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The South West

The Southwest is an arid region inhabited by some of the wildest and some of the most advanced native American tribes in North America. Conquered in the 16th Century by treasure hunting Spaniards the region became a bloody battleground between Apache, Navajo, Comanche, Pawnee, and Spaniard. The mountain men visited Taos and Santa Fe and raided the California ranchos and Missions for horses to sell in St. Louis. This region offers many interesting gaming possibilities including raids on Spanish Missions and punitve expeditions launched by the gobernador's soldados de cuero against the norteno tribes. My Navajo band was painted and converted by Marc Williams. The Comanches are from the collection of Todd Heidelbaugh. The Presidial soldados de cuero were converted by me and painted by Chris Chambers.

The Navajo

Migrating from the far north the Dine (the People)occupied New Mexico and Arizona several hundred years before the Spanish arrived in the Southwest. The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and the Spanish Reconquest of the Southwest in 1690 made the Navajo rich in horses and livestock and introduced significant Pueblo influence into their culture. Unlike their Apache cousins they became rich stockherders and breeders and raised extensive fields of corn, peaches, beans, and squash. Like their Apache cousins they remained inveterate raiders who waged war to enrich themselves especially by stealing sheep and horses from the New Mexicans who in turn raided them for slaves. They avoided bloody conflicts unless revenge required enemy deaths and scalps to put the ghosts of Navajos killed by the enemy to rest. The Navajo were as stealthy as the Apache and much more numerous able to field as many as two thousand warriors. But they lived in small rancherias scattered across their vast country and seldom mustered their full numbers. They were enemies of all their neighbors; at war with the Utes, Arapahos, Comanche, Pueblos (particularly the Hopi and Zuni), Apaches, and especially the New Mexicans. They even waged war on the Pawnees, a large party of Navajos accompanying the Apache against the Pawnee were annihilated by the French in the 18th Century on the plains of Kansas! The were the Lords of New Mexico, the most feared tribe in the Southwest prior to 1848.

The Comanche

The Comanche, or Nermernuh, broke away from the Shoshone in the late 17th Century and migrated south onto the Plains. Acquiring horses from their Ute cousins they became the finest horsemen in North America and with the Utes they broke the power of the Eastern Apaches driving the remnant south and west where they became known as the Mescalero, Lipan, and Jicarilla Apaches. Turning on their Ute allies, who nmaed them Komantcia (Those Who Are Against Us)they became the undisputed Lords of the Southern Plains. The Comanche were the original horse Indians of the Plains on whom all the other tribes modelled themselves. They were enemies of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Utes, Pawnees, Navajos, and Apaches and also waged war on the Spaniards of Texas but not of New Mexico with whom they had a truce. When the Anglo-Americans entered Texas they inherited the enmity of the Comanches from the Hispanic Tejanos. Their wars with the Texas Rangers became the stuff of legend.

The Comanche

The Metal Men, as the native Americans called them, had conquered the Southwest in the 1500's. Taming the sedentary Pueblos they then ranged north in search of the legendary Seven Cities of Cibola. They did not find any cities of gold but they did find plenty of ferocious wild tribes like the Wichitas, the Apaches, the Navajos, and the Comanches. Attempts to "reduce" these tribes and make good Christians and farmers of them were doomed to abject failure. The Spanish Crown built a line of Presidios along their northern frontier to contain the "nortenos" as they called the unreduced tribes north of the Hispanic frontier. Whenever they could they erected missions and sent padres to tame the wild tribes. The troops stationed in these presidios were known as Soldados de Cuero from their leather jacks. Armed with antiquated "escopetas", lances, swords, and shields they resembled the "jinetes" of medieval Spain. Brave but singularly ineffective against the horse tribes and the wily Apaches and Navajos they were powerless to prevent the ravaging of the Hispanic frontier by these tribes though under capable leaders like De Anza they did score occasional successes against the nortenos.