The Native Americans of the Texas Edwards Plateau 1582–1799. By Maria F. Wade (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003. 293 pp. cloth $39.95).
The two books reviewed here complement each other nicely. The first study by Susan Deeds examines the myriad and complex relations between the native peoples of Nueva Vizcaya, the Acaxee, Xixime, Tepehuan, Tarahumara, Concho, and the hunter-gatherers living in small bands in eastern part of the region in the Bolson de Mapimi. Her study begins in the early seventeenth century, and concludes towards the end of the eighteenth century. The second book by Maria Wade takes up the story toward the end of the seventeenth century, and focuses on the same bands of hunter-gatherers in eastern Nueva Vizcaya, Coahuila, and the Edwards Plateau of Texas. Between the two studies, the history of native contacts with Spaniards has been effectively presented.
Deeds documents missions, primarily Jesuit missions, on what was one of the most difficult mission frontiers on the northern fringe of colonial Mexico. Later missionaries, such as Eusebio Kino, S.J., involved on the Pimeria Alta frontier of northern Sonora, in the late 1680s obtained exemptions for the natives from tribute and labor services to Spanish settlers. Kino took this step perhaps in response to the difficulties the Black Robes experienced in Nueva Vizcaya. The Jesuits had to compete with civil officials who sent native peoples to work for Spanish settlers through repartimiento labor drafts, and Spanish hacienda and mine owners who enticed natives from the missions with jobs that were attractive to some natives who chafed under Jesuit authority. With these competing interests, the Jesuits could not keep natives living on the missions, and did not have the force or support of local civil and military officials to do so. The native peoples found themselves at the bottom of society, and at the bottom of the food chain in economic terms. At times the natives viewed the Jesuits as preparing the way for exploitation through labor drafts. Moreover, there was encroachment of mission lands and water resources so important in an arid region.
Epidemics decimated the native populations on the missions. The natives, particularly the Tepehuan and Tarahumara, also resisted the mission regime and the exploitation through the labor drafts. There were serious revolts during the [End Page 1107] course of the seventeenth-century, and raiding by the nomadic hunter-gatherers from the eastern parts of the region. Numbers of natives, especially Tarahumara, moved into the deep recesses of the western cordillera of the Sierra Madre to escape the Spanish demands for labor. By the mid-eighteenth century many of the older missions had greatly reduced populations that were highly assimilated, and tied into the regional economy and the labor demands for that economy. There had been friction between the Jesuits and Episcopal officials, and one of the issues regarded the payment of tithes by the missions. Moreover, the Jesuits experienced difficulties in financing the mission villages, and found that their stipends did not go very far. In the late 1740s, the Jesuits surrendered a number of the older missions to the Bishop of Durango, in anticipation of expanding the mission frontier into Alta California. The secularization of these older missions was not complete until the mid-1750s.
Deeds outlines the patterns of demographic change, economic development, cultural and biological mixing, resistance and accommodation in a series of well developed and documented chapters. The first chapter sets the stage by defining the geography and ecology of the region, and the culture and social organization of the different native groups in the region. The author then documents Spanish expansion in the region and the establishment of the missions, and chapters follow focus on rebellion and demographic crisis at the end of the seventeenth-century, changes in the region following the rebellions of the 1690s, and the state of the missions in the 1740s that led to the decision to voluntarily secularize the older missions in...