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Faculty Publications

Mark van de Logt, “War Party in Blue: Pawnee Scouts in the U.S. Army” (University of Oklahoma Press, 2010) 

Between 1864 and 1877, during the height of the Plains Indian wars, Pawnee Indian scouts rendered invaluable service to the United States Army. They led missions deep into contested territory, tracked resisting bands, spearheaded attacks against enemy camps, and on more than one occasion saved American troops from disaster on the field of battle. In War Party in Blue, Mark van de Logt tells the story of the Pawnee scouts from their perspective, detailing the battles in which they served and recounting hitherto neglected episodes.

Employing military records, archival sources, and contemporary interviews with current Pawnee tribal members—some of them descendants of the scouts—Van de Logt presents the Pawnee scouts as central players in some of the army's most notable campaigns. He argues that military service allowed the Pawnees to fight their tribal enemies with weapons furnished by the United States as well as to resist pressures from the federal government to assimilate them into white society.

According to the author, it was the tribe's martial traditions, deeply embedded in their culture, that made them successful and allowed them to retain these time-honored traditions. The Pawnee style of warfare, based on stealth and surprise, was so effective that the scouts' commanding officers did little to discourage their methods. Although the scouts proudly wore the blue uniform of the U.S. Cavalry, they never ceased to be Pawnees. The Pawnee Battalion was truly a war party in blue. 

Mark van de Logt, “Monsters of Contact: Historical Trauma in Caddoan Oral Traditions” (University of Oklahoma Press, 2018)

A murderous whirlwind, an evil child-abducting witch-woman, a masked cannibal, terrifying scalped men, a mysterious man-slaying flint creature: the oral tradition of the Caddoan Indians is alive with monsters. Whereas Western historical methods and interpretations relegate such beings to the realms of myth and fantasy, Mark van de Logt argues in Monsters of Contact that creatures found in the stories of the Caddos, Wichitas, Pawnees, and Arikaras actually embody specific historical events and the negative effects of European contact: invasion, war, death, disease, enslavement, starvation, and colonialism.

Van de Logt examines specific sites of historical interaction between American Indians and Europeans, from the outbreaks and effect of smallpox epidemics on the Arikaras, to the violence and enslavement Caddos faced at the hands of Hernando de Soto’s expedition, and Wichita encounters with Spanish missionaries and French traders in Texas. In each case he explains how, through Indian metaphor, seemingly unrelated stories of supernatural beings and occurrences translate into real people and events that figure prominently in western U.S. history. The result is a peeling away of layers of cultural values that, for those invested in Western historical traditions, otherwise obscure the meaning of such tales and their “monsters.”

Although Western historical methods have become the standard in much of the world, van de Logt demonstrates that indigenous forms of history are no less valuable, and that oral traditions and myths can be useful sources of historical information. A daring interpretation of Caddoan lore, Monsters of Contact puts oral traditions at the center of historical inquiry and, in so doing, asks us to reconsider what makes a monster.

Reviews of “Monsters of Contact”:

“In Monsters of Contact, Mark van de Logt connects the ‘myths’ of Caddoan peoples with tangible historical events attendant to the unfolding trauma of European colonialism. Unleashing literary theory and ethnography to consort with the fragmentary documentary record, van de Logt shows that stories long presumed to lie in the shadowlands of monster-filled ‘folklore’ are, in fact, powerfully detailed metaphors for the lived experience of these Indian Nations.”—James F. Brooks, author of Mesa of Sorrows: A History of the Awat’Ovi Massacre

“In this fascinating and thought-provoking study, Mark van de Logt demonstrates how Native American oral traditions can be used successfully to augment the European-based historical record. By tying stories previously dismissed as Caddoan ‘fairy tales’ to documented historical events, the author reveals the Native Americans’ side of history.”—F. Todd Smith, author of From Dominance to Disappearance: The Indians of Texas and the Near Southwest, 1786–1859