White Indians and Black Thoughts

I don’t know how true this is

So there was a bit of traffic back and forth between America and Comancheria in the 19th century. White people being captured and raised by Comanches. The captives being recaptured years later and taken back into normal white society. Indians being defeated and settled on reservations and taught to adopt white lifestyles. And throughout the book’s description of these events, there was one constant: 

All of the white people who joined Indian tribes loved it and refused to go back to white civilization. All the Indians who joined white civilization hated it and did everything they could to go back to their previous tribal lives.

The “last Comanche chief” Quanah Parker was born to a white mother, who was
unhappily repatriated

Parker was adopted [kidnapped–Wikipedia!] by the Comanche and lived with them for 24 years, completely forgetting her white ways. She married a Comanche chieftain, Peta Nocona, and had three children with him, including the last free Comanche chief, Quanah Parker. 

At approximately age 34, Parker was discovered and forcibly relocated by the Texas Rangers, but spent the remaining 10 years of her life refusing to adjust to life in white society. At least once, she escaped and tried to return to her Comanche family and children, but was again brought back to Texas. She found it difficult to understand her iconic status to the nation, which saw her as having been redeemed from the Comanches. Heartbroken over the loss of her family, she stopped eating and died of influenza in 1871.

As for Quanah Parker he seems to have thrived, even after finally surrendering to the US government and moving on to the reservation.

Herman Lehman was kidnapped by Apaches as a boy but ended up a Comanche

A few months after Lehman’s capture, the Apaches lied and told Lehmann they had killed his entire family, depriving him of any incentive to attempt escape. The Apaches took Herman Lehmann to their village in eastern New Mexico. He was adopted by a man named Carnoviste and his wife, Laughing Eyes. A year after his capture, General William T. Sherman passed through Loyal Valley on an inspection tour. Augusta Lehmann Buchmeier was granted a private audience with Sherman to plead for his assistance in finding her son. 

The Apaches called Lehmann “En Da” (White Boy). He spent about six years with them and became assimilated into their culture, rising to the position of petty chief. As a young warrior, one of his most memorable battles was a running fight with the Texas Rangers on August 24, 1875, which took place near Fort Concho, about 65 miles west of the site of San Angelo, Texas. Ranger James Gillett nearly shot Lehmann before he realized he was a white captive. When the Rangers tried to find Lehmann later, he escaped by crawling through the grass… 

Around the spring of 1876, Herman Lehmann killed an Apache medicine man avenging his killing of Carnoviste, his chief and master. Fearing revenge, he fled from the Apaches and spent a year alone in hiding. He became lonely and decided to search for a Comanche tribe that he might join. He observed a tribe all day long then entered the camp just after dark. At first they were going to kill him, however, a young warrior approached him that spoke the Apache tongue. Lehmann then explained his situation—that he was born white adopted by the Indians and that he left the Apaches after killing the medicine man. Another brave came forward verifying his story and he was welcomed to stay. He joined the Comanches who gave him a new name, Montechema (meaning unknown). 

Lehman fought the Texas Rangers until he was brought on to the reservation by Quanah Parker after holding out longer. He never fully adjusted to civilization, eventually returning to his Apache friends, after spending some time as a celebrity

 Throughout his life, Herman Lehmann drifted between two very different cultures. Lehmann was a very popular figure in southwestern Oklahoma and the Texas Hill Country, appearing at county fairs and rodeos. To thrill audiences, such as he did in 1925 at the Old Settlers Reunion in Mason County, he would chase a calf around an arena, kill it with arrows, jump off his horse, cut out the calf’s liver, and eat it raw.

That the nomadic life might be preferable to the modern, all else being equal, is certainly believable.

And the phenomenon of whites preferring the Indian lifestyle wasn’t just limited to the Comanches of the 19th century. A paper by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture (I wonder if they’re related to Steve) notes that: “By the close of the colonial period, very few if any Indians had been transformed into civilized Englishmen. Most of the Indians who were educated by the English – some contemporaries thought all of them – returned to Indian society at the first opportunity to resume their Indian identities. Ont he other hand, large numbers of Englishmen had chosen to become Indians – by running away from colonial society to join Indian society, by not trying to escape after being captured, or by electing to remain with their Indian captors when treaties of peace periodically afforded them the opportunity to return home.” 

It then goes on to quote no less a figure than Benjamin Franklin, who had independently noticed the same phenomenon: 

“When an Indian Child has been brought up among us, taught our language, and habituated to our Customs, yet if he goes to see his relations and makes one Indian Ramble with them, there is no persuading him ever to return. But when white persons of either sex have been taken prisoner young by the Indians, and lived a while with them, tho’ ransomed by their Friends, and treated with all imaginable tenderness to prevail with them to stay among the English, yet in a Short time they become disgusted with our manner of life, and the care and pains that are necessary to support it, and take the first good Opportunity of escaping again into the Woods, from whence there is no reclaiming them.”

History must be full of instances of nomads coming up against settler cultures, but few must have been across such a chasm of difference as that between nomadic Indians and modern westerners. It must have been like stepping into a time machine for both sides. And of course the nomads were the chads

Whites who met Comanches would almost universally rave about how imposing and noble and healthy and self-collected and alive they seemed; there aren’t too many records of what the Comanches thought of white people, but the few there are suggest they basically viewed us as pathetic and stunted and defective.

Like Nietzsche, the Comanche saw modern Christians as “botched” people. But then the Germans romanticized American Indians, so he may very well have known of and been influenced by the phenomenon mentioned above.

Do we pay for modern life with the vitality we saw in those Comanches?

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