Andrew Garcia - Mountain Man

Andrew Garcia 1853-1943

Andrew Garcia, a True Frontiersman in Indian Country.
Andrew Garcia was one of the first American pioneers of Hispanic descent to write his own story. After writing volumes of script and thousands of pages, he resisted all efforts to put his work into publishable form for fear that the accuracy, facts, and writing style might be compromised and fall victim to the western fiction market. He was born in the Rio Grande Valley in the El Paso, Texas / Las Cruces, New Mexico area in 1853, and schooled in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His book, Tough Trip Through Paradise, was edited by Bennett H. Stein who found several thousand pages of Garcia's manuscript stored in dynamite boxes packed in the heavy waxed paper that explosive power comes in. Thanks' goes to Bennett Stein, who must h ave labored many long hours condensing and consolidating those thousands of pages into a more conise 460-page book, first printed by the Rock Foundation in 1967.
The Hollywood movie, Little Big Man, starring Dustin Hoffman, was based not on an Anglo muleteer, as the movie suggests. Rather, it was actually based on the true story of Hispanic pioneer, Vaquero rancher, farmer and trader, Andrew Garcia, during the time of the 1877 Nez Perce war. He was not known as Little Big Man by the Indians, rather he earned the name, The Squaw Kid, derived from the 9 years he lived in Indian country with three Pend d'Oreille Indian wives named, In-who-lise, Squis-squis, and Mal-lit-tay-lay. Little Big Man was actually the name of an Indian warrior.
At the age of 23 in 1876, he ventured north to Montana where he was first employed by the U.S. government as a herder and packer. He scouted for the U.S. military throughout Yellowstone and Musselshell country when the Cavalry was, as he put it, pursuing horse stealing and plundering Indians. He served with Sturgis' Boys in Blue out of Fort Ellis. There, he met a hunter and trapper called Beaver Tom in 1878. Beaver Tom, being middle-aged and more worldly than Garcia, easily lured Garcia into going with him to Musselshell on a trapping and trading expedition. Having been through that area with the U.S. Cavalry, Garcia knew there was, indeed, plenty of game for furs and no shortage of Indians to rob and kill.
As Bennett Stein writes, "...his teepee days occurred at the very time when the free life of the Plains Indians was on the brink of extinction. He witnessed that extinction and had a story that no one else could tell." Garcia tells the true story of the end of an era of vast open ranges before barbed wire fences, a time when the Indians were just beginning to appreciate the new resources brought to America by the Spanish. They had the best of both Indian and Spanish / Mexican worlds. Horses gave them tremendous mobility and speed in the wild and untamed open country. After having myself, enjoyed and crossed the beautiful expanse of mountains and tribes, during my tenure with the Bureau Of Indian Affairs - after hearing the voices of the Tiwas of New Mexico, to the utterances of Salish of Montana during the 20th century, and after having viewed such places by land and air - I can only imagine how a phenomenally panoramic picture this vast land much have appeared to Garcia before the landscape was cut up by endless ribbons of highway and railroad lines, and the sky divided by miles of telegraph, electric, and telephone wires.
The sense of justice taught him in his formative years by the Catholic Padres in New Mexico, helped him transcent the wide-spread hatred of Indians and gave him common cause with the tribest of the Northwest, even during those intense years of warfare. Garcia was different from other writers of this time, not just because he was self-taught, oreover, because his was a, "tell it like it is - no sugar added," account of those times. This was in opposition to other writers who romanticized, embellished, and took artistic license in corrupting the truth. Garcia himself explains in one passage, "The novelist always manages to cover up the trail on the Indian or villains who are pursuing the hero with the red-headed maiden in his arms on horseback. I never had such luck. They could always find my trail dead easy and run the hell out of me. It was always a matter of speed with me. We all like to see the hero and fair damsel make their get-away from the villain and for her to live happily with the hero.... I am sorry to have to dispel the beautiful hallucination and tell, in most cases, that is b___ s___. In the many years that I have lived, I have seen more heroes get it in the neck from the villain than were left to go around. If it was not for the strong arm of the Law and the brave men who enforce it, there would not be a hero left to tell the tale, and the woods would be full of grass widow heroines. Many flourishing jails and penitentiaries will bear me out on this."
Over the next six years in Musselshell, Montana, he observed the last wave of Buffalo extermination and final throes of effort by the Plains Indians to resist their own extermination at the hands of the new Americans. His nine years with Indian wives, mentioned above, were his most meaningful and final connection to the wild and beautiful, natural order of his world that apparently centered him. Although the second half of his life was spent in what many people would describe a western paradise with his white wife, Barbara Voll, raising four healthy sons on his 667 acres of beautiful, forested Montana ranchland, what prompted him to begin writing was the fact that he was never again quite so happy as when he lived amont the Indians in the open wilderness. He died in 1943, having resisted efforts to publish his work out of fear that the true history of his time would be corrupted. His greatest fears were realized a quarter-century later, when Hollywood indeed, changed and distorted his story and actual history in the movie, Little Big Man.

Source: Donald Gilbert y Chavez