Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 29, No. 3, Summer 2009, pp. 245
This fascinating book foregrounds the oral history of Chevato (Billy Chiwat), a Lipan Apache who in May 1870 captured eleven-yearold Herman Lehmann near Fredericksburg, Texas. Orphaned when young, Chevato joined the Mescalero Apaches, who were the ones actually responsible for the kidnapping of Herman and his brother Willie. In middle age, through the influence of the powerful Comanche Quanah Parker, Chevato became a Comanche and moved to Oklahoma where he lived until his death in 1931.
Non-Native captivity narratives, which have been a familiar part of American culture for centuries, usually focus on the crystallizing events of captivity and do not follow the subject's postcaptivity life. Thus in many captivity narratives the whole experience is decontextualized. Yet the historical record reveals ongoing relationships between Native Americans and European Americans before and after what might be called "a captivity event." Continued contact was certainly more likely if a non-Native captive became transculturated to Native culture, as Herman Lehmann did, but then returned (perhaps unwillingly) to his culture of origin.
Chevato complements and complicates the two popular books published in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries based on Herman Lehmann's experiences: A Condensed History of the Apache and Comanche Indian Tribes for Amusements and General Knowledge (1899), also called Indianology, by Jonathan H. Jones, and Nine Years Among the Indians: 1870- 1879 (1927), by J. Marvin Hunter. Although the subtitle of Chevato seems to define the man by his role as one of Lehmann's captors, in fact the book focuses on Chevato's biography and includes Lehmann only when the two men's lives intersect. Surprisingly, these convergences were more frequent and more friendly than the initial captor/captive relationship might suggest. Indeed, the authors conclude that Chevato's entire life was "interwoven, in a strange and unfathomable way" with Lehmann's.