The wider revelation of these stories---like those Tiya Miles has researched---is that people are people, driven by the same yearnings for love, power, and survival, and subject to the pressures and prejudices of their own peculiar times.
That native peoples had slaves should come as no surprise. While the chattel slavery that Tiya Miles describes among the Cherokees was clearly an extension of the institutional enslavement developed by whites, enslavement as a concept and practice existed among the Indians long before Europeans ever sailed to their shores. For thousands of years, tribes raided one another, and war captives---those who weren't integrated into the tribe or sacrificed ritually or traded away---were used as forced labor (i.e. slaves). While the racial arguments that justified institutional slavery of blacks weren't nearly as present, neither were they absent. Many dominant tribes saw their inferiors as, well, inferior. Which is to say that, in 1750, a Comanche taking a Tonkawa slave probably wasn't troubled much by any moral implications of his actions, because he didn't view the Tonkawa as his equal.
It seems, with the work of historians like Tiya Miles, the pendulum is finally settling in the middle, as it should. For so much of our history the Indian was considered to be a savage. Then the dominant narrative of the past forty years turned the Indian into a primal mystic, one with nature, at peace with the world and all its beings. A noble victim, what we wanted him to be.
Neither description is accurate.
Indians were (and are) people. Humans. They lived, they ate, hunted, had sex, made war, and betrayed one another. They laughed and sang and loved their children and killed cruelly. Their lives encompassed all human experience, the transcendent and the horrific.
For reading, I'd like to recommend the novel The Color of Lightning by Paulette Jiles, which beautifully retells a story fairly well-known in Texas but not so much in other places, of Britt Johnson, a former slave whose wife and children were kidnapped by Indians. Also, S.C. Gwynne's brilliant 2010 Pulitzer finalist for history, Empire of the Summer Moon, about the waning years of the Comanches, and particularly focusing on their last chief Quanah Parker, the son of a Comanche and the white Cynthia Ann Parker who was taken captive at the age of nine. (These people are still taught about in Texas public schools today, and there are many things named for them, including the town of Quanah). While neither of these books are about slavery among natives, each of them illuminates Indian lives---and the non-native lives that intersected with them--in a way that a John Wayne movie on one hand, or a reading of history only interested in victimology on the other hand, ever could.
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