Juliana Barr invites her readers to “stand metaphorically in Indian country” (p. 295) and to consider Spanish efforts to establish a presence in eighteenth-century Texas not from the perspective of the “colonizing power” pursuing its imperial project but from within the world of the Indian peoples of Texas. She uncovers “a world in which Indians dictated the terms of contact, diplomacy, alliance, and enmity in their interactions with Spaniards” (pp. 7 – 8). Far from dominating, Spaniards emerge as but one among a number of political actors, more often than not at the mercy of the Indian populations they aspired to control.

Barr structures her book more or less chronologically, looking successively at a variety of Indian peoples — Caddos, Catonas, and Payayas and their allies Apaches, Wichitas, and Comanches — as they came into contact with Spaniards. At each stage Spaniards displayed a cultural “tin ear,” unable to fathom...

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