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 kwn, including several versions of how the toddler Ten Bears survived the massacre of his family, other parts have t been as widely publicized, remaining instead in the collective memory of his descendants. Other narratives in this collection reference lesser-kwn 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 hors, 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.
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).