Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 27, No. 2, Spring 2007, pp. 142-43.
F. Todd Smith's work provides the first detailed history of the Indians of Texas and the Near Southwest, an area encompassing parts of present day Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma over a seventy-four year period.
Foremost, it highlights the competing efforts of the Spanish, French, American, and later Texan governments to control and maintain boundaries in the region, much of which depended on the ability of colonial powers to provide trade goods to tribes, and to supply assistance in the form of protection against then-existing enemy tribes. The Spanish inability consistently to provide trade goods and the growing intercession of illegal colonial traders in one another's "territories" created a pattern of shifting trade and conflict that further contributed to the political instability and frequent demographic shifts of local populations.
From Dominance to Disappearance specifically highlights several European influences, including the appointment of tribal leaders by colonial governors; the importance of giving trade goods as gifts to establish and maintain alliance, friendship, and military support from tribes against other tribes and colonial powers; the use of trade as incentives to raid from competing Indian and Anglo groups; and the ways colonial powers contested boundaries and the rights to trade in specific areas.
Maintaining numerical superiority over Euro-Americans through the first half of this period allowed Native populations to influence directly the economic, military, and political affairs of the region. The period after Mexican independence from Spain (1820- 1835) and Texan independence from Mexico (1836-1845), however, resulted in the brutal and rapid decline of Native peoples. As their power and population quickly decreased, so did their ability to resist increased settlement and hostilities. Within twenty-five years of gaining independence from Mexico, Texas had removed all Indians except the AlabamaCoushatta from its borders.
Smith addresses the numerous influences that led to Native population declines in this region, such as disease, waning subsistence bases, increased dependence on Anglo food sources, alcohol, warfare, forced indebtedness, a struggling mission experience, encroaching Anglo settlement, pressure to sell their lands, and repeated relocations. He demonstrates how varied Anglo powers strategically courted and supplied tribes when it benefited their interests, then ignored and neglected them when their support was no longer needed. He also provides examples of the greed of many traders, Indian agents, the U.S. government, the Texas Militia, and settlers, as well as how Texas presidents held alternating war and peace policies, and how the U.S. aided Indian raids into Mexico.