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  • Apache Adaptation to Hispanic Rule by Matthew Babcock
  • Joaquín Rivaya-Martínez
Apache Adaptation to Hispanic Rule. By Matthew Babcock. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016. Pp. 299. Appendix, bibliography, index.)

This excellent book is a welcome addition to the growing scholarship on Ndé (Apache)-Hispanic relations in today’s U.S. Southwest and northern Mexico. Drawing on an impressive array of sources, Babcock explores three hundred years of Apache-Hispanic diplomacy, trade, and warfare. The bulk of the book, however, deals with the period after 1786, when, he argues, Spaniards’ partially successful efforts to settle “Apaches de paz” (peaceful Apaches) in establecimientos (settlements) near presidios and towns gave rise to “the earliest and most extensive system of military-run reservations in the Americas” (2).

Whereas earlier monographs on Apache-presidio relations focus on the Chiricahua experience at Janos, Sonora, this book discusses Ndé-Hispanic relations across the vast expanse of territory once occupied by Apaches, from Arizona to the lower Rio Grande basin, and from the 1540s to the 1840s. Babcock deals mostly with the ancestors of the peoples known today as Chiricahuas and Mescaleros, and, to a lesser extent, with the Western, Jicarilla, and Lipan Apaches. A series of carefully crafted maps locate the different Apache groups and establecimientos and the main Spanish settlements at different times. Contrary to earlier scholarship, Babcock emphasizes the benefits of peaceful coexistence to Apaches and Spaniards.

According to Babcock, in exchange for a commitment to reside near [End Page 117] a Spanish settlement, stop raiding the subjects of the Crown, and wage war against Spain’s enemies (including other Apaches), Spaniards provided Apaches de paz with such incentives as food rations, livestock, gifts of tobacco and clothing, and military protection. In a significant departure from earlier Spanish policies, the scheme did not involve a systematic attempt to Christianize the Apaches. Through this program, combined with military offensives against Apaches deemed hostile, Spanish authorities expected to achieve a gradual pacification of the frontier and a parallel reduction in military expenditures, both of which they accomplished to some extent. Pushed initially by a prolonged drought and frequently under military pressure from Spaniards, Comanches, and other indigenous enemies, thousands of Apaches engaged in the system, including at some point about half of the Chiricahuas and Mescaleros. Most Apaches de paz, however, continued seasonal economic activities away from the establecimientos, and many abandoned them for good. Although the system “fell apart in 1832” (173), some Apaches continued living near or visiting Mexican settlements to receive rations and gifts into the 1840s. Funding shortages in Spain and Mexico, however, meant that Apaches could not live only on these donations and had to hunt game and gather plants over virtually the same territories they had used prior to joining the establecimientos. They sometimes took advantage of their outings to raid Hispanic settlements. Consequently, Babcock argues, the system functioned “largely on Ndé terms,” permitting Apaches to “reassert their political and territorial sovereignty by 1832” (5).

The author grounds his arguments empirically thanks to meticulous archival research in the United States, Mexico, and Spain, and makes good use of the relevant English- and Spanish-language scholarship. His analyses persuasively incorporate insights from the ethnographic literature and personal interviews with contemporary consultants who self-identify as Chihene Ndé. As he explains in an introductory note, Babcock generally uses contemporary Apache terms to identify groups in the past. A helpful appendix, “Ndé Groups and Their Homelands,” explains the correlations between ethnonyms and identifies the corresponding territories around 1800. Allusions to the main Apache groups as “bands” instead of “divisions” or “tribes” may be confusing, as each of those groups consisted in turn of several autonomous residential bands.

In sum, Babcock’s thoroughly documented, clearly written, and cogently argued essay is a mandatory reference for specialists, and highly recommended for scholars and educated readers interested in the U.S.–Mexico borderlands as well as Native American, western U.S., and colonial Latin American history. It can also be profitably used to teach undergraduates. [End Page 118]

Joaquín Rivaya-Martínez
Texas State University


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