First to Fight


First to Fight

Henry Mihesuah
Edited by Devon Abbott Mihesuah

American Indian Lives Series

140 pages


January 2010


$19.95 Add to Cart

November 2002


$19.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Henry Mihesuah, a Comanche of the Quahada band, has led an ordinary modern American Indian life filled with extraordinary moments. Growing up in the 1920s and 1930s on his family's allotment outside Duncan, Oklahoma, Mihesuah was a member of a family of farmers who gave part of what they grew to black sharecroppers and often helped feed their poorer white neighbors. Never afraid of controversy and always the first to fight, Henry Mihesuah fell in love with and married a white woman and then served a dangerous tour of duty in the Marines in post–World War II China. In the 1950s he took a chance and, encouraged by a federal government program, relocated along with many other Indians to seek urban employment in California. Barely surviving a horrific traffic accident, Mihesuah eventually returned home to Oklahoma, where he has spent the last few decades fighting racism and attempts to take his family's land, eschewing local politics yet also taking many steps to reclaim and revitalize connections to his Comanche family and culture, past and present.

Henry Mihesuah spoke at length about his life to his daughter-in-law, accomplished historian Devon Abbott Mihesuah, who has carefully researched and edited those hours of conversation into an engaging, detailed account that is at once honest, informative, and moving. Readers come to know and respect how one forthright Comanche man unyieldingly walks his own path in the modern world, the ways in which events big and small have affected him, and how, with his wife, family, land, strong opinions, and tough choices made along the way, Henry Mihesuah leads a happy and fulfilling life.

Author Bio

Devon Abbott Mihesuah is a professor of applied indigenous studies and history at Northern Arizona University. She is the editor of the American Indian Quarterly and numerous books on Native history and culture, including Repatriation Reader: Who Owns American Indian Remains and Natives and Academics: Researching and Writing about American Indians, both published by the University of Nebraska Press.


"A work readers of any level may engage and enjoy."—Ty Hawkins, The Fulton Sun (MO)

"Forthright, down to earth, and representative of many aspects of Comanche culture and life in the mid to late twentieth century. Moreover, it demonstrates its subject's tremendous personal and cultural pride, determination, and inner strength, qualities that have enabled many American Indians to navigate successfully their way through the seemingly endless legal, political, economic, educational, and racial obstacles they continue to face in their daily lives. In short, First to Fight is an important addition to the growing number of autobiographical works by Native writers."—William C. Meadows, Great Plains Quarterly

“Mihesuah…belong[s] to a generation that can understand more accurately than any before or since what Native peoples lost, and gained, by becoming American.”—E. A. Schwartz, Western Historical Quarterly

“This is not a ‘tell all’ that exposes details of tribal life. Nor is it a bitter summary of past injustices. First to Fight is a straightforward account that should help readers understand what it means to be an Indian in modern America. Henry and this candid account of his life stand alone, without apology or embellishment.”—Glenn M. Busset, The Manhattan Mercury

“Professor Mihesuah deserves credit for her subtle editing that enables Henry Mihesuah to speak for himself. . . . First to Fight is a gem not only because of Henry Mihesuah’s stories and insights, but because it recasts the pattern of ‘life stories’ and ‘as told to’ biographies that have frustrated Native and non-Native scholars for years. This is one collaborative project that will appeal to a broad range of audiences and hopefully find its way into the classrooms, libraries, and bookshelves of readers across the country. ”—Jeffrey P. Shepherd, H-Net Reviews


2003 Annual Book Award, sponsored by the Oklahoma Writers' Federation, Inc., non-fiction third place winner

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