Cinematic Comanches


Cinematic Comanches

The Lone Ranger in the Media Borderlands

Dustin Tahmahkera

Indigenous Films Series

288 pages
17 photographs, 1 map, index


January 2022


$35.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
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January 2022


$35.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
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January 2022


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About the Book

For centuries Comanches have captivated imaginations. Yet their story in popular accounts abruptly stops with the so-called fall of the Comanche empire in 1875, when Quanah Parker led Comanches onto the reservation in southwestern Oklahoma. In Cinematic Comanches, the first tribal-specific history of Comanches in film and media, Parker descendant Dustin Tahmahkera examines how Comanches represent themselves and are represented by others in recent media. Telling a story of Comanche family and extended kin and their relations to film, Tahmahkera reframes a distorted and defeated history of Comanches into a vibrant story of cinematic traditions, agency, and cultural continuity.

Co-starring a long list of Comanche actors, filmmakers, consultants, critics, and subjects, Cinematic Comanches moves through the politics of tribal representation and history to highlight the production of Comanchería cinema. From early silent films and 1950s Westerns to Disney’s The Lone Ranger and the story of how Comanches captured its controversial Comanche lead Johnny Depp, Tahmahkera argues that Comanche nationhood can be strengthened through cinema. Tahmahkera’s extensive research includes interviews with elder LaDonna Harris, who adopted Depp during filming in one of the most contested films in recent Indigenous cinematic history. In the fragmented popular narrative of the rise and fall of Comanches, Cinematic Comanches calls for considering mediated contributions to the cultural resurgence of Comanches today.


Author Bio

Dustin Tahmahkera (Comanche) is the Wick Cary Chair of Native American Cultural Studies in the Department of Native American Studies at the University of Oklahoma. He is the author of Tribal Television: Viewing Native People in Sitcoms.


"Extensively researched and thoroughly theorized, Cinematic Comanches seeks to answer the question of why the Comanche Nation is currently experiencing cultural resurgence. Tahmahkera finds that strength scattered throughout the twentieth century, in films and elsewhere, connecting the dots of Comanche survivance from the past into the present. This powerful intervention by a Comanche about Comanches is a must-read for anyone interested in representations of Native people in America."—Liza Black, Tribal College Journal

"Cinematic Comanches generates important possibilities for future Native film studies by placing several forms of scholarship in conversation with each other (film theory, cultural studies, Native studies, borderlands studies, etc.). While rooted in enlightening readings and connections between forms of scholarship, this book is largely accessible to readers who may be less familiar with the scholars he summarizes because throughout the work Tahmahkera writes in a personal, engaging, and often humorous tone."—Jacob Floyd, American Indian Quarterly

"The strength of Tahmahkera's scholarship in Cinematic Comanches lies in his invitation to borderlands scholars to explore new avenues for understanding Indigenous agency."—Sawyer Young, Western Historical Quarterly

"Media scholars, Indigenous and settler studies folks, popular culture buffs, and anyone with interests in decolonization and image sovereignty will find much here to interest and intrigue them. It is exemplary."—Jennifer L. Jenkins, Southwestern Historical Quarterly

"Cinematic Comanches presents an important conjunction of Native American studies and film and media studies. Additionally, it illuminates both past and present Comanche participation in the representation of Comanche people across representative media, raising important conversations about the futurity of this representation and resisting the so-called fall of the Comanches by depicting them as a people very much participating in their culture, past, present, and future."—Kerry Fine, Great Plains Quarterly

“Exceptional. . . . Written with energy and a capacious critical sensibility, Cinematic Comanches feels like the ‘Yes, we can!’ of Indigenous film and media criticism. It is also voraciously interdisciplinary and beautifully executes some of the primary challenges of public intellectual work—to be both learned and hip, both theoretically sophisticated and accessible for undergraduates, both deeply historical and relevant to this very moment.”—Joanna Hearne, author of Native Recognition: Indigenous Cinema and the Western

“Tahmahkera writes in an engaging and sometimes humorous style that is generally devoid of academic jargon, which makes it accessible to students yet sophisticated enough in its theoretical grounding to appeal to scholars of Indigenous and media studies.”—Dominique Brégent-Heald, author of Borderland Films: American Cinema, Mexico, and Canada during the Progressive Era

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface: Marʉawe in Medias Res
Introduction: The Comanche Empire Strikes Back
1. Jurisdiction: Reclaiming Comanchería Cinema
2. Kinship: A Captivity Narrative
3. Performance: Seeking Representational Justice
4. Audience: Comanches Viewing Comanches
Afterword: Subeetʉ

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