American Indians

A story told for thousands of years.

For European explorers, North America was a new world. For American Indians, it was an ancient one, already filled with the stories of their lives. Beginning in the 16th century, both versions of the world would change forever. 

The stories of Texas didn't begin with the arrival of Spanish explorers in the 1500s. Hundreds of different groups of native peoples with a variety of languages, customs, and beliefs lived on the land for at least 11,000 years before the arrival of Europeans. For the American Indians, Texas had long been their world. The land, the life, and even the other native peoples they encountered were already familiar. It was the explorers who were new. 

 

Starting the Stories

By the time those explorers got to the new world, American Indians had created long arcs of histories and cultures in Texas. From the Gulf Coast to the Panhandle, from the piney eastern woods to the barren southwestern plains, native peoples had established themselves as traders, hunters, food-collectors, artisans, and healers. They had crafted ways of life based on what the land required. They had forged and broken alliances, competed for resources, and traded with each other for centuries. American Indian tribes such as the Karankawa, Caddo, Apache, Comanche, Wichita, Coahuiltecan, Neches, Tonkawa, and many others had already written extensive chapters in the story of Texas by the 16th century. One of them gave the story a title, and another, a conflict. 

 

The Caddo

In the Caddo language, taysha means "friend" or "ally." The Spanish spelled it tejas. We call it Texas.

By the time European explorers arrived, some Caddo communities had settled along the Red River and in East Texas from their homelands in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. There were as many as 25 separate Caddo groups linked by language and customs, including the Hasinai alliance, who settled mostly in East Texas.

When the Spanish and the later French explorers encountered the Caddo, they experienced firsthand that long arc of already-established American Indian history and culture. Caddo groups lived in settled communities with complex social and political structures, advanced agricultural practices, and organized spiritual ceremonies and rituals. By the 16th century, the Caddo had developed a reputation for being fierce warriors, extraordinary artisans, and very skilled traders. It was this last quality that most intrigued the Europeans. It would also come to decimate the Caddo. 

A Changed World

By the late 17th century, Spanish and French explorers were engaged in a frenzied race to plant flags in Texas. Land in North American meant new resources, new power, and new wealth for the mother country.

The Europeans were also engaged in a frenzied race to claim the Caddo as deal brokers for their flag-planting goals. As they saw it, the Caddo offered them two distinct advantages: 1) their Red River and East Texas homelands were located in prime trading areas, and 2) Caddo leaders were recognized by other American Indian tribes and the increasing number of transplanted Europeans as being savvy and skilled traders. The Caddo did indeed prove to be accomplished facilitators, and during the 17th and 18th centuries, an increasing number of European goods and settlers moved into Texas, along with cholera and smallpox. 

It has been estimated that perhaps 95% of the Caddo population was decimated in major epidemics between 1691 and 1816. Although the Hasinai continued to live in East Texas through the 1830s, other Caddo groups moved on to present-day Oklahoma and Kansas to escape disease and attack from other American Indians. Today, the Caddo live primarily in Caddo County, Oklahoma.

 

The Apaches

Dominating almost all of West Texas were the Lipan and Mescalaro Apaches. The name Apache may have come from the Zuni word apachu, meaning enemy, or from the Ute name for Apaches, Awa'tehe. Apaches were among the first American Indians to ride horses. This allowed them to live a nomadic life following the buffalo herds from place to place.

 

 

Life As An Apache

For both Lipan and Mescalero Apaches, the basis of their social structure was the extended family. While tribal leaders were always male, the lifeways of the tribe were often shaped by the females and their families. For example, when an Apache male married, he went to live with his bride's family. He hunted and worked with her relatives. If his wife died, it was tradition that the Apache husband would remain with his in-laws, who would often provide him with a new bride.  

The Apache of the Panhandle Plains traded extensively across the Southwest, exchanging stone tools of alibates flint and hides and meat from bison and deer for corn, pottery, turquoise, Pacific coast shells, and obsidian. The Apache dealt extensively with Pecos Pueblo, the great trading center in present-day New Mexico.

"Only to the white man was nature a wilderness and only to him was the land 'infested' with 'wild' animals and 'savage' people. To us it was tame, Earth was bountiful and we were surrounded with the blessings of the Great Mystery."

- Black Elk,  Oglala Lakota Sioux

Buffalo hunting was the Apaches' main occupation as the animals provided most of their needs for food, clothing, and tipi covers. Until horses came to the Plains in the late 1600s, the Apache hunted and traveled on foot, using dogs as pack animals. The Apache gradually extended their influence over a large area, moving southward into Central Texas. Known as Lipan Apache by the late 1600s, they were pushed farther south by the formidable Comanche and Kiowa.

Texas's American Indians had been making and breaking alliances with each other for centuries by the time Spanish settlers arrived. Colonists complicated the mix, shifting alliances with different American Indian groups as circumstances changed.

Missionaries Arrive, Apaches Depart

In 1757, Spanish friars established Mission Santa Cruz de San Sabá north of San Antonio for the Lipan Apache. The missionaries hoped to convert the Lipans; the Apache hoped the friars would protect them from the Comanche and other enemies. Neither the missionaries nor the Apaches anticipated the deep hostility of Apache enemies who completely destroyed the mission in 1758 to break the Lipan-Spanish alliance.

Few American Indians converted to the Catholic faith. Most were generally indifferent to the missionaries, and differences in languages, beliefs, and everyday customs made many interactions between the two groups almost impossible. However, they were linked by their interdependence. Missionaries needed the Lipans to build and maintain the mission structures and to farm the land. Lipan Apaches found that life in the missions provided them a safe haven from powerful enemies.

However, relations between the two groups themselves weren't always smooth. Some Lipans maintained their cultural traditions while living in the missions, causing much frustration for the friars. The Lipan were equally unhappy by the friars's exhaustive labor demands and poor food supply. By 1767, the Apaches had moved on from Spanish mission life and back into the landscapes of Texas and Mexico.

 

 

Launch Master Timeline

American Indians Timeline

14,000 BCE
14,000 BCEThe First Peoples

Peoples settled in what is now Texas thousands of years before European explorers arrived in North America. Some American Indian oral histories recount how their ancestors traveled to the area by water or land. A large amount of stone artifacts made at least 16,000 years ago have been found in Central Texas. For many years, scientists believed that the first Americans came from Asia 13,000 years ago. The discovery of these artifacts suggests that humans came to the Americas much earlier.

Pre-Cloves Projectile Point.
Image courtesy Gault School of Archaeological Research, San Marcos, Texas

Circa  12,000 BCE
12,000 BCEPrecontact

During the time before European explorers arrived in North America, many different groups of American Indians made their homes in what is now Texas. Four general American Indian culture areas developed in Texas: the Western Gulf, Southeast, Pueblo, and Plains. The American Indian cultures reflected their environments and resources and were as diverse as the Texas landscape itself.

9,500 BCE
9,500 BCEThe Clovis People

Peoples who lived in the area at the end of the Ice Age are referred to as the “Clovis” people by archaeologists. These people shared the land with mammoths, mastodons, and other Ice Age animals. They traveled long distances to hunt these animals with spears. They also used projectile points and other tools made of Alibates flint. Their stone tools have been found more than 300 miles from the stone's source.

Alibates.
Image courtesy Texas Archeological Research Lab, The University of Texas at Austin Photo by Milton Bell

8,000 BCE
8,000 BCEThe Folsom People

The “Folsom” people lived a hunter-gather lifestyle very similar to the Clovis people. With the mammoth and many other big game species from the Ice Age extinct, the Folsom people followed large herds of bison that were larger than the bison of today. They hunted with a weapon called the atlatl and dart. This weapon system consisted of two parts: a "throwing stick" and a dart which looks similar to an arrow but was much longer.

Prehistoric hunters used atlatls to hurl these darts at their prey.
Image courtesy Texas Archeological Research Lab, The University of Texas at Austin Photo by Milton Bell

6,000 BCE
6,000 BCEThe Archaic Period

The “Archaic” people that called the present-day Texas Panhandle home lived in an environment that was rich in various plants and animals. They were slowly transitioning from being nomadic hunter-gatherers to farmers. They gathered various types of plant materials: seeds, roots, berries, and anything else that was edible. They would grind the seed into meal using tools called a “mano and matate” made out of sandstone or dolomite.

Striations, stains, and polish cover this limestone tool that may have been used for a variety of purposes, including grinding.
Image courtesy Texas Archeological Research Lab, The University of Texas at Austin Photo by Aaron Norment

3,000 BCE
3,000 BCEThe First Farms

More than 5000 years ago in present-day Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, people began to grow corn, beans, and squash. The switch from a nomadic hunter-gatherer life style to horticulture contributed to more reliable food sources and settled lifestyles. Populations grew and cultures flourished.

Varieties of maize found near Cuscu and Machu Pichu at Salineras de Maras on the Inca Sacred Valley in Peru, June 2007.
Image credit Fabio de Oliveira Freitas, Courtesy Smithsonian Institute

2,500 BCE
2,500 BCEPecos Rock Art

"Rock art" including pictographs (painted images) and petroglyphs (carved, or incised images) was made by people at least 4,500 years ago throughout the Lower Pecos region of present-day Texas. The symbols in the “White Shaman” mural depict a creation story that can still be interpreted today by Huichol Indians in Mexico.

Panther Cave Rock Art.
Image Courtesy Shumla Archaeological Research and Education Center. Site jointly owned by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the National Park Service

Circa  100
100Ceremonial Cave

Beginning at least 2,000 years ago in a Hueco Mountains’ canyon near El Paso, ancient Puebloans held ceremonies where they placed offerings in a cave. The Pueblo people believed that caves were portals to a watery underworld. Among the artifacts found in Ceremonial Cave were a finely crafted bracelet and pendants made of shells from coastal areas hundreds of miles away. These artifacts are evidence of the vast trade routes that existed between diverse communities.

Turquoise armband, 700–1450 CE.
Image courtesy Texas Archeological Research Lab, The University of Texas at Austin

Circa  500
500Bow and Arrow

The bow and arrow was developed around 500 C.E. Prior to that time, most American Indians used spears as hunting tools or weapons. The bow and arrow had several advantages. The bow was lighter and required fewer resources to make. The arrow was much more lethal than a spear because of its speed, silence, and accuracy.

Circa  700
700Bow and Arrow

The bow and arrow replaced the atlatl around 700 C.E. The new technology spread across much of North America around this time. Its precise origin is unknown, but it may have been brought into the region by new migrants. The bow was lighter and required fewer resources to make. The arrow was much more lethal than a spear because of its speed, silence, and accuracy.

Scallorn Points.
Image courtesy Texas Archeological Research Lab, The University of Texas at Austin Photo by Milton Bell

Circa  800
800Caddo

It is said that Texas owes its name to the Caddo. "Tejas" is a Spanish spelling of the Caddo word that means "those who are friends." Archaeological evidence in the form of fine ceramic pottery indicates that Caddo communities existed in the area as early as 800 C.E. The agriculture-based Caddoes lived in villages and large fortified towns surrounding large plazas with earthen mounds. Atop of the mounds were temples, council houses, and the houses of the tribe’s elites.

Large settlements with mound centers like this existed up and down the Mississippi River and were interconnected through trade. The largest of these fortified communities was Cahokia, located near present-day St Louis, MO. One of Texas's best examples of a Caddo mound is located in present-day Cherokee County.

Circa  800
800Caddo

Texas owes its name to the Caddo. "Tejas" is a Spanish spelling of the Caddo word that means "those who are friends." Archaeological evidence indicates that Caddo communities existed as early as 800 C.E. In 1542, Spanish explorers described three "confederacies" of Caddo people: the Hasinai in East Texas, the Kadohadacho in the Great Bend area, and the Natchitoches in Louisiana. The agriculture-based Caddoes lived in thatched huts and were extremely skilled artisans particularly known for their ceramic pottery. One of Texas's best examples of a Caddo mound—a tribal center of ritual and spiritual activity— is located in Cherokee County.

Image courtesy of Edward S. Curtis Collection/Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (neg. no. LC-USZ62-118773).

1150
1150Antelope Creek People

The “Antelope Creek” people lived in the present-day Texas panhandle between 1150 and 1450. They lived in pueblo like villages where they practiced horticulture and bison hunting. Over a period of 300 years, they dug hundreds of quarries for better flint to make stone tools. Pottery fragments found at Antelope Creek sites provide evidence of extensive trade. The Antelope Creek people left the area abruptly around 1450 AD, perhaps because of drought conditions, disease, or the arrival of hostile Apaches to the area.

Antelope Creek Pottery Sherds.
Image courtesy PPHM collections, photo by Steve Black

Circa  1200
1200Lipan Apache

Historians believe that the Apache moved down from their native territory in Canada and into North America sometime between 1000 and 1,400 C.E. Two groups settled in Texas— the Lipan Apache and the Mescalero. The Mescalero eventually moved on to New Mexico, while the Lipan Apache lived primarily in west Texas. The Lipan Apache lived and hunted together in bands. They were excellent horse riders and used their deadly bow and arrow skills on both buffaloes and enemies.

1400
1400The Lipan Apache Arrived

Historians believe that the Apache moved down from their native territory in Canada and into North America sometime between 1000 and 1400. They belong to the southern branch of the Athabascan group, whose languages constitute a large family, with speakers in Alaska, western Canada, and the American Southwest.

By the 1500s two groups settled in Texas — the Lipan Apache and the Mescalero. The Mescalero eventually moved on to present-day New Mexico. The arrival of the Apache would begin to alter the trade and territorial claims among the diverse tribes who had settled the area before them.

Lipanes, From the Manuscript Collection: Jean Louis Berlandier, 1827–1830.
Image courtesy of the Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa

1528
1528Karankawa Encountered Spaniards

The Karankawa first encountered Europeans when Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca washed up on a Galveston beach in 1528. This encounter, which Cabeza de Vaca wrote about in his diary, is the first recorded meeting of Europeans and Texas American Indians. The Karankawa were several bands of coastal people with a shared language and culture who inhabited the Gulf Coast of Texas from Galveston Bay southwestward to Corpus Christi Bay.

Karankawa, From the Manuscript Collection: Jean Louis Berlandier, 1827–1830.
Image courtesy of the Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa

1528
1528Karankawa

When Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca washed up on a Galveston beach in 1528, he was met by the island's American Indian inhabitants— the Karankawa. This encounter, which Cabeza de Vaca wrote about in his diary, is the first recorded meeting of Europeans and Texas American Indians. In 1685, French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, also meet the Karankawa when he established Fort St. Louis near Matagorda Bay. The Karankawa were historically one of the most powerful American Indian peoples in early Texas, but by the 1850s, their numbers had been so reduced that they were considered to be extinct.

1629
1629Jumano Revisited by the Spanish

Almost 50 years after their first encounter, the Jumano were revisited by the Spanish in 1629. This would mark the beginning of their relations with the Spanish. The Jumano lands stretched from northern Mexico to eastern New Mexico to West Texas. Some Jumano lived nomadic lifestyles, while others lived in more permanent houses built of reeds or sticks or of masonry, like the pueblos of New Mexico. The Jumano were renowned for their trading and language skills. In time, these expert traders helped establish trade routes as well as diplomatic relationships among American Indians, the Spanish, and the French.

Jumano, Drawing by Frank Weir.

Circa  1650
1650Jumano

The Jumano might have been the first "brokers" in Texas history. The migratory Jumano, whose massive territory stretched from northern Mexico to eastern New Mexico to west Texas, were renowned by other American Indians and Europeans alike for their trading and communication skills. These expert middlemen helped establish trade routes as wells as information and diplomatic relationships among Texas's American Indians and Spanish and French settlements in the 17th century.

Drawing of a Jumano man by Frank Weir.

1680
1680Pueblo Revolt

Led by the religious leader Po’pay from the Pueblo of Ohkay Owingeh, Pueblo people revolted against the Spanish colonists and drove them out of present-day New Mexico. After the revolt, Pueblo people began trading the horses they had taken control of. The acquisition of horses, and the ability to travel longer distances more easily, would transform the territorial politics between tribes throughout America.

"Po'pay" by Artist Cliff Fragua, 2005.
Image courtesy U.S. Capitol

1687
1687Tonkawa Encountered French Colonists

The Mayeye, a Tonkawa Tribe, first encountered La Salle and his French colonists in 1687. The Tonkawa belonged to the Tonkawan linguistic family that was once composed of a number of small sub-tribes that lived in present-day Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. The word "tonkawa" is a Waco term meaning "they all stay together." In the years to come the Tonkawa would have changing relationships with the Spanish and the French.

Tancahues, From the Manuscript Collection: Jean Louis Berlandier, 1827–1830.
Image courtesy of the Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa

1687
1687Tonkawa

The Tonkawa were a group of American Indians that banded together in the 18th century in the central Texas area. The word "tonkawa" is a Waco American Indian term meaning "they all stay together." The original Tonkawa group were called the Mayeye and were first mentioned in 1687 in French correspondence about Fort St. Louis. The Tonkawa had frequent contact with Spanish explorers and took part in Spanish mission life. Epidemics, buffalo scarcity, and conflicts with other American Indians as well as the Spanish decreased the Tonkawa population throughout the 18th century. By the late 19th century, most of the remaining Tonkawa had moved to Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma.

Circa  1700
1700Apache Displaced

Circa 1700 In 1706 Spanish officials in New Mexico documented the presence of numerous Comanches on the northeastern frontier of that province. As the Comanches moved south, they came into conflict with tribes already living on the South Plains, particularly the Apaches, who had dominated the region before the arrival of the Comanches. The Apaches were forced south by the Comanche and the two became mortal enemies.

Plains Indian Girl with Melon, 1851–1857. By Friedrich Richard Petri.
Image courtesy Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin

Circa  1700
1700Coahuiltecans

Historians have generally identified the Coahuiltecans as an American Indian group formed from smaller groups of American Indian hunter-gatherers who spoke related languages and shared similar cultures. In Texas, Coahuiltecans were located in the south along the Gulf Coast. Prickly pear cactus, buffalo, and game were staples in their diet. As with many early American Indian groups, information about the Coahuiltecans is sparse. Historians believe that by the 18th century, the Coahuiltecans had largely lost their group identity through death, migration, and displacement.

1734
1734Comanche

One of the most dominant American Indian groups in Texas in the 18th century was the Comanche. The name, from an Ute word, means "enemy." The Comanche were originally a Great Plains hunter-gatherer group, but after acquiring some horses, their history changed. The Comanche became exceptional horse people and migrated into Texas in order to hunt bison and capture the wild horses that roamed the land. They eventually claimed vast areas of north, central, and west Texas. The first reference to the Comanche in Texas comes in 1734, when a small scouting band appeared in San Antonio looking for their enemies, the Lipan Apache. From that time on, the Comanche in Texas became a force to be reckoned with.

"Comanche Feats of Horsemanship" by George Catlin, 1843.

1743
1743Comanche

The first reference to the Comanche in present-day Texas comes in 1743, when a small scouting band appeared in San Antonio looking for their enemies, the Lipan Apache. The Comanches were to become the most dominant people in the area. The name "Comanche" comes from an Ute word that means "enemy." They refer to themselves as the "Nʉmʉnʉʉ" or the "people." The Comanche were originally a Great Plains hunter-gatherer group, but after acquiring horses, they expanded their territory. They became horse experts and migrated into Texas in order to hunt bison and capture the wild horses that roamed the land. They eventually claimed vast areas of north, central, and west Texas as part of "Comancheria."

Comanche Feats of Horsemanship, 1834–1835, by George Catlin.
Image courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr., 1985.66.487

1749
1749Apache and Spanish Peace

Ever since the Spanish arrived in the San Antonio area, the Lipan Apache have been at war with them. When the enemy Comanche arrived to the area, the Apache agreed to a peace treaty with the Spanish. The two buried a hatchet in the ground in a ceremony in San Antonio. This led the Spanish to move forward with plans to build missions in Apache territory.

Spontoon Tomahawk
Image courtesy of Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, Texas; Gift of H.W. Taylor

1750
1750Wichita Settled Along the Red River

Originally from the area of present-day Kansas, a band of Wichitas moved from Oklahoma and settled along the Red River near present-day Nocona, Texas. They would live there until about 1810, when they gradually returned to present-day Oklahoma. The Wichita called themselves Kitikiti'sh, meaning "raccoon eyes," because the designs of tattoos around the men's eyes resembled the eyes of the raccoon. They lived in villages of dome-shaped grass houses. They farmed extensive fields of corn, tobacco, and melons along the streams where they made their homes and seasonally left their villages for annual hunts.

Wichita paint bag, 1800s.
Image courtesy The Field Museum, Chicago. 59357

Circa  1750
1750Atakapa

The Atakapa lived around the Gulf Coast of Texas and were accomplished in both farming and hunting. Where the land wasn't too marshy or salty, they farmed corn and other vegetables. They also fished and hunted for alligator and bison. Historical evidence suggests that some of the American Indians Cabeza de Vaca encountered in 1528 may have been Atakapas. Although the Spanish built San Ildefonso Mission in present-day Milam County in hopes of converting the Atakapas, the effort failed and the mission was abandoned in 1755.

1759
1759Battle of the Twin Villages

In response to the destruction of Mission Santa Cruz de San Sabá, forces of 600 Spanish soldiers attacked the Taovaya (Wichita) village on the Red River. With horses and French weapons, the Wichita were a stronger force than the Spanish. The Spanish were defeated and forced to retreat.

Match-lock musket, 1500s.
Image courtesy Red McCombs Collection, Georgetown

1762
1762Changing Alliances

The Spanish negotiated a treaty with the Comanche, who agreed not to make war on missionized Apaches. Continued conflicts with Apaches made it impossible for Comanches to keep their promise. This ultimately led Spanish officials to advocate for breaking their alliance with the Apache in favor of a Spanish-Comanche alliance aimed at subduing the Apaches.

Comanches, From the Manuscript Collection: Jean Louis Berlandier, 1827–1830.
Image courtesy of the Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa

1763
1763Alabama Coushatta in Big Thicket

As a result of British colonial expansion from the east, the Alabama and Coushatta Tribes began to migrate from what is now Alabama to the area of Big Thicket in present-day Texas. By 1780 they had moved across the Sabine River into Spanish Texas.

Cutchates, From the Manuscript Collection: Jean Louis Berlandier, 1827–1830.
Image courtesy of the Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa

1771
1771Spanish Treaties

With the help of the French Governor of Natchitoches, Spain made treaties with Caddo, Wichita, and Tonkawa tribes. One year later, also with the help of a Frenchman, Spain made a treaty at San Antonio with a Comanche band. Other bands, however, continued to raid Spanish settlements.

Comanche War Bonnet, 1946–1970.
Image courtesy Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon

1775
1775Smallpox

Since they first arrived to the Americas in the early 1500s, European diseases decimated diverse indigenous communities. In 1775 a smallpox epidemic killed hundreds of thousands of Europeans and Native peoples in North America. The virus was carried by people along the trade routes from Mexico City and moved north to Comancheria and farther north to the Shoshone. An estimated 90% of the American Indian population died from epidemics. The deadly diseases greatly shifted the balance of power between American Indians and Europeans.

Detail of Cabello to Croix, reporting smallpox epidemic, 1780.
Image courtesy Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin

1779
1779El Mocho

El Mocho, a Lipan Apache who as a child was captured and adopted by the Tonkawa, became a chief of the Tonkawa after a small pox epidemic killed most of the tribe’s elders. Hoping to free his people from Spanish control, he formed a loose confederacy of groups that included the Tonkawas, the Lipan Apaches, and some Comanches and Caddos.

Hand-colored stone lithograph of a West Lipan Apache warrior sitting astride a horse and carrying a rifle; from Emory's United States and Mexican Boundary Survey, Washington, 1857.
Image courtesy Star of the Republic Museum

1785
1785Comanche Peace Treaty

The Comanche accepted a peace deal with the Spanish, allowing Spaniards to travel through their lands. In exchange, Spain offered to help the Comanche in their war with the Apache. Peace between the Spanish and Comanche lasted 30 years. The Comanches were to become the dominate force in the area, both in trade and warfare.

Cabello to Rengel, reporting on visit made to Béxar by Comanche captain to confirm peace treaty, 1785.
Image courtesy Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin

1807
1807Cherokees on the Red River

Cherokees were first reported in Texas in 1807, when a small band established a village on the Red River. American expansion had forced them to the west. They were an agricultural people whose ancestral lands covered much of the southern Appalachian highlands, an area that included parts of Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama.

In the summer of that year, a delegation of Cherokees, Pascagoulas, Chickasaws, and Shawnees sought permission from Spanish officials in Nacogdoches to settle members of their tribes in that province. The request was approved by Spanish authorities, who intended to use the displaced tribes as a buffer against American expansion.

"Cunne Shote, Cherokee Chief," by Francis Parsons, 1751–1775. Gift of the Thomas Gilcrease Foundation, 1955.
Image courtesy of the Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa

1822
1822Chief Bowl

In 1822 Cherokee Chief Bowl sent diplomatic chief Richard Fields to Mexico to negotiate with the Mexican government for a grant to land occupied by Cherokees in East Texas. After two years of waiting to receive a grant, Richard Fields tried to unite diverse tribes in Texas into an alliance and began to encourage other displaced tribes to settle in Texas.

Chief Bowl, Courtesy Jenkins Company.
Image courtesy Prints and Photographs Collection, Texas State Library and Archives Commission. #1/102-661

1836
1836Cynthia Ann Parker

A large force of mostly Comanches attacked a private fort built by Silas and James Parker near the upper Navasota River. In the attack Silas and two women were killed. His daughter Cynthia Ann (9), son John (6), and three others were taken by the Comanche. In time Cynthia Ann Parker was fully adopted by the Comanche, eventually becomming a wife of Chief Peta Nocona and the mother of Chief Quanah Parker.

"Cynthia Ann Parker" by William Bridgers, 1861.
Image courtesy DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

1843
1843Tehuacana Creek Council

On March 28, 1843, a number of Indian tribes including the Caddos, Delawares, Wacos, Tawakonis, Lipan Apaches, and Tonkawas attended the first council between the Tribes and Texas officials on Tehuacana Creek just south of present-day Waco.

Minutes of Indian Council at Tehuacana Creek, March 28, 1843. Texas Indian Papers, Volume 1, #122.
Image courtesy Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission

1846
1846Meusebach–Comanche Treaty

Head chiefs for the Comanche including Buffalo Hump, Santa Anna, and others signed a treaty with John O. Meusebach, who acted on behalf of German settlers. The treaty allowed settlers to travel into Comancheria and for the Comanche to go to the white settlements. More than three million acres of land opened up to settlement as a result.

Meusebach Treaty, 1864.
Image courtesy of Texas State Library and Archives Commission

December 10, 1850
1850Treaty Stone

On December 10, 1850, representatives from the U.S. government and the southern Comanche, Lipan Apache, Caddo, Quapaw, and various Wichita bands met for treaty negotiations at the Spring Creek Council Grounds. The tribal representatives agreed to stay west of the Colorado River and north of the Llano River, to abide by U.S. laws, and to turn over fugitive enslaved people and individuals being held as prisoners. The agent for the U.S. agreed to regulate traders in American Indian territory, establish at least one trade house, and send blacksmiths and teachers to live with the tribes.

This stone is one of two placed at the meeting site near Fort Martin Scott in Fredericksburg to commemorate the signing of the treaty. However, the treaty was not ratified by the U.S. government and neither side honored its provisions.

Treaty Stone, 1850.
Courtesy Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin

October 29, 1853
1853Alabama Reservation Polk County

On October 29, 1853, Alabama Chief Antone, the tribal subchiefs, and prominent citizens of Polk County presented a petition to the Texas legislature requesting land for a reservation. In part to thank the tribes for their support of the Texas Revolution in 1836, the petition was approved. The State of Texas purchased 1,110.7 acres of land for the Alabama Indian reservation. About 500 tribe members settled on this land during the winter of
1854–55. In 1855 the Texas legislature appropriated funds to purchase 640 acres for the Coushattas.

Detail of J. De Cordova's Map of the State of Texas Compiled from the records of the General Land Office of the State, 1857.
Image courtesy of the Rees-Jones Collection, Dallas, TX

1854
1854Upper and Lower Brazos Reservations

Upper and Lower Brazos Reservation was created in northern Texas. About 2,000 Caddo, Keechi, Waco, Delaware, Tonkawa, and Penateka Comanche, lived on the reservation. Five years later, attacks by white settlers and encroachments on the reservation resulted in the diverse tribes being forcibly removed to Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma.

Detail of J. De Cordova's Map of the State of Texas Compiled from the records of the General Land Office of the State, 1857.
Image courtesy of the Rees-Jones Collection, Dallas, TX

1863
1863Comanches Cattle Raids

Large-scale cattle raids by Comanche became common with attacks in Cooke, Denton, Montague, Parker, and Wise counties. In December, some 300 Comanches attacked settlements in Montague and Cooke counties and escaped after driving off soldiers from the Frontier Regiment.

Saddle pad, 1870s
Image courtesy The Heritage Society, Houston. Gift of Mrs. Herman P. Pressler, Accession #1967.231

1864
1864First Battle of Adobe Walls

U.S. Army Col. Kit Carson led 350 California and New Mexico volunteer cavalry against Comanche and Kiowa camps near the abandoned "Adobe Walls" trading post in the Texas Panhandle. After a battle of several hours, Carson and his troops narrowly escaped, outnumbered by about 1,400 Comanche, Kiowa, and Apache warriors.

Credit TBD

1870
1870Bison Faced Extinction

A new technique for tanning bison hides became commercially available. In response, commercial hunters began systematically targeting bison for the first time. Once numbering in the tens of millions, the bison population plummeted. By 1878, the American Bison were all but extinct. This was a terrible blow to the American Indians whose livelihood depended on the bison and to whom the bison is a sacred animal.

Pile of buffalo hides obtained from hunting expeditions in western Kansas, April 4, 1874.
Image courtesy Kansas Historical Society

1871
1871Chiefs Tried in US Court

Kiowas and Comanche attacked a freight wagon train on the Salt Creek Prairie of Young County and killed the wagon master and seven teamsters. In response U.S. Army Gen. Sherman ordered operations to arrest any Comanche and Kiowa found away from their reservation. Chiefs Satank, Satanta, and Big Tree were arrested and put on trial. They were the first Native American leaders to be tried for raids in a U.S. Court.

White Bear (Sa-tan-ta), a Kiowa chief, 1868–1875, By William S. Soule.
Image courtesy NARA

1872
1872Battle of North Fork

While on an expedition to the Llano Estacado, US Cavalry companies and Tonkawa scouts attacked a Comanche village on the North Fork of the Red River. About 13 women and children and their horse herd of some 800 animals were captured. Three soldiers were killed and seven wounded. The Comanche suffered 50 killed and seven wounded. The prisoners were sent to Fort Sill in Indian Territory.

Johnson, Chief of Tonkawa Scouts, United States Army, 1870–1875.
Image courtesy DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

1873
1873Attacks Across the Rio Grande

Six companies of the 4th Cavalry, along with 24 Black-Seminole scouts led by Lt. John Bullis, crossed the Rio Grande and attacked a village of Lipan and Kickapoo near Remolino, Mexico. The survivors were deported to the Mescalero Reservation in the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico.

A Black Seminole regiment, c. 1885.
Image courtesy Sul Ross State University Bryan Wildenthal Memorial Library

1874
1874Second Battle of Adobe Walls

By the winter of 1873‒1874, the Southern Plains Indians were in crisis. The reduction of the buffalo herds combined with increasing numbers of settlers and military patrols had put them in an unsustainable position. Led by Isa-tai and Quanah Parker, 250 warriors on June 27th attacked a small outpost of buffalo hunters at Adobe Walls in the Texas Panhandle. This would start the Red River (or Buffalo) War.

Red River War Kiowa Prisoners, Fort Marion, Florida, c. 1875. Kiowas. From: Richard Henry Pratt papers, 1862–1956.
Image courtesy Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

1875
1875Quanah Parker Surrendered

The Red River War officially ended in June 1875 when Quanah Parker and his band of Quahadi Comanche entered Fort Sill and surrendered. They were the last large band in Texas. The United States had now defeated the unified Cheyenne, Arapaho, Comanche, and Kiowa and forcibly confined them to reservations.

Quanah Parker, a Kwahadi Comanche chief; Date Unkown.
Image courtesy NARA

1880
1880Mescalero Pushed into Mexico

A band of Warm Springs and Mescalero Apaches under Chief Victorio terrorized southern New Mexico and West Texas. During July and August, detachments of the 10th Cavalry and 25th Infantry battled with the Apaches and denied them access to water in the trans-Pecos region of West Texas. Victorio withdrew to the mountains of Mexico, where he was killed by Mexican soldiers.

Victorio, Apache Chief.
Image courtesy Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Library

1881
1881Lipan Apache Pursued into Mexico

In 1881, a small war party of Lipan Apache attacked and looted the house of an American settler in Texas, killing two people. Thirty Black-Seminole Scouts led by Lt. John L. Bullis pursued the band of Lipan Apache raiders into Mexico. It was the last military action against American Indians conducted by the United States in Texas.

Apache Indians as they appear ready for the warpath, 1873.
Image courtesy NARA

1884
1884Tonkawa Removed to Indian Territory

In October the Tonkawa were removed from Fort Griffin, Texas, and transported by railroad to Indian Territory. Today the Tonkawa hold a yearly powwow in October that commemorates this removal and their arrival to the Ft. Oakland Reservation.

"Tonkawa or Tonquawa, – Friendly Indians – Forts Griffin & Richardson, Texas."
Image courtesy DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

1900
1900U.S. Census Report

The U.S. census counted only 470 American Indians in living Texas.

Wedding of Lindsay and Sally Poncho, the first Christian wedding of an Alabama-Coushatta Indian couple, Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation near Livingston, Texas.
Image courtesy UTSA Libraries Special Collections

1924
1924The Snyder Act

The Snyder Act of 1924 admitted Native Americans born in the U.S. to full U.S. citizenship, extending to them the right to vote as protected by the Fifteenth Amendment. Though the Fifteenth Amendment, passed in 1870, granted all U.S. citizens the right to vote regardless of race, it wasn't until the Snyder Act that Native Americans could enjoy the rights of American Citizenship.

"Move on!" by Thomas Nast, 1871.
Image courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

1967
1967Tiguas, Ysleta del sur Pueblo

In May 1967, the State of Texas officially recognized the descendants of Tigua as a tribe. The Tigua built the Ysleta Mission in El Paso in 1682. Today the Tiguas, Ysleta del sur Pueblo have a tribal government and diverse enterprises just outside El Paso that provide employment and benefits for both tribal members and regional citizens.

Ysleta Mission, one of the longest continually occupied religious buildings in the United States.
Image courtesy Texas Historical Commission

1977
1977Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas

The Texas Indian Commission officially recognized the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas. In 1983 the Kickapoo also received Federal Recognition and received dual American citizenship with Mexico. They maintain a traditional village in Mexico that preserves their traditional ways, and their tribal headquarters is in Eagle Pass, Texas.

Southern Kickapoo people building a winter house in Nacimiento, Coahuila, Mexico, 2008.
Image courtesy Fernando Rosales

2000
2000U.S. Census Report

The 2000 census counted 118,362 people in Texas who identified themselves as exclusively American Indian.

Credit TBD

March 18, 2009
2009State Recognition for the Lipan Apache

On March 18, 2009, the State of Texas legislature passed resolution HR 812 recognizing the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas.

Bill HR812, 2009.
Image courtesy Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas

April 25, 2013
2013American Indian Heritage Day

On April 25, 2013, the Texas State Legislature passed House Bill 174, which named the last Friday in September as American Indian Heritage Day in Texas. It recognizes the historic, cultural, and social contributions American Indian communities and leaders have made to the state.

Credit TBD

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