The Journal of San Diego History
Spring 1995, Volume 41, Number 2
Richard W. Crawford, Editor

Book Review

Apache, Navaho, and Spaniard.
By Jack D. Forbes. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1960. Paperback reprint, 1994. Bibliography. Illustrations. Index. 323 pages. $16.95.

Reviewed by Clifford E. Trafzer, Professor of History and Native American Studies, University of California, Riverside. Author of The Kit Carson Campaign, Renegade Tribe, Chief Joseph’s Allies, and The Nez Perce.

The population of San Diego is composed of people whose families originated all over the world. This includes Native Americans from tribes and bands that once lived throughout the Americas. Apaches and Navajos from Arizona and New Mexico moved into southern California during World War II and the 1950s. Soldiers, sailors, and defense workers of Apache and Navajo origin moved to the region after the war, while the government encouraged others to move to San Diego, Los Angeles, and other communities during the 1950s as part of a national American Indian relocation program. As a result, the rich population of San Diego includes Apaches and Navajos. Their history, culture, and spiritual beliefs are tied today to California. Like the Kumeyaay, Cahuilla, Luiseno, Cupeno, Quechan, Juaneno, and other tribes of southern California, Apaches and Navajos faced an invasion of their lands by Spanish soldiers, missionaries, and civilian settlers. Thus, in these broad ways, Apaches and Navajos have a shared heritage with the people of southern California.

Apaches, Navajo, and Spaniard is a classic historical work written by one of the foremost Native American historians in the world. Trained at the University of Southern California, Jack D. Forbes was one of the first New Western historians, a scholar of Powhatan and Delaware blood who challenged established interpretations about the relationship of Navajos and Apaches with the Spanish. In his Introduction, Forbes uses oral history of creation to demonstrate the sacred relationship of Athabascan-speakers with the earth, plants, animals, and places of the Southwest. He then provides a survey of the first Spanish entradas into the lands of Diné (Navajo and Apache) and the movement of the Spanish into Chihuahua, Texas, and New Mexico. Forbes discusses the enslavement of Indians by Spaniards and the forced labor of Native Americans in the silver mines of Mexico. He also probes the adaptation of Navajos and Apaches in horses, cattle, and sheep as well as their development of a raiding economy. As the Spanish enslaved Indians, the native people reciprocated by stealing livestock from their new foes. This conflict, Forbes argues, continued for over two centuries and was the basis of some of the racial hatred between the two peoples.

Forbes offers a lengthy analysis of the invasion of New Mexico by Juan de Oñate in 1598 and the significance of Spanish settlement to Apaches and Navajos. He argues that this invasion of the Southwest led to warfare and that Apaches and Navajos were astute and effective fighters. Like Herbert Eugene Bolton, Forbes is a meticulous researcher and talented writer, providing unique details of fights and forays between Indians and Spanish soldiers. Furthermore, he offers details about the involvement of Navajos and Apaches in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, and the close and positive relationship that often existed between Apachians and Puebloans. He interprets the time when diverse tribal groups and bands stood violently against the Spanish, driving the newcomers south to present-day El Paso. He also details the reconquest of New Mexico by Diego de Vargas in the 1690s. One of the strengths of this discussion is the way in which Forbes ties events in Sonora and Chihuahua with those in New Mexico and Arizona. Forbes maintains that Apache, Navajo, and Pueblo often lived in accommodation and that native peoples prevented the northward expansion of the Spanish empire. The book details a violent era of expansion, conquest, and change. It stands as one of the most important books written on Southwestern Indians, and it is now available in paperback.

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