Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History
Written by S.C. Gwynne
Read by Linda Kietzer, website project manager, University Communications and Marketing
“This fascinating read covers the demise of nomadic Indian tribal life in North America at a time when Manifest Destiny was law of the land. The author has compiled a striking and dramatic narrative that depicts the violent devastation of the times, the evolution of weaponry, and the sophisticated and superior methods by which Indian tribes engaged in battle using horses and arrows, and the ultimate annihilation of a culture.
While tribes were generally decentralized across the Great Plains and did not concentrate power in any one individual, it was Quanah Parker, half Comanche and half white, who rose to notoriety for his outrageous skill as a warrior. He was an exceptionally young chief, known to be ruthless, clever and fearless in battle. An excerpt describes him during the Battle of Blanco Canyon:
‘A large and powerfully built chief led the bunch, on a coal black racing pony. Leaning forward upon his mane, his heels nervously working in the animal’s side, with six-shooter poised in the air, he seemed the incarnation of savage, brutal joy. His face was smeared with black warpaint, which gave his features a satanic look.’
Amazingly, Quanah Parker adapted extremely well to the new life forced upon him and the tribes. He would go on to became a cattle rancher and school board chairman, acted in a movie, and palled around with President Teddy Roosevelt, who invited Parker to his 1905 Inauguration. He donned white man’s clothings and became an expert negotiator. The one thing he refused to do was give up his numerous wives.
This book covers the destruction of a great many things: Indian tribes, nomadic culture, open hunting, bison and horse populations, the great open and unconquered western half of North America. It’s truly a sad and stunning book written by someone who eloquently relates the beauty of the land and the end of an era.”