The Comanche Empire (Nonfiction)

Pekka Hamalainen, Yale University Press, $35, Hardcover.
Pekka Hamalainen, Yale University Press, $35, Hardcover.

Hamalainen moves the Comanches up a notch in terms of their resistance to invaders, beyond that of Apaches and Sioux. He claims that their domination of other Plains tribes—Lipans, Wichitas, Tonkawas—and barrier to Hispanic and white advances was so complete that Comancheria, in its heyday of 1750-1850, deserves to be called an empire. Hamalainen insists that the guerrilla raiders, once they were mounted on horses and armed with rifles, truly became “Lords of the Southern Plains,”?eclipsing Europeans in power on the Plains. This claim may be a stretch but, surely, if Iturbide and Maximilian could claim that poor, embattled Mexico was an empire, then we can live with this possible exaggeration. Hamalainen’s point of view is tribal, but there is much on the Comanches’ Indian rivals, while less on the white opponents. For example, Adobe Walls and Ranald Mackenzie of Palo Duro Canyon fame are here, briefly, but Texas Ranger Capt. Jack Hays does not make the cut.

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