Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History
by S.C. Gwynne, Scribner, New York, 2010, $27.50.
Studies of Quanah Parker and the Comanches aren’t new. Pekka Hämäläinen put forth the Comanche Empire argument in his massive (and highly academic) The Comanche Empire (Yale University Press, 2008), while many biographies have dissected Quanah, including William T. Hagan’s Quanah Parker, Comanche Chief (University of Oklahoma Press, 1993), and Bill Neeley’s The Last Comanche Chief: The Life and Times of Quanah Parker (JohnWiley and Sons, 1995). Yet S.C. Gwynne, a former journalist for Time and Texas Monthly and now a reporter for The Dallas Morning News, combines the two elements to give Quanah and the Comanches an epic scope in this absorbing and informative New York Times best seller.
Son of a Comanche chief and a white Texian girl captured by the Comanches in 1836, Quanah became a chief himself. A fearless warrior, he led his tribe in a fierce struggle against white encroachment, then guided the Comanches down the white man’s road and became a national celebrity. He rode in Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade.
Though Gwynne doesn’t really add anything new to Quanah lore, unlike Hagan and Neeley he spends more time chronicling Quanah’s warrior years and less time on the rez.Yet his book is both panoramic and bittersweet—styled much like the 2006 best-selling Western history Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West , by Hampton Sides. “No tribe in the history of North America had more to say about the nation’s destiny,” Gwynne writes.“Quanah was merely the final product of everything they had believed and dreamed of and fought for over a span of 250 years.”
Originally published in the February 2011 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here.