American Indians •  American West •  Southwest and Anthropology

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The Lipan Apaches : People of Wind and Lightning

Thomas A. Britten

Winner of the 2010 Texas Old Missions and Forts Restoration Association Book Award

Despite the significant role they have played in Texas history for nearly four hundred years, the Lipan Apaches remain among the least studied and least understood tribal groups in the West. Considered by Spaniards of the eighteenth century to be the greatest threat to the development of New Spain's northern frontier, the Lipans were viewed as a similar risk to the interests of nineteenth-century Mexico, Texas, and the United States. Direct attempts to dissolve them as a tribal unit began during the Spanish period and continued with the establishment of the Republic of Texas in 1836. From their homeland in south Texas, Lipan migratory hunter-gatherer bands waged a desperate struggle to maintain their social and cultural traditions amidst numerous Indian and non-Indian enemies. Government officials, meanwhile, perceived them as a potential danger to the settlement and economic development of the Rio Grande frontier. Forced removal from their traditional homelands diminished their ability to defend themselves and, as they attached themselves to the Mescalero Apaches and the Tonkawas, the Lipans faded from written history in 1884.

Thomas Britten has scoured U.S. and Mexican archives in order to piece together the tangled tribal history of these adaptable people, emphasizing the cultural change that coincided with the various migrations and pressures they faced. The result is an interdisciplinary study of the Lipan Apaches that focuses on their history and culture, their relationships with a wide range of Indian and non-Indian peoples, and their responses to the various crises and burdens that seemed to follow them wherever they went.


Thomas A. Britten is assistant professor of history at the University of Texas, Brownsville. He is also the author of A Brief History of the Seminole-Negro Indian Scouts. He is a specialist in twentieth-century Indian history.


"A thoughtful and detailed chronicle... The Lipan Apaches is a worthy addition to college library Native American studies shelves, and thoroughly enjoyable to readers of all backgrounds."


Midwest Book Review

"Thomas Britten's work on the Lipan Apaches is a welcome addition to the expanding library of Texas Native American history."


Southwestern Historical Quarterly

"This book, written from the Lipan historical viewpoint, will provide readers with a solid, timely, and accurate synthesis of this significant group of southwestern Native Americans, who were so important to the region's history."



" informative introduction to the history of the Lipan Apaches, and a welcome addition to the literature on the Southwest."


New Mexico Historical Review

"From the preface to the epilogue, the story of the tribe is absolutely fascinating."


The Journal of America's Military Past

"(Britten's) work is well written, well researched, and a much needed updating of Lipan Apache history."


Journal of American Ethnic History

6 x 9 in. 352 pages 9 halftones, 4 maps