Shadows At Dawn Hardcover – Nov 25 2008
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About the Author
Karl Jacoby is an associate professor of history at Brown University and the author of Crimes Against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves and the Hidden History of American Conservation, which was awarded the Littleton-Griswold Prize by the American Historical Association for the best book on American law and society and the George Perkins Marsh Prize by the American Society for Environmental History for the best work of environmental history. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
"Shadows at Dawn: A Borderlands Massacre and the Violence of History" pivots on a sensational-but-forgotten crime. In this book, Jacoby presents four distinct, often counterpoised narratives. His aim is to give equal voice to each of the four peoples represented by participants at the book's titular event. Not just for that pin-point in time, but for the decades preceding and following it as well.
I think this approach succeeds wonderfully. And it leaves me, at least, fascinated by the fluid relationships among these peoples throughout those times. Their interactions, at once conflicting and intimate, challenge many of the persistent, mainstream notions of settlers and Indians in the Wild West.
There is a subtle, fifth voice in this book, however. And it makes Jacoby's work especially compelling. Alongside the Papago, the Vecino, the Americano, and the Apache; I could hear the Historian - Jacoby himself - conveying his veneration for these peoples and for the historian's calling to curate their memories.
Take a look at one historical event (a massacre of Apaches in Aravaipa Canyon) in the context of four cultures - the Apaches themselves, their traditional enemies the O'odham people, plus the old settlers of northern Mexico that remained on the land after it was purchased by America, and the new American folks.
The historical record is shaky, because the O'odham and the Apache did not consider themselves to be homogenous nation-groups with clear agreement on oral record-keeping. Instead, the scattered and fragmented nature of these Native American peoples led to disjointed accounts. (How Karl Jacoby teased the information out of the scattered oral accounts would be excellent subject matter for another book.) In addition, there are all sorts of overlaps between the heritage of people who nobly led the massacre in order to protect their families and then were elected to public office on the strength of their determination and prestige, while keeping their participation quiet in order to avoid condemnation and sanction. The book also takes into account the give-and-take relationship of the purported peace-keping US military forces in the area.
Reading it, you get the impression that the only way for Progress to come to Arizona was for the native peoples to cease to exist. Whether through assimilation or annihilation or imprisonment on reservations, their way of life was over. Was it better to go quietly and align your people with the newcomers, or was it better to hold out and fight back? In the end, which method gained better results, better territory, and more prosperity?
It is just fascinating. Once again, America faces an enemy that is disbursed and shifting, willing to make partial peace on an individual basis, until peace no longer serves. The Islamic world is a chaotic blend of shifting alliances and individual warlords, and fighting against one or alliance with another will have repercussions that slide through different tribes and bands -- totally unpredictable.
This book is a thinker. There's no single answer to "what happened at the Camp Grant Massacre?"
FYI: Do yourself a favor and pick up his first book: _Crimes against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and the Hidden History of American Conservation_ - it's depth hints at the approach he chose with Shadows at Dawn, and similarly provides fascinating insight into an under appreciated facet of Western History.
What is really fascinating about this is how radically incompatible the different groups' views were. This is instantly obvious by looking at the maps that precede each group's first chapter: they cover the same territory but they don't look anything alike. Then each group has different names for the other groups, and its disorienting --- in a good way --- how a group in one narrative is simply `the People' and in another is bluntly referred to as `the Enemy'. The real payoff to the four perspectives, though, is when the groups' attempt to make sense of each other's behavior. The gulf in understanding would be comic if it didn't perpetuate such a spiral of violence.
I do get a feeling, however, that the historical records about the day of the massacre must be pretty thin. Each of the `pre' chapters feels like, "Context, context, context... Bam!" And then the chapter is over. This is frustrating in the sense that it seems like the Camp Grant Massacre was in fact a significant escalation of frontier violence. The rationale for the attack and the style of attack were all very much par for the course but the magnification of the scale of brutality seems to call for an explanation, which the book doesn't provide.
I would also say that there is one question is maddeningly left unanswered: where were the Apache men during the attack? I started wondering this fairly early on. The Apache narratives describe several small groups of men who happened to have gone out from the camp shortly before the attack, but these don't add up to enough men to account for the presence of approximately 170 women and children (20+ children were kidnapped). The Anglo narrative mentions the claim that the men were out on raids, but this claim isn't scrutinized. It seems an important point.
Overall, this is an excellent addition to our understanding of the history of what I think of as 'the West' (an admittedly ethnocentric way of looking at this particular time and place) and is example of the role of innovation by historians in understanding the past. It is also unfortunately rather relevant to the present day: some of the Anglo justifications for the killings are identical to the justifications for Arizona's anti-illegal alien legislation that has created such a firestorm of controversy of late.