Empire of the Summer Moon by S. C. Gwynne

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Book by S. C. Gwynne published in 2010

I've started writing brief reviews or summaries of books I've read. This is one of them.

This was a fantastic read about the history of the Comanche tribe of Native Americans. What I appreciated most was that it pulled no punches when discussing the acts the Comanche did. There is, rightly, plenty of criticism about what white people did to Native Americans, but rarely is any critical thinking applied to what the native peoples were doing at the time.

If you’ve listened to Hardcore History, the Comanche reminded me very much of the Mongols. Like the Mongols, Comanche warriors were nomads raised on horses from an early age, until the horse was like an extension of their physical being. At age four they learned to ride pack horses; ponies at age five; colts bareback by six. Children practiced relentlessly with a bow and arrow, shooting hummingbirds and grasshoppers. By a young age they could hit a door knob at 50 yards reliably four times out of five.

In battle, also like the Mongols they could drop back alongside their saddles and use the horse’s body for cover while rapidly firing volleys of arrows. They used shields that were surprisingly good at deflecting bullets; the shields were made of tough buffalo neck hide, with added paper for additional strength.

That fighting competency was used to brutally massacre both other native tribes as well as white settlers who were pushing into Comancheria. The Apache, who were known for their own adept fighting competency and who terrorized white American settlers as well as Mexicans with their raids, were themselves brutally repressed by the Comanche, and pushed westward.


Cutting off the soles of a man’s feet, and forcing him to march on hot sand, laughing

The written record of the brutal Comanche


The written record of whites killed by the Comanche


It wasn’t until the Texas Rangers innovated new tactics in fighting the Comanche, by venturing out into their territory, and targeting the war party leaders in battle (leading the rest to flee due to the bad medicine), as well as taking up the new Colt Six-Shooter revolver, that the white settlers were able to start pushing back on the Comanche.

Later, the death blow to the Comanche would ultimately be the near extinction of the buffalo, their lifeblood, due to white over-hunting.

Another similarity to the Mongols was their brutality. The Mongols did acts like murdering entire towns, leaving white hills of bone and turning nearby roads to mud from the leeching body fat and gristle, to beheading all their enemies who were taller than a wagon wheel.

The Comanche likewise were known for brutality. It was common amongst all native tribes to torture and murder captives, but the Comanche were apparently set apart by their gang rape of women. They purposefully shot pregnant women in the navel, leaving them to die in agony from sepsis days later. They dragged babies behind horseback through prickly pear until the baby was literally torn to pieces. They’d

Comanche society would also not fare well under modern critiques of the “patriarchy.” Comanche men were given extraordinary freedom starting from boyhood. They did not have to perform menial labor like gathering firewood; their only responsibility was to hunt and fight battles. All other labor fell on the women, from managing the camps to processing buffalo (a dirty job that left you covered in blood and fat). Comanche men took multiple wives, and the more wives they had, the more power they projected - not least of which because they had a larger labor pool for handling their affairs.

Spiritually, the Comanche are described as not having a rich framework to

Fact is, the Comanches were strong warriors, and treated their enemies brutally. We’re talking rape, torture, roasting alive - unspeakable acts. And not just towards men, but women and children.

Raping and scalping a 9-month pregnant woman alive, purposefully shooting arrows at her navel. She gave birth to a stillborn baby

Indians do not have pity on a fallen enemy… When Indians fight, the conqueror gives or takes the life of his or her antagonist, and they seldom spare them.


And not just directed at white people, but towards other Indian tribes. This is a tribe that drove out the Apache - noted for their - nearly to genocide.

If you’ve ever read about Genghis Khan or the

The Comanche remind me very much of



https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_St._Peters https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_La_Pointe

1837 Pine Tree treaty - http://images.library.wisc.edu/WI/EFacs/transactions/WT199101/reference/wi.wt199101.i0011.pdf

p30para3 - “ironically, as the cutting of the pine forests progressed, white-tailed deer flourished and the subsistence value of the ceded land actually increased to the Chippewas”

p31para2 - Chief Buffalo’s words, talking about the Ojibwe/Dakota at St. Peters. “The Indians acted like children; they tried to cheat each other and got cheated themselves. When it comes my turn to sell my land, I do not think I shall give it up as they did.”






Use appropriate language. Don’t sugarcoat the past. Use terms like genocide, ethnic cleansing, stolen land, and forced removal to reflect actions taken by colonizers.

https://www.facebook.com/nativegov/videos/496079564277950/ Indigenous Land Acnowledgment: October 14, 2019 Native Governance Center and Lower Phalen Creek Project

Videographer: Robert Pilot


Kate Beane Mary Lyons Rose Whipple Rhiana Yazzie Cantemaza (Neil) McKay

17:15 - works for UN, “been around the globe quite a few times,” been to Germany, Iceland, etc.

18:45 - “where are you from?” - “say hello in your native tongue”

talks about all of humanity living on one globe, earth

20:10 - talks about tending ancestors garden, comments about white people tending to their own ancestral garden

21:00 - seven generations

23:00 - “i can’t speak about ownership, but oneness”

24:15 - another speaker - Nakota - talks about not being represented in Minnesota, look at the attentiveness and uncomfortableness of the old lady LMAO. talks about no representation for Nakota in MN. Land acknowledgment is only a 1st step. trying to do acknowledgment and action at the same time which is hard. talks about suffering mental anguish having to deal with the problem.

27:00 - guy who is half Dakota half Ojibwe. “i get to make both jokes.” “I can’t welcome invaders to my land that has already been invaded” - “treaties have not been upheld”

50:17 - “if you are not indigenous, your land acknowledgment shoudl be….. you should know you are illegally occupying” - should know treaties, how the land came to be

55:30 - wokie says “there’s an ongoing genocide” of native people still

57:00 - wokie says “they still call us Sioux” and says that’s a colonized name. “American Indian” - we’re not Indian

57:45 - lady cites University of Minnesota Duluth land acknowledgement as a good one - https://www.d.umn.edu/about-umd/campus-history/land

1:08:15 - old reiterating point about how white people aren’t white, you’re swedish, chinese, etc.

1:18:00 - guy talks about “decolonization” - colonizers and colonized coming together and talking about truths. use terms “genocide” perpetrated on Dakota people. use terms “ethnic cleansing”, “forced removal.”

1:19:50 - guy talks about acknowledging Maori people in their own language, which they love. however he said he was invited there which will make things different

1:34:00 - Guy is asked how far back to go for land acknowledgments, how other tribes have been in certain areas too but you only hear about one. Guy claims where the Minnesota and Mississippi meet is very particular to the Dakota and other indians will back them up.

1:35:55 - nice screenscrab of them all looking standoffish towards the white guy - BODY POSTURE

1:41:00 -