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