The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000 Page: 274
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
rationales for the preservation of native geographic knowledge also
have been developed across disciplines.'
No matter that the pertinent knowledge of trails and campsites was
adopted by the Comanches from their own native predecessors only
after they migrated into Texas in the 1740s; the derivative nature of
"Comanche" geography simply underscores the crucial role of the
Comanches as mediators between Texas aboriginals and the modern
population. When the Comanche leader Mopechucope (mupitsi tsukuh-
pi?, "owl elderly male," Old Owl) dictated his treaty negotiation letter of
March 21, 1844, to Sam Houston, he characterized central and western
Texas as "Comanche land and ever has been."' Old Owl was displaying
his rhetorical skill, downplaying the fact that Comanches usurped con-
trol of the region from Apaches and Tonkawas only decades earlier. But
we must remember that his claim was contextualized by a culture whose
hero was Land Searcher, and thus a kind of Comanche Manifest Destiny
was at work at the very moment that the more powerful version of that
doctrine was being brought to bear.
I first learned about Comanche spatial interest and map sense as a
fieldworker, as I saw these elements frequently exhibited by both men
and women in everyday conversation. The Comanche language is well
suited to spatial talk, for while English normally deals with the distance of
objects in terms of "this" or "that," the comparable Comanche terms
allow the speaker to indicate three grades of relative distance, plus
whether the objects referred to are scattered or out of sight, and this spa-
tial precision is inherent in many other Comanche words as well." The
1 "Historical geosophy" was a name for the study of the history of geographical knowledge
proposed by geographer John K. Wright, "Terrae Incognztae: The Place of the Imagination in
Geography," Annals of the Association ofAmencan Geographers, 37 (Mar., 1947), I 1-14. The present
effort could thus be called "ethnohistorical geosophy." The study of Indian toponyms is an old if
sporadic endeavor within American anthropology, as documented in Thomas F. Thornton,
"Anthropological Studies of Native American Place Naming," American Indian Quarterly, 21
(Spring, 1997), 209-228. On a related note, much attention has recently been given in rural
sociology and cultural resource management to the recognition of American Indian "cultural
landscapes"; for discussion of this term and surrounding issues, see Richard W. Stoffle, David B.
Halmo, and Diane E. Austin, "Cultural Landscapes and Traditional Cultural Properties: A
Southern Paiute View of the Grand Canyon and Colorado River," Amencan Indian Quarterly, 21
(Spring, 1997), 229-249.
2 Dorman H. Winfrey and James M. Day (eds.), The Indian Papers of Texas and the Southwest (5
vols., 1959-1961; reprint, Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1995), II, 8.
'James Armagost, "Comanche Deictic Roots in Narrative Texts," Kansas Working Papers in
Linguistics, 7 (1982), 5-14; James Armagost, "Comanche Narrative: Some General Features and
a Selected Text," Kansas WorkingPapers in Linguistics, 8, no. 2 (1983), 1-29; Wick R. Miller, Newe
Natekwinappeh: Shoshoni Stories and Dictionary, University of Utah Anthropological Papers 94 (Salt
Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1972); John McLaughlin, "Shoshoni Deictic Roots and the
Interface of the Real and Narrative Worlds," University of Oklahoma Papers in Anthropology, 24
(1983), 263-266; Lila Wistrand-Robinson and James Armagost, Comanche Dictionary and Grammar
(Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics and the University of Texas at Arlington, 1990).
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000, periodical, 2000; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101220/m1/320/: accessed June 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.