In­dian Al­liances and the Span­ish in the South­west, 750-1750

Pasatiempo - - In Other Words -

byWilliam B. Carter, Uni­ver­sity of Ok­la­homa Press, 308 pages As au­thorWil­liam B. Carter points out in the pref­ace, In­dian Al­liances and the Span­ish in the South­west, 750-1750 of­fers “an ex­er­cise in eth­no­his­tory broadly con­ceived.” In fact, Carter pro­vides a well­writ­ten, all-in­clu­sive eth­nic, so­cial, and cul­tural his­tory of 1000 years of Na­tive Amer­i­cans’ in­ter­ac­tion and Span­ish con­quest in Mex­ico and in what is to­day the Amer­i­can South­west.

Us­ing his­tor­i­cal records, ori­gin sto­ries, ar­chae­o­log­i­cal find­ings, and secondary sources and in­ter­pre­ta­tions, Carter cov­ers the ori­gins of the Atha­paskans and the Pue­bloans and de­tails mi­gra­tion, ur­ban­iza­tion, and so­cial changes in Mex­ico, the Plains, and the South­west. Lay­ing a foun­da­tion in in­ter­tribal re­la­tion­ships, Carter dis­cusses the Span­ish con­quis­ta­dors and their his­tory in Mex­ico and points north, pro­vid­ing lib­eral bi­o­graph­i­cal in­for­ma­tion about the most im­por­tant con­quis­ta­dores. The last three chap­ters of his book deal with events in New Mex­ico, end­ing with the Pue­blo Re­volt and its im­pacts.

Al­though Carter retells much of Pue­blo and Span­ish his­tory in the NewWorld with lit­tle new in­sight, he does pur­sue the the­sis, how­ever secondary, “that ide­ol­ogy, kin­ship, and en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions were pri­mary fac­tors in­flu­enc­ing eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity and al­liance for­ma­tion” be­tween Pue­blo In­di­ans, Nava­jos, and Apaches. He fre­quently em­pha­sizes the trans­fer of knowl­edge and so­cial in­ter­ac­tion among Pue­bloans and, par­tic­u­larly, south­ern Atha­paskans. He puts in plain words Pue­bloan world­views, sym­bol­ism, and cer­e­mo­ni­al­ism, all of which were to be shat­tered with the ar­rival of the Span­ish, but he also ex­am­ines the prac­tice of tribal in­ter­mar­riage and the in­flu­ence of en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors to demon­strate that In­dian al­liances were pre­served de­spite con­flicts.

Carter tells a good story, and his book is a first-class gen­eral reader for those seek­ing an in­tro­duc­tion to the his­tory and ethnog­ra­phy of South­west­ern Na­tive Amer­i­cans and an over­view of the ar­rival of the Span­ish in the area. Carter is ob­jec­tive and pro­vides read­ers with plenty of his­to­ri­o­graph­i­cal in­for­ma­tion. He fre­quently elab­o­rates about claims that are dif­fi­cult to sub­stan­ti­ate and presents op­pos­ing opin­ions or pro­vides mul­ti­ple points of view when opin­ions dif­fer among his­to­ri­ans and an­thro­pol­o­gists con­cern­ing con­tro­ver­sial top­ics (such as con­flicts be­tween church and state in the Span­ish colonies). In one in­stance that is sig­nif­i­cant in New Mex­ico his­tory, how­ever, he ne­glects this pat­tern, stat­ing flatly that Juan de Oñate had Acoma Pue­blo peo­ples’ feet cut off. While an or­der to do so in­deed ex­ists, it is not clear among his­to­ri­ans whether the or­der was ac­tu­ally car­ried out.

To sup­port his the­sis, Carter por­trays a “mu­tu­al­is­tic, util­i­tar­ian re­la­tion­ship” among Pue­bloans and other nearby tribes, but he can­not ig­nore the many con­flicts that Pue­blo In­di­ans, Nava­jos, and Apaches had with each other or with the Span­ish. Al­though Carter does not pro­vide new in­sight into the his­tory and eth­no­his­tory of the South­west, his book still re­mains a fine and broadly wo­ven in­tro­duc­tion to Na­tive Amer­i­can and Span­ish de­vel­op­ment in what even­tu­ally be­came New Mex­ico.

— To­mas Jaehn

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