Heritage, Volume 11, Number 3, Summer 1993 Page: 25
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Berthrong has written a stimulating and
detailed history of the last step of the Anglo
American incursion and destruction of the
Native American cultures that laid the
basis for the modern Anglo American
Oklahoma. His approach is matter of fact.
His information is derived from newspaper
clippings as well as detailed military documents
and official records. Although ostensibly
focusing on the way the Cheyenne
and Arapaho adapted to the onslaught of
the Anglo American society, Berthrong's
book provides the reader with far greater
insight into the contradictions inherent in
the Anglo American society. These are
contradictions that are still to be resolved.
Although the reservation system was
established prior to 1875, it was in the
spring of that year, when warfare ended on
the Southern Plains, that the Cheyenne
and Arapaho began to feel the full weight
of the Anglo-American invasion. All too
soon the buffalo herds upon which they
depended for their livelihood were decimated
and no longer able to sustain themselves,
let alone support humans. Like
many other native peoples, after their
economy was destroyed, the Arapaho and
Cheyenne were forced to rely on the munificence
of the Anglo society that was
little interested in them and envious of
their land. Food and shelter became tools
to be manipulated to promote docile and
During the 30 years considered in this
book, it is estimated that the Cheyenne
and Arapaho populations dropped more
than 20 percent while the Anglo-American
population grew by leaps and bounds.
The destruction was due to high rates of
starvation, infant mortality, malnutrition,
and infectious diseases. Many people died
of tuberculosis while others suffered from
arthritis and trachoma. Health care was
The Anglo-Americans saw little reason
why "they" - the Indians - "needed" so
much land that "they" did not "use", when
"we"- the Anglo Americans - not only
"needed" the land but "knew" how to use it.
Little did the Anglo Americans foresee
that their agricultural practices were going
to produce the dust bowl half a century
later. Little did they care that having
disemboweled the Cheyenne and Arapaho
societies, the options available to the In
dians were very different to the options
available to the Anglo Americans.
The Anglo Americans, as members of
an agrarian society, saw no reason why the
Indians could not pull themselves up by
their boot straps and farm. There was little
interest and no understanding that what
made sense to a transplanted farmer from
Ohio or Europe did not make sense to an
Arapaho who had hunted all his life. As
Berthrong comments, during the last decades
of the 19th century: "It was the
policy of the United States government to
grind the Cheyenne into cultural submission
and remold them into replicas of white,
Christian farmer-citizens..." But then, even
when the Cheyenne and Arapaho were
willing, the lack of the right tools and
seeds, among other things, and the halfhearted
attempts to provide them with the
necessary knowledge, left the interest stillborn
and made it all the more evident that
the purported desire to civilize the Indians
was little more than sloganeering to salve
the European conscience. On top of this:
"... crop yields were too low to support even
efficient white farmers on one-quarter
sections of land similar to those allotted to
the ... Cheyenne and Arapaho...".
Attempts to "educate" Arapaho and
Cheyenne children resulted in adults estranged
and alienated from their own cultures
but neither integrated nor accepted
by the dominant Anglo culture. They were
condemned to cultural limbo. In an attempt
to re-integrate themselves into their cultural
traditions, many became members of the
Peyote Cult while others reaffirmed their
faith in the Sun Dance and/or the traditional
After 1887, the General Allotment Act
stripped the Cheyenne and Arapaho of
seven-eighths of their land: 3,770,000 of
4,300,000 acres! By then the abuse of the
Cheyenne had become codified in law and
practice: "Racial prejudice prevented satisfactory
protection of the Cheyenne's and
Arapaho's property. White juries with
disturbing frequency ignored the clear intent
of laws and substantial evidence to
award verdicts that were destructive to the
economic interests of the Indians. Hundreds
of thousands of dollars desperately
needed to sustain Indian families were lost
when court cases involving unethical
business practices ... were not prosecuted in
behalf of the Indians."
And so the story goes, on and on.
Berthrong's book details the systematic destruction
of the two Native American cul
tures to the advantage of the members of
the Anglo-American culture. He details
the traditional conflicts between different
Native American cultures, the Native
American cultures and the Anglo-American
culture, and different sectors of the
Anglo-American culture such as the "turf'
wars between the Department of Defense
and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He
details the lack of adequate budgets and the
lack of desire to fulfill treaty commitments.
He details the perfidious nature of the
Anglo-American invaders. Berthrong
makes "us" think about "our" history:
Berthrong's book is a tacit reminder that a
society that does not learn from its mistakes
is condemned to repeat them.
Dr. Lawrence A. Nixon and
the White Primary
Conrey Bryson, Southwestern Studies No.
42, University of Texas at El Paso, Texas
Western Press, El Paso, Texas, 1992.
Review by R.B. Brown, a research professor
for the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e
Historia and caretaker of Paquime in Casas
Although "Dr. Lawrence A. Nixon and
the White Primary" was first published in
1974, its republication in 1992 is quite
timely. It is very gentle but powerful; it
vastly understates the horrors of segregation
as practiced in Texas. It is short, to-thepoint,
and easy to read. The chapters that
describe Dr. Nixon and his family provide
the humanity. The chapters that discuss
the political machinations provide the
drama, while the chapters that discuss the
legal aspects provide the weight. There is
something for everyone.
Bryson's narrative is an eclectic mixture
of different vignettes that provide a descriptive
context for El Paso's 20th century
social history. The story line is straightforward:
Dr. Nixon, a registered and voting
Democrat, is denied access to the Democratic
primaries due to the color of his skin.
Twice he willingly becomes a test case.
The cases wind their ways through the
legal system and 20 years later, Dr. Nixon
gets to vote again.
After the Civil War, Texas remained
more southern than western. As the Re
publican Party fell into disrepute and various
special interest parties came and went,
the Democratic Party established control
to the degree that those selected in the
HERITAGE * SUMMER 1993 25
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 11, Number 3, Summer 1993, periodical, Summer 1993; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45416/m1/25/: accessed April 23, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.