The leadership of an exceptionally capable chief is not enough to preserve Apache independence in the face of post-Civil War expansionism. The chief is no luckier in love—in a well-balanced western historical romance by Skimin (Renegade Lightning, p. 73; Gray Victory, 1988; Chikara!, 1984). Resisting, for the most part, the usual literary hyper- reverence for and loopy idealization of Indian ways, Skimin carefully undoes the Hollywood versions of the last, sad days of the free Apaches. Following the advice of their charismatic chief Lazaro, the Chihenne Apache tribes abandon their life as bison followers on the plains and move south to New Mexican territory to become farmers. The move keeps them in the path of the growing US and dooms their existence as a free nation. Relocation also exposes Lazaro to exquisite Carlota Cardenas, fiancÇe of a wealthy and rather grand Mexican landowner. Smitten with Carlota, Lazaro kidnaps her on her wedding day and makes her his wife. Carlota bears him a child, but her loathing for Lazaro never lets up; and when she is at last able to flee the Indian village, she does, taking her son Andres with her. Returning to find her family gone, Carlota is rejected until she marries a half-Mexican US Army officer. Andres grows up, serves heroically in the Union army, gets a law degree, returns to New Mexico, and opens a pro-Indian newspaper. Eventually his close-up view of unjust treatment of the Indians is too much, and Andres joins his father's tribe, taking them on their last raids and seeing them through their final humiliation. Truth and history prevail over bodice-ripping in a sad, well- told story.
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