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Reviewed by:
  • Captive Arizona, 1851-1900
  • James A. Wilson
Captive Arizona, 1851-1900. By Victoria Smith. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009. Pp. 294. Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN 9780803210905, $40.00 cloth.)

Establishing captivity, involving Native American, Mexican, Mexican American, and white captives and captors, as a considerable influence in Arizona history might seem daunting. Yet Victoria Smith, a Native American specialist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, takes up the challenge with gusto. Although the extent to which she achieves her goal might be questioned, the attempt has unearthed new information, brought to light firsthand accounts, and evoked insights that should spark interest among southwestern specialists.

Of the book's six chapters, the first three are the most effective. They deal with better-known figures: Olive Oatman, a five-year captive of the Yavapais and Mojaves, who lectured widely on her ordeal and eventually became the wife of John Fairchild in Sherman, Texas; Feliz Telles, who became Mickey Free, Arizona's most notable Apache captive and the subject of the author's doctoral dissertation; and Bessie Brooks, the Yavapai girl adopted by Judge Hezekiah and Mary Brooks of Prescott, who defied a territorial law prohibiting interracial marriage to become Mrs. James B. Edger, only to fall victim to gendered racism in her legal struggle to achieve heirship. Several intriguing captives are only partially developed, despite Professor Smith's prodigious archival effort on behalf of "Arizona 'back-row' characters." (ix) One, a white woman, probably named Harris, who, when freed, wanted to return to her Chiricahua Apache captors. Two others were Dji-li-kinne, a white captive of the White Mountain Apaches, who became acculturated and subsequently married into the Chiricahuas, and Santiago McKinn, an Irish-Mexican boy taken by Geronimo's band in 1885, who, when turned over to the military, resisted rejoining his parents and white society. The more than twenty [End Page 214] cases studied will, the author believes, expose race, class, and gender, "the soft underbelly of territorial history" (xiv).

Captive Arizona also contains softness. The contention that captivity in Arizona was "racially and culturally distinct" (xiii) is not substantiated and could have benefited from at least passing comparison with studies bearing on other parts of the region. It is also not clear from the text that white males "perceived the ability to protect their women and children from Native American males as a proof of their 'manifest destiny' to possess indigenous land" (2).

The book's story demands telling. Its significance need not be inflated. Of less consequence are misspellings (Sylvester Mowry is rendered "Mowery" and James Carleton becomes "Carlton"), the wrong date for the Arizona Territory's organic act (1863, not 1861),and reference to territorial legislatures as "congresses." This superbly researched work, reflective of the Arizona Historical Society's documentary wealth, inexplicably fails to acknowledge, in both notes and bibliography, the pertinent scholarship of Carl Coke Rister and Gary Clayton Anderson and, most puzzlingly, The Apache Diaries (2000) of Grenville and Neil Goodwin. Nevertheless, Captive Arizona fits nicely in their company.

James A. Wilson
Texas State University-San Marcos


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