Monday, 13 February 2012

Fragments of the Summer Moon

These are parts I found myself underlining in Empire of the Summer Moon.

"They were especially worried by surveyors, determined men who practised a dark and incomprehensible magic intended to deprive the Indians of their lands. Even worse, the dark magic seemed to work. The Comanches killed them in horrible ways whenever the opportunity arose."

What's interesting is a near stone-age people seeing science as a 'dark and incomprehensible magic', yet even through the murk of a thousand-year gap in understanding, still grasping the essential intent and consequence of the work. They had it pretty much right.

"She was 'Nautdah' now, 'Some-one Found' the name given to her by Peta Nocona whose name means 'He Who Travels Alone and Returns'." 

Cynthia Ann Parker was captured by the Comanche at a young age and raised in the tribe. She became the wife of the Chief Peta Nocona and their son Quanah Parker became the first, and last, Great Cheif of the Comanches.

Other Indian names were never correctly translated until the 20th century. They weren't unknown, just too dirty for the academics to print. One was called 'Dick Won't Go Down' another was 'Coyote Vagina'. 

"The main Comanche Chief, Pobishequano, 'Iron Jacket', emerged from the swirling masses of horseman and rode forward. Iron Jacket was not just a war chief. He was also a great medicine man. Instead of a buckskin shirt he wore iron mail, an ancient piece of Spanish armour."

The battle described above took place in 1858. I have no idea when the Spanish stopped using mail coats on their troops.

On Comanche child rearing - "At night they listened to their elders tell terrifying stories of Piamampits the Big Cannibal Owl, a mythological creature who dwelt in a cave in the Wichita Mountains and came out by night ton eat hungry children."

From a description of the death of Peta Nocona, Comanche chief. - "He was nude to the waist, his body streaked with bright pigments. he wore two eagle plumes in his hair, a disk of beaten gold around his neck embossed with a turtle, broad gold bands on his upper arms, and fawn-skin leggings trimmed with scalplocks." 

"There were only a few casualties in this skirmish, among them four blind and crippled old Kiowas who had their heads cloven with axes wielded by Ute women, who had been brought along, it seems, to help their mates commit what whites might have considered war atrocities."

And finally

"Less than half an hour had elapsed when the Indians began to mass on the open ground in front of the old adobe ruins, and again the soldiers heard the 'sharp, quick whiz of the Indians rifle balls.' They also heard something very strange: a bugle blaring periodically from the enemy's ranks, blowing the opposite of whatever the army bugler blew. If the federal bugles sounded 'advance', he would blow 'retreat'. And so on. The Indian bugler was every bit as good as the white buglers, and each time he blew the soldiers would erupt into laughter, in spite of themselves."


2 comments:

  1. "There were only a few casualties in this skirmish, among them four blind and crippled old Kiowas who had their heads cloven with axes wielded by Ute women, who had been brought along, it seems, to help their mates commit what whites might have considered war atrocities."

    LOL.

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  2. S.C. Gwynne deals with the complex interrelationship between Ango-American violence and Native American violence by pointing out that pretty much everyone was horrid.

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