JESOS F. DE LA TEJA, Editor
The Wzchzta Indians: Traders of Texas and the Southern Plains, 154o-1845. By F.
Todd Smith. (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2ooo. Pp.
xiii+2o6. Preface, maps, list of abbreviations, notes, bibliography, index.
ISBN 0-89096-952-3. $32.95, cloth.)
Relying on Spanish and Mexican documents, F. Todd Smith embarks on an
exploration of various tribes in the Texas and Plains areas, collectively known as
the Wichita, from the time of European discovery to the United States annexa-
tion of Texas. In this companion work to his The Caddo Indians (1995) and The
Caddos, the Wichitas, and the Unzted States, 1846-z9oz (1996), Smith sifts through
a multitude of manuscripts and other sources to put the Taovaya, Tawakoni,
Iscani, Guchita, and Kichai into their historical context both as native peoples
bound by a common language, and in their relationship to the Southern Plains
region. He acknowledges the lack of research on these groups and attempts to
make order out of chaos.
Smith is generally successful in achieving this goal. He addresses each clan
and its relationships with the others, and tackles the issues the Wichita faced in
dealing with other Texas Indians and with European encroachers. He is detailed
in his account of lives lost to disease and warfare, development of trade patterns,
and the changing Indian policies in Texas, which were often "administered by
separate agencies and . . .wholly at odds with one another" (p 42). Since the
documents he uses only come from European sources, however, it is difficult for
him to get beyond the stereotypical view that all there was to Wichita life was
trade and warfare.
Smith points to the many alien hands through which Wichita lands passed. The
constant swapping between the Spanish and French (with the British on the
peripheries to make things dicey), put the Wichita in a precarious position. The
Tawakoni-Iscani fought with the Spanish because they "provided protection for
the Wichita's 'mortal enemies,' the Apaches" (p 40), and because the French sup-
plied better quality trade items such as shirts, tools, and guns until they left the
area in 1763. In time, the Spanish realized they needed to provide the Wichita
with trade items of equal value in order to "provide the Spaniards of Texas with a
bulwark against the British and other enemies in time of war" (p 54).
Smith has provided a good, readable account of a group that has been largely
ignored by historians. Although he does not provide much interpretation, in
many ways this chronicle does not need it. Scholars can look on this book as an
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 107, July 2003 - April, 2004. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101224/. Accessed September 2, 2015.