Re: Budgets as cultural documents <debate>; Comanches, long

thomas w kavanagh (tkavanag@INDIANA.EDU)
Mon, 19 Feb 1996 12:32:35 -0500

On Mon, 19 Feb 1996 wrote:

> In a message dated 96-02-18 18:44:08 EST, (thomas w
> kavanagh) writes:
> > >more or less successful, to manipulate and control that relation. For
> >Comanches, those manipulations ranged from the Shakedown Danc--young
> >shaming their heros into redistributing the spoils of war... <snip>

> Was the Shakedown Dance a lobbying effort?... The English term
> "shakedown" implies the use of threat to pry something away from its
> owner. Does the Comanche term for the dance imply the same thing?

The reference to 'Shakedown Dance" comes from the 1933 Comanmche Field
Party field notes, specifically from a story told by Tahsuda, describing a
young man's rise in social standing. As given in the notes (see also
Hoebel Comanche Law-ways, p 26-28, for a slightly different version), the
phrase is "Shakedown dance." I have been unable to get a specific Comanche
name for the dance. Clearly it is not the same as a Victory or a Scalp

"The next morning, women dressed like warriors and came to the hero's
tipi and danced. Some lifted up the sides of the tipi and saw him sitting
there. His relatives and parents had brought gifts and had piled them
outside. The leader of the women dancers went in and took the first gift;
then she distributed the gifts saying, "We're seeking for something
that you threw away, or are going to throw away." His father gave away
two horses.
The boy went off on another war party as leader. ... They ... took
scalps and looted the bodies. They took anything they wanted, and then
returned to the main camp. There was a big victory dance almost till
morning and a Shakedown Dance in the morning at the boy's tipi. His father
gave away three horses."

> >Since different Comanches had differential contacts with Euroamericans
> >--Spaniards, Frenchmen, Mexicans, Englishmen, Anglo-Americans, Yankees,
> >and Confederates--there were corresponding variations in the political
> >resources available to the various Comanche groups, with corresponding
> >variations in their political histories.
> Was there differential success among Comanche groups due to differential
> contact?

Very much so. During the period 1786-1820, the Comache groups near New
Mexico received ca 18,000 pesos worth of political *gifts*, not counting
the unaccounted trade. (The purpose of those gifts was to keep Anglos out
of NM); meanwhile, the groups in Texas received less than a third of that
amount. That lesser amount was because Texas was always a backwater in the
New Spain, and resulting in Texas Comanches relying on other resources,
notably horses stolen from Texas and northern Mexico to trade to the
Anglos-Americans in the east. Meanwhile, the Anglos tried to lure the New
Mexico Comanches away from the Spanish alliance to open the way for Anglo
expansion. After the Mexican revolution, (1) New Mexico no longer needed
the Comanches to keep out Anglos, indeed, they wanted the Anglo trade on
the Santa Fe trail. (2) Anglos no longer needed to try to lure the
Comanches from the Spaniards. The result was, in the late 1820s, a
series of lurid propaganda stories, promulgated mostly by Thomas Hart
Benton, Senator from Missouri, which protrayed the Comanches as
bloodthirsty robbers, etc. (I have been unable to verify ANY of those
stories in contemporary new accounts, and many attribute to Comanches
incidents contemporaries attributed to others)

> were there similar efforts by other groups to be included in the
> Comanche "budget?"

It depends on how you would apply this. I suppose that there would have
been some grumbling among those people who did NOT get any horses in such
redistributions, and part of a successful leader's problem would be to
see that it did not go unresolved (The unsuccessful leader, the one who
did not resolve the grumbling, would see his people move away). At the
widest level, there is the interesting incident: ca 1805, a group of
Cheyennes and Arapahoes showed up on the Upper Arkansas and sent a
representative to the New Mexican governor, saying they wanted "peace on
the same terms as with the Comanches." That is, the Comanches were using
their access to the Spanish resources in a political game with their
neighbors to the north; here those neighbors were trying an end-around,
to get to the source. The effort was ultimately unsuccessful, but it did
signal the beginning of the split between Northern and Southern Cheyennes
and Arapahoes.

> Did such contact prompt fundamental changes in Comanche "budgeting
> processes," and, if so, about when did those changes begin to occur?

My argument is that because of those variations in resources, the NUMBER
of Comanche groups changed through time, rather than in the basic
"process." In that sense, it has been going on since the beginning.
However, in the Comanche case: In the 1700s, essentially three Comanche
groups were named; by the 1860s, there were at least six major named
groups. Those changes do not correspond to new migrations or new names for
old groups [except in one case]; rather they are the result of political
fission (and fusion of different "ethnic" groups) as individuals tried to
develop new resources to redistribute and thus to gain social prestige and
a following by alliance with New Mexican Spaniards, horse-trading to
Anglos, stealing Confederate Texas cattle during the Civil War and selling
them to the Federal troops in New Mexico.