool Internet sites
Poets' Corner
Short fiction: Rosaura
Sandra Eleta photo retrospective
Coraza dance troupe is 20 years old
Groundwater: A Listening Project
Theatre Guild wants to bolster its archives for its 60th anniversary



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