The Life of Ten Bears


The Life of Ten Bears

Comanche Historical Narratives

Collected by Francis Joseph Attocknie
Edited and with an introduction by Thomas W. Kavanagh

264 pages
1 genealogy

eBook (PDF)

May 2016


$65.00 Add to Cart

May 2016


$65.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

May 2016


$65.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

The Life of Ten Bears is a remarkable collection of nineteenth-century Comanche oral histories given by Francis Joseph “Joe A” Attocknie. Although various elements of Ten Bears’s life (ca. 1790–1872) are widely known, including several versions of how the toddler Ten Bears survived the massacre of his family, other parts have not been as widely publicized, remaining instead in the collective memory of his descendants. Other narratives in this collection reference lesser-known family members. These narratives are about the historical episodes that Attocknie’s family thought were worth remembering and add a unique perspective on Comanche society and tradition as experienced through several generations of his family.

Kavanagh’s introduction adds context to the personal narratives by discussing the process of transmission. These narratives serve multiple purposes for Comanche families and communities. Some autobiographical accounts, “recounting” brave deeds and war honors, function as validation of status claims, while others illustrate the giving of names; still others recall humorous situations, song-ridicules, slapstick, and tragedies. Such family oral histories quickly transcend specific people and events by restoring key voices to the larger historical narrative of the American West.

Author Bio

Francis Joseph Attocknie (1912–84) was the great-great-grandson of Ten Bears. Thomas W. Kavanagh is the author of Comanche Ethnography: Field Notes of E. Adamson Hoebel, Waldo R. Wedel, Gustav G. Carlson, and Robert H. Lowie (Nebraska, 2008) and The Comanches: A History, 1706–1875 (Nebraska, 1996).


“Native historical accounts are the ‘holy grail’ for scholars working in borderlands or colonial contact situations. Kavanagh’s editing of Francis Joseph ‘Joe A’ Attocknie’s collection of the historical narratives of the Comanche Ten Bears will prove invaluable for scholars and edifying for readers.”—Lance Blyth, author of Chiricahua and Janos: Communities of Violence in the Southwestern Borderlands, 1680–1880

The Life of Ten Bears will quickly become required reading in a range of disciplines and will be enjoyed by a broad, popular readership. It is a treasured addition to historical narratives authored by members of Native American communities in the twentieth century.”—Daniel Swan, curator of ethnology, Sam Noble Museum, University of Oklahoma

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