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Sunday, 21 March 2010

The Indian Wars - watch out redskins, bang, shoot, kill.

It's a complex subject that could, indeed does, fill many volumes - miles and miles of celluloid have been shot, both fact and fiction, on the subject and these days it's not really a subject that is in vogue with film or book. Maybe it's still a part of history that we have yet to come to terms with, especially in the western genre where whilst it is true there have been many intelligent, sympathetic novels centered around the subject ,there have been a hell of a lot more, cowboy and Indian stories; the noble white man with God on his side socks it to the mindless savage - brute force is all these heathens understand.

The Indian wars were not simply a case of white Americans against the red natives, but at differing points in history, the Spanish, English and French were notably at war with the native Americans. I myself, am not qualified or knowledgeable enough to make any final assessment on the Indian wars. They represent a part of history, with blame and shame on both sides. But it is history all the same, a part of a different world to the one we have today - though there are still wrongs being committed on nations by nations around the world...perhaps there always will be. Maybe it's an intrinsic part of the human experience - I want that gold, oil, land, woman, death star (delete where applicable for conflict of choice.)

Now for the purpose of fiction, film or print, it is usually the American Indian Wars that we turn to - the period used by so many cowboy and Indian tales. The publisher of my own westerns, the wonderful Robert Hale LTD don't want novels centered around The Indian Wars, maybe of the opinion that the oppression of the minority by powerful aggressors are not the stuff of entertainment in the modern world. And maybe they are correct in this assumption - and of course could one do this complex subject justice in a 45,000 word adventure? I think not and you write for your market. But all the same you won't find the Indians portrayed as mindless dumb savages in modern fiction. There are a great many books that deal brilliantly with the Indian wars - Terry C Johnston's Sioux Dawn is, I think, remarkable and Larry Mcmurtry's Lonesome Dove series has a lot to say on the subject. Hell, they don't give the Pulitzer for nothing, you know.


But maybe the time is now right for the definitive Indian wars novel , the book to end all books on the subject, the one book to rule them all- I can feel it in the air. And someday soon someone out there is going to write it....the lucky bastard!

7 comments:

Mark E. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark E. said...

J.W. Wilbarger wrote "Indian Depredations in Texas" in the 1880s. It is a very thick piece, taken from interviews of witnesses, survivors and family members. It is not "politically correct." Keep in mind he saw his brother scalped and die a couple of years later. That in mind, it is an interesting and fascinating study of not only the war that raged in Texas, but also the mind-set of those earlier settlers. Were all Indians bad? No. Were all whites good? Absolutely not. I think what was at hand were two cultures at opposite ends of their view of "right and wrong." Keep in mind to, the attitudes gained in the 1800s were handed down to the next generations ... I had an uncle, born in 1920, who hated the Indians as much as his grandfather. Perhaps the most intriguing, and sad, story is that of Cynthia Ann Parker, captured by the Comanches when she was 9, married, had children and was re-taken by whites in 1860. She was Comanche by then, and died a heart-broken woman.

ARCHAVIST said...

And of course the Ann Parker story influenced The Searchers somewhat.

Nik said...

Plenty of novels do the subject justice - with a capital 'J'. Dances with Wolves was excellent, Hanta Yo was highly regarded though you probably won't see it on bookshelves now... Many of the constraints/strictures are due to the political correct brigade who have no sense of humour, no sense of history and, possibly, no sense at all...

Mark E. said...

Was told, don't know how true it is, that the major influence on The Searchers was the story of Britt Johnson.

andrea said...

I'm no expert either, but I did once know someone who was an expert. She said that the native Americans nowadays didn't like books/films that sentimentalised them too much either.Sometimes, books/films do swing from showing Indians as savages to hard done by nobles. What they want are just books/films that show them how they really were, a mixed bunch with good and bad in their midst, like anyone else, no bias either way.

D M Harrison said...

I've a follow up to 'The Comanche's Revenge' - 'The Comanche Fights Again'. It's due out in June 2013 and involves the Palo Duro Canyon battle which more or less wiped out the resistance of the Native American Indians to going and staying on the Reservations.
Robert Hale Ltd, my wonderful publisher, has requested (that might not be the word :( ) no more fights between the Cavalry and Indians.
It's sometimes difficult to ignore the conflicts of the various groups when you write about a period in history which lasts less than a 100 years.