An appropriately fast-paced life of Comanche leader Quanah Parker and his band, the last Native free riders on the plains.
Former Time editor and correspondent Gwynne (The Outlaw Bank: A Wild Ride into the Secret Heart of BCCI, 1993, etc.) approaches Parker’s life as news, opening with an intriguing gambit—namely, that Parker, who died in 1911, had an Anglo mother who, as he said, “love Indian and wild life so well, no want to go back to white folks.” Where his mixed blood might have been a demerit in other Indian groups—and certainly in white society of the time—Parker rose quickly to the leadership of the Quahadi band of Comanches as a young man of perhaps only 20. As Gwynne notes, the Comanches kept the Spanish empire from spreading onto the plains beyond Texas, making even the Apaches farther west seem a mild threat by comparison. The Quahadi band, whom he characterizes as “magnificently aloof,” were the toughest of the lot. When Americans entered the picture in the 1830s and beyond, the Quahadis fought them so hard that by the 1870s whole counties formerly settled by Texas ranchers and farmers were depopulated. Parker’s tough leadership eventually proved no match for the combined weight of Texas Rangers, the U.S. Army and other heavily armed enemies, who finally broke the Quahadi resistance after removing other Comanche bands to reservations and reducing their number to no more than 2,000. After surrender, Parker continued to insist on preserving Comanche ways, particularly an illegal peyote cult. Gwynne considers Parker alongside Geronimo, the better-known Apache leader, and finds the latter wanting in the comparison. Parker remained a leader of his people to the end, writes the author, one who “looked resolutely forward toward something better” rather than surrendering to embitterment or allowing himself to be put on display as a wild Indian now tamed. “I no monkey,” he insisted.
A welcome contribution to the history of Texas, Westward expansion and Native America.