Monday, June 28, 2021

Paul Conrad's "The Apache Diaspora"

Paul Conrad is Associate Professor of Native American History and Literature at the University of Texas at Arlington.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Apache Diaspora: Four Centuries of Displacement and Survival, and reported the following:
The enslavement of Native Americans was ubiquitous throughout the Americas, even though the practice was often illegal in colonial societies. Page 99 of my book examines this history in a particular time and place, in what is now Northern Mexico in the 18th century. Drawing from records of civil suits I found in an archive in Chihuahua, I describe area residents wrangling with each other over botched slave sales, the theft of slaves, slaves who ran away, and more. Caught in the maelstrom were Apaches like those I discuss on page 99 named Francisca and Rita. While their enslavement was in fact illegal in the Spanish empire, the fact it was widely accepted by both area residents and local courts ultimately kept them ensnared in exploitative circumstances not of their own choosing. As I explain on this page, the details of their stories, “reflect the experience of other Native people turned Apaches slaves whose lives did not make it into the archival records: lives characterized by relative powerlessness and vulnerability.”

The page 99 test works very well for my book. This is because the page examines important themes of the book as a whole. For example, it highlights the experience of displaced Native people and the colonial interests that fueled their displacement, such as demand for labor. Another key theme that runs throughout the book that is discussed on this page is the disconnect between law and governmental policy and the lived experience of people impacted by them on the ground.

If the test works well in my case overall, I do have to say that the page itself isn’t one of my favorites. My favorite pages in my book are those when I was able to present Indigenous people’s own words and perspectives, and trace out their experiences of the trauma of being uprooted from kin and homeland in detail. In this page of the book, the source material I had to work with was rich in certain respects—it showed how masters were completely unafraid to reveal they illegally owned and exploited Native people, for example. But it was also frustratingly fragmentary, as few of the suits from this archive included testimony from the enslaved Apaches themselves, though such testimony was not uncommon in other times and places I examine in the book.

In sum, the test itself is really a total success, in the sense that it reveals the analysis and arguments of the book while also revealing its limitations.
Learn more about The Apache Diaspora at the University of Pennsylvania Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue