S.C. Gwynne’s "Empire of the Summer Moon"—Great Comanche History

So if you’re interested in Native American history, S.C. Gwynne’s Empire of the Summer Moon (Scribner 2010) is a great read. Most of it concerns the Comanches, who essentially ruled and terrorized the Great Plains of Texas/Oklahoma areas during the 18th/19th centuries, which all essentially came to a close around 1874. It’s certainly a gruesome story, considering the attacks on white settlers that occurred during this period, and the Comanches dominance of other Plains tribes. But once it reaches the story of Quanah Parker, sometimes considered the last great chief of the Comanches, it provides a useful overview of Native American history at the end of the Indian Wars. There’s a triumvirate of excellent histories that give a good overview of the demise of Plains Indian culture: The Journals of Lewis & Clark, Evan S. Connell’s Son of the Morning Star (about Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn), and Gwyne’s Empire of the Summer Moon. One major contrast: On Lewis & Clark’s 1804-5 journey the only violence between L&S’s party and the Indians occurred very late in the trip, when some Blackfeet tried to steal some weapons, and one of the party killed an Indian. The violence then heats up as the Plains Indians realize what is happening, that they’re being driven off the land, and strike back. Ultimately it seems a clash of technology, probably inevitable, although Connell’s book makes the most persuasive argument for how it could have happened another way.

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