The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 316
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
of a deceased lay historian provides a fascinating glimpse into the lives and cul-
tures of the various late-nineteenth-century Apache peoples. Sherry Robinson
has done a remarkable job intertwining what must have previously been simply
an archival and historical mess. Indeed, according to her own account, Robin-
son painstakingly organized, reordered, and recreated the lifetime work of Eve
Ball on the Apache. Robinson faced the additional problem of Ball's own
"exaggerated" style and her tendency to "spruc[e] up her friends' speech" (p.
xiii). Still, the untangling of Ball's rather romantic insertions and disorganiza-
tion seems to have been worth it. "I felt obliged to mine these tailings," Robin-
son writes, to "tell the untold stories, and be as faithful to Eve's purpose and
that of her Apache friends" (p. xii). Much to her credit, Robinson warns the
reader throughout the book when Ball may have "spruced" some fact or story.
After the warning, though, Robinson usually defends Ball's interpretation.
One might compare the process, say, to Robert Utley's retelling and mining
of Stanley Vestal's research on Sitting Bull in The Lance and the Shzeld. Utley
did not have to deal, though, to the same extent, with Vestal's possible embel-
lishments. And, Robinson takes a different approach than did Utley. Rather
than telling a reader a comprehensive or cohesive story regarding a single
person, people, or event, Robinson uses a more post-modern approach.
Translations "of Apache statements reveal that they were articulate and even
poetic in their own language" (p. xiii). The result, then, as "the Apaches
speak for themselves," is a highly unusual but fascinating book, as it jumps
from topic to topic, present to past, and voice to voice. The breadth of topics
covered is astounding. Ball's and Robinson's account includes: women war-
riors; Geronimo's cowardice; Apache U.S. Army Scouts; Al Sieber's murder;
the infamous Apache outlaw, the Apache Kid; whites who "went Indian";
Apache racist views toward whites; the tenuous relationship with the Co-
manches; Bosque Redondo from the Apache perspective; and Apache materi-
al culture and religion (which, after the introduction of Christianity, became
syncretic). Robinson concludes the book with a biography and analysis of Ball
as a historian.
My only complaint is that Robinson lets the Apaches speak too much for
themselves. As Robinson hoped, she mined "real nuggets" of wisdom from the
Apaches and from Ball, but she teases us with them without explaining their re-
al meaning or offering the reader a larger interpretation. Even a cursory
glance at the material reveals the depth of Apache poetry and mythology
(here, stated in its original meaning, as a truth better understood through po-
etry and metaphysics than through scientific or materialist fact). For example,
if Ball or her informants did exaggerate their past, why? There must be a deep-
er meaning to the exaggeration than a desire to lie. Apache myths may, ulti-
mately, tell us far more about who and what they are and were than Apache
Still, Robinson's book will prove highly useful to anyone researching the
Apaches, and, especially to those teaching courses on either American Indians
or the history of the Southwest. Most of the information found in Apache Voices
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003, periodical, 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/m1/368/: accessed December 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.