THE LAST COMANCHE CHIEF: The Life and Times of Quanah Parker by Bill Neeley

THE LAST COMANCHE CHIEF: The Life and Times of Quanah Parker

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A sympathetic portrait of a Native American leader perhaps best known to fans of Lonesome Dove. Quanah Parker (1850-1911) was among the last of his people's free-ranging warriors. Born when Texas was newly a state, Parker ascended to the rank of war chief through exceptional acts of bravery in almost constant combat (the name Comanche comes from the Ute language and means something approximating ""anyone who wants to fight me all the time""). He was more clement than many of his fellow warriors, shunning the traditional practice of torturing captured enemies, and this earned him the grudging respect of the Anglos who were then swarming over Texas seeking the wealth of the new land (and who, it should be noted, were just as tenaciously warlike as the indigenes). But Parker was more than just a fighter, as poet and historian Neeley is careful to point out. A skilled diplomat, he negotiated for the Comanches an initially tentative, eventually enduring peace with the invaders that spared his people the indignities bestowed on other nations that fought back against the white man. The author sometimes wanders from sympathy into the dangerous territory of hagiography, making angels out of fallible mortals, and he is capable of writing silly sentences--e.g., ""The spiritual dimension of Native American life had for centuries sustained the red man."" Some of the supporting cast could stand better development, too, for example, important, figures such as legendary rancher Charles Goodnight and Texas Ranger Sul Ross, once Parker's enemies, later his friends. Still, this is a good biography of a man who deserves remembrance and a useful introduction to Comanche history and lifeways as well. Valuable for its information, if not its style.

Pub Date: July 21st, 1995
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Wiley