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'THE TEXAS INDIANS,' BY DAVID LA VERE

"The Texas Indians" is the latest book by award-winning ethnohistorian
David La Vere. It draws from his expertise on the history of the American
Indian peoples of Lone Star State and the southern plains. Many existing
works on the tribal history of Texas have focused on certain tribes and the
more problematic periods of American Indian and Euro-American invasions of
the southern plains, but in this case La Vere has taken a wider range of
themes and communities. This approach establishes "The Texas Indians" as
the new standard on the subject for academics and non-academics alike.

One of the more popular anthropological theories concerning the origins of
American Indians as migrant hunters and gatherers from Asia is critically
examined by La Vere in the opening chapters. La Vere's analysis places the
first inhabitants of Texas on the southern plains approximately 12,000
years ago. He discusses in detail the migration patterns of the hunters and
gatherers and the resulting diversity of the tribes in the state before
white incursions.

La Vere traces how the American Indians of Texas found themselves caught up
in the competition between imperial powers and the irreparable damage done
to their ways of life. One of the first tactics used to gain control over
the tribal peoples of the state by the imperial powers La Vere examined was
the manipulation of existing rivalries and trading patterns. He discusses
how a lack of metallurgy and firearms technology allowed the Europeans to
supplant existing trade networks, like the one established by the Jumanos,
with an incessant competition between the tribes.

It is well-documented that the diseases the Europeans brought with them to
Texas killed more of its indigenous peoples than any war or any number of
blood feuds ever could. La Vere explained so many of the tribes and
communities were ravaged by disease it would have been impossible for them
to resist white incursions into their homelands with any success. Some of
these tribes, like the Karankawas of the Gulf Coast region, have ceased to
exist after nearly being wiped out by wave after wave of epidemics. Still
others, including the Wichitas, were so weakened by disease and constant
attack they were forced to abandon their homeland in central Texas and
accept reservations in Oklahoma.

The Spanish in particular attempted to use Christianity as a means of
controlling the tribal peoples in the southwest. La Vere said, "A mission
hoped to achieve several goals: control Indians, Christianize then,
Hispanize them, and then use Indian labor to the make the mission
self-supporting, even profitable." Despite the fact, as La Vere pointed
out, although many Texas Indians willingly joined the missions or took
refuge there during times of famine and war, the Spanish saw little value
in Indian culture and thousands died there from disease or were murdered
and the women raped by the Spanish. According to La Vere, many missionized
Indians fled the missions and attacked Spanish settlements and ranches,
were absorbed into other tribes or became part of the Mexican peasantry.

La Vere said the Spanish placed at least some value on the Texas Indians as
opposed to the contempt they were held in by Americans immigrating to Texas
after the Louisiana Purchase in 1804. These frontiersmen considered the
Indians of Texas as an impediment to their personal destiny to dominate the
continent and take whatever they saw fit from the tribes. The Texans either
killed or forced out the majority of the Indians in the state to the point
where scores of nations have been reduced to the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe
located in Polk County, the Tiguas near El Paso and the Kickapoo
Traditional Tribe of Texas near Eagle Pass.

Efforts by these people to establish tribally owned and operated gaming
facilities, to re-acquire their territory and shake off any legal control
over them by the state of Texas have met with the stiff resistance and
legal battles.

This book was published by Texas A&M University. For more information,
write John H. Lindsey Building, Lewis Street, 4354 TAMU, College Station,
Texas 77843; call (800) 826-8911 or visit www.tamu.edu/upress/.