Ancient America: Texas Prior to 5000 BCE

As a cultural area, the Southern Plains is bounded by the Arkansas River on the north, the Rocky Mountains on the west, the Mississippi River on the east, and the Balcones Escarpment on the south. The area presently known as Texas covers much of the Southern Plains. In general, this is a grassy area with forests found along the streams.

American Indians lived in Texas for many thousands of years prior to the European invasion. The period of time prior to 8,000 BCE is often called the Paleo-Indian Period and the era from 8,000 to 5,000 BCE is known as the Early Mobile Foraging Period. During these time periods, American Indian groups were primarily nomadic hunters. Since there were very few plant foods with nutritional value for humans, these early Indian groups depended largely on hunting for their subsistence. Archaeologist Susan Vehik, in her chapter in the Handbook of North American Indians, reports:

“Large and small animal resources were utilized prehistorically. Bison are commonly assumed to be the primary animal resource, but the Southern Plains experienced pronounced fluctuations in the size and distribution of bison herds.”

Susan Vehik also reports:

“Bison herds are a clumped and unpredictable resource compared to deer and other small animals that tend to be dispersed. This distinction has implications for the size and distribution of human social groups.”

About 5000 BCE, the Great Plains began to enter into a climate period known as the Altithermal which is a hot, dry episode that lasted for about 2,500 years. In the Southern Great Plains this marked the transition from the Early Mobile Foraging Period to the Late Mobile Foraging Period.

Briefly described below are some of the archaeological sites in Texas which date prior to 5000 BCE.

Paleo-Indian Period

During the Paleo-Indian Period, Indian people on the Plains were nomadic hunter-gatherers. With regard to the stone technology used on the Plains during the Paleo-Indian Period, Douglas Bamforth, in his entry on the Plains in the The Oxford Companion to Archaeology, reports:

“The Paleo-Indian period on the Plains is also well-known for the sophistication of its stoneworking: Projectile points in particular are extremely well-crafted, aesthetically pleasing, and difficult to produce, and Paleo-Indian flint knappers tended to manufacture them from very high-quality stone.”

Petronila Creek: by 16,000 BCE, Indian people were occupying a hunting and fishing camp on Petronila Creek. They were hunting mammoth, ground sloth, camel, horse, peccary, antelope, coyote, prairie dog, and alligator. They were fishing for catfish, gar, and other fish.

Levi Rockshelter: by about 11,750 BCE, Indian people were using the Levi Rockshelter.

Buttermilk Creek: by about 11,200 BCE, Indian people were occupying the Buttermilk Creek site.

Gault site: by 11,000 BCE, Indian people at the Gault site were making adzes for woodworking. Archaeologists Dennis Stanford and Bruce Bradley, in their book Across Atlantic Ice: The Origins of America’s Clovis Culture, write:

“Small incised stones have been recovered from the Clovis level at the Gault Site in Central Texas. These stones are mostly thin limestone slabs that are natural in the area. The incising is mostly geometric designs, especially hatching and crosshatching, but at least two stones may be etched with animal representations.”

Lubbock Lake Landmark: by 11,000 BCE, Indian people were hunting mammoth as well as other mammals at the Lubbock Lake Landmark site.

Early Mobile Foraging Period

Stone Tools: by about 9650 BCE, Indian people near Aubry, Texas were making and re-sharpening stone tools similar to those which archaeologists classify as Clovis. Material for making the stone tools was not local. The source of the nearest tool material at the site was about 200 miles away.

Burial: about 9200 BCE, two Indian people—a middle-aged man and a girl of about 12—were buried together in the Horn Shelter Number 2 site. The man was buried on his left side with his head resting on a stack of turtle shells. The girl was buried so that she was nestled against his back. More than a hundred offerings were placed in the grave.

At the time of his death, the man was 35-44 years old, stood about 5’5” tall, and weighed 150 pounds. Overall, he was very muscular. His teeth were heavily worn, some were broken, and some were missing.

Both individuals had been subject to starvation and/or disease during childhood. Both appear to have had an infection at the time of death. According to anthropologist James Chatters, in his book Ancient Encounters: Kennewick Man and the First Americans:

“This evidence of infection and frequent malnutrition may give us a hint about the cause of these people’s simultaneous deaths: infections made worse by starvation, perhaps during an unusually harsh winter.”

Hot Tubb: about 8900 BCE, Folsom buffalo hunters at the Hot Tubb site (41 CR 10) killed and processed at least six animals. In their report in the Plains Anthropologist, David Meltzer, John Seebach, and Ryan Byerly write:

“The heavy use and attrition indicated by the lithic remains—the intensive re-sharpening and recycling of both scrapers and projectile points—bespeaks a group(s) for whom stone, by the time they arrived at Hot Tubb, was in short supply.”

The stones being used for their tools was Edwards chert, from a site to the east. It is possible that the group was in route to acquire new stone when it stopped at Hot Tubb.

Midland: about 8900 BCE, Folsom people near present-day Midland were using small beads – 1.6 mm in diameter – made from bone as decorative items. According to JoAllyn Archambault of the Smithsonian Institution in her chapter in The Encyclopedia of North American Indians:

“The bone bead is as finely made as the best hishe beads (disk-shaped shell beads with a single hole in the middle) created by contemporary Indian bead makers using modern equipment.”

Buffalo Jump: by 8300 BCE, Indian people were stampeding buffalo over a 70-foot cliff. They were using both Folsom points and unfluted Plainview points.

Plainview: by 8200 BCE, Indian people were occupying the Plainview site on the eastern edge of the Llano Estacado. Lithic technology involved the use of prepared polyhedral cores and specialized flake production. Bifaces were rare and final point form was dependent on the form of the flakes struck from the core.

Hinds Cave: by 7400 BCE, Indian people at the Hinds Cave site were eating domesticated dog. They were probably also using dogs for hunting, for protection, and possibly for pets. The dog appears to be genetically similar to the later short-nosed dogs found in New Mexico.

Ryan’s site: by 7220 BCE, Indian people were occupying the Ryan’s site (41LU72) near present-day Shallowater. The stone tools used by the people at this site suggest either high mobility or extensive trade over long distances. The stone used for the tools included chert from central Texas (120 to 200 miles to the south and southeast), Alibates from the Canadian River area (120 miles to the north), and Tecovas jasper (60 miles north-northeast).

Buffalo Hunt: about 7170, Plainview hunters stampeded a herd of 100 buffalo into a gully and killed them. The hunters used atlatls tipped with Plainview points which were roughly similar to Clovis points except that they were not fluted.

Central Texas: by about 6000 BCE, Indian people in Central Texas adopted to changing environmental conditions by having a settlement/subsistence system which was characterized by small groups seasonally occupying widely dispersed camps.

Burials: by 5500 BCE, Indian people in the Edwards Plateau area were burying their dead by dropping or lowering them into sinkholes. Afterwards, they threw in rock to bury, or at least partially bury, the body. Burials tended to be egalitarian. According to archaeologist Leland Bement, in his book Hunter-Gatherer Mortuary Practices during the Central Texas Archaic:

“The presence of both sexes and all age-groups in the various deposits indicate that the burial facility was available to all members of the society and not limited to a certain segment.”

In general, Indian people of the Edwards Plateau area were healthy, robust, and free of diseases.

Spanish Missionaries in Texas

A frontier is a transition zone between two regions, between two areas with different cultures. For the European invaders in North America, the frontier represented the transition between civilization—defined by European languages, governments, and religion—and barbarism—defined by the pagan and incomprehensible Native American cultures. For the English colonists in North America, the frontier was a broad line running north-south and for the English the frontier was always to the west. In New Spain, however, the frontier was to the north. For the colonial Spanish, one of the frontier zones was the area that is today known as Texas.

For the Spanish, the northern frontier of Texas was an area that had to be civilized through the conversion of Native peoples to Catholicism either by persuasion or by force of arms. From 1673 until 1728 Catholic missionaries worked in Texas, establishing missions and seeking converts.

In 1673, in response to what was viewed as a request for Christian missionaries by the Coahuiltecan, the Franciscans sent Fray San Buenaventura and a force of ten soldiers north from Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe in Coahuila north across the Rio Grande. When the expedition returned, Fray San Buenaventura recommended that the Spanish establish three missions among the Coahuiltecan and that each mission be protected by a presidio (fort) of not less than 70 soldiers.

In 1675, Spanish explorers, including a group of Franciscans, traveled northward from Eagle Pass to present-day Edwards County. They encountered three tribes and noted that smallpox had already decimated tribal numbers. Some of the tribes were hunting buffalo and making jerky.

In 1683, Jumano chief Juan Sabeata led a multi-tribal delegation to El Paso to speak with Spanish state and church officials. Sabeata was appointed to the position of gobernador by the Spanish. Juan Sabeata told the Spanish about the thirty-some tribes to the east, including the “Great Kingdom of the Texas” (the Caddo).

In response to the request by Jumano leader Juan Sabeata the Spanish sent out an expedition to explore the Nueces River country, to learn about the Jumano and other Indian nations in the territory, and to bring back specimens of the pearls which were reported to be there. The Franciscan missionaries Nicolás López and Juan Zavaleta were in charge of the religious aspects of the expedition. The expedition turned back after reaching the Colorado River of Texas and having been attacked several times by the Apache.

 In 1690, Fray Francisco Casañas de Jesus María founded a mission on the banks of the Neches River. The mission was named Santísimo Nombre de María and was intended to convert the Hasinai (Caddo).

Three years later, the Spanish missions and presidios in east Texas were abandoned because of lack of cooperation among the Caddo tribes in the area. One Hasinai medicine man convinced the people that baptism waters could be fatal. The Spanish priests found that the Caddo refused to believe in one god, but insisted that there were two: one who gave clothing, knives, hatchets, and other things to the Spanish; and one who gave corn, beans, acorns, nuts, and rain to the Indians.

At San Francisco de los Tejas the Spanish buried heavy objects, such as canons and bells, and then burned the mission. For several days, the Caddo followed the retreating Spanish at a distance to make sure they were really leaving. Four soldiers, however, deserted the Spanish to join the Caddo. Back at the mission, the soldiers showed the Indians where the heavier objects were buried.

 In 1715, the Spanish decided to re-occupy east Texas and established four missions among the Indians.

The following year, a Spanish missionary party of 75 people, including six Querétan missionaries, reached the site of the abandoned Mission of San Francisco de los Texas. Four leagues inland from this site they established the Mission of San Francisco de los Neches. This mission was intended to serve the Neches, Nabedache, Nacogdoches, and Nacono.

Eight or nine leagues northeast of the new mission, they established another mission for the Hainai which was called the Mission of Nuestra Señora de la Purisima Concepción.

A third mission, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, was established for the Nacogdoche and Nacao. A fourth mission, San José de los Nazones, was established for the Nasoni and Nadaco.

In 1718, the Franciscans moved their mission from Eagle Pass to San Antonio where it became known as San Antonio de Valero.

In 1722, the Spanish established a fort, La Bahía, and the mission of Espíritu Santo de Zuñiga in Karankawa territory.

Four years later, the Spanish moved the Franciscan mission of Espíritu Santo de Zuñiga to the lower San Antonio River in Aranama territory.

In 1728, the Spanish sent General Pedro de Rivera to inspect the Indian missions. He reported: “there was not a single Indian at San Miguel de los Adaes; at Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Nocagdoches, although there were many Indians, industrious and well-disposed, they were all still heathens; at three missions, Nuestra Señora de la Concepción, San Francisco de los Neches, and San José de los Nazones, there were no Indians at all, with little hope of ever getting any.”  In other words, the Spanish missionary efforts to convert the Indians accomplished very little.

Ancient America: The Southern Plains Villagers

Southern Plains Villagers is a culture that occupied the Southern Plains from 800 CE to 1500 CE. These Indian people had agricultural economy which they supplemented by hunting and gathering wild plants. With regard to hunting, the bison was an important animal and was also important in the religious life of the people. Overall, the Southern Plains Villagers had a rich and varied subsistence base.  

The Southern Plains Village sites were relatively small, ranging from a half an acre to as large as four acres. They were usually located on major streams or tributaries. These were sites where the fertile sand-loam soils were well-suited to their corn-based agriculture.

Several small communities would often be clustered fairly close together which suggests a rural community composed of several family groups. In some instances, a larger site would serve as the central community for a number of smaller sites which would be located up and down the river valley.

Southern Plains Village houses tended to be square or rectangular made with central support posts. Upright logs placed in postholes were used to form the walls. The walls of the houses were plastered. The houses were roofed with grass thatch. Houses averaged 23 feet long by 14 feet wide.

The Southern Plains Villagers made flaked stone tools from both locally available materials and from materials which had been traded through some distance. They are using arrowheads which archaeologists classify as Fresno, Washita, Ellis, and Edgewood types.

The Plains villagers used a variety of ground stone tools, including grinding stones. They also used different types of abrading stones. The sandstone abraders which they used were similar to graded sandpaper. They would be used in making bone tools. Coarse abraders would be used for the initial or rough out work. Then the toolmaker would switch to the medium abraders for intermediate steps.  Finally they would use the fine grade for finishing work or re-sharpening.

Using stone tools for grinding corn and plant seeds meant that there was a large amount of grit in the food. This resulted in tooth wear.

The Southern Plains Village people also made pottery. Some of the pottery was made using a limestone temper while some was made using a shell temper. In general, the pots were made for everyday use and tend to have little or no decoration. In addition to pots and bowls, they also made pipes and figurines from clay. The clay figurines were used in fertility ceremonies and the clay pipes were used in tobacco smoking ceremonies.

Custer Pottery

Shown above is an example of Custer Phase Pottery (800 to 1250 CE) from Oklahoma.

Washita Pottery

Shown above is an example of Washita River Pottery (1250 to 1450 CE) from Oklahoma. Both of the photos above are from the Oklahoma Archaeological Survey files.…

The Plains Village people used cache pits for storage. These were dug into the ground to a depth of about 4 feet and they were slightly more than 3 feet in diameter.

During the Turkey Creek Phase (1250 to 1450) in Oklahoma, there were trading networks which connected the Southern Plains Villages to the Pueblo villages in the west and the Caddoan groups to the east and northeast.

About 1500 CE, the Southern Villagers appear to have abandoned their heartland and become more dispersed. In some areas of the Southern Plains, the number of sites decreases and there is a substantial increase in the size of the remaining villages. It is possible that climatic conditions forced the people to move eastward where water supplies were more reliable. Some of the Southern Villagers were the ancestors of the historic Wichita. Intrusive groups, such as the Kiowa, began to appear at this time.  

Invading Mexico in the 1880s

In the 1880s, the American wars against the Apache Indians ignored the border between the United States and Mexico, and the American military often ignored Mexico’s sovereignty in their eagerness to kill Apaches. This was a time when the American press often urged genocide against Indians, particularly against the Apache. Many of the military intrusions into Mexico were made in response to alleged raids by Mexican-based Apache groups.  

In 1881, a small war party of Lipan Apache attacked and looted the house of an American settler in Texas, killing two people. The army followed the party into Mexico where the Apache were surprised at their mountain camp. Six Apache warriors were killed and a small boy and a woman were captured.

In 1882, Apache warriors under the leadership of Juh and Geronimo raided the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona to capture the Chiricahua Apache band led by Loco. This band had stayed on the reservation when the Chiricahua had broken free the year before. Loco and his people were forced to the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico. The army struck the Apaches near the Arizona-New Mexico border and then battled them again 20 miles into the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Nineteen Apache, primarily women and children, were killed in the two battles.

A war party of 25 Chiricahua Apache warriors, under the leadership of Chatto, crossed into Arizona from their stronghold in the Mexican Sierra Madre Mountains in 1883 and raided a charcoal camp near Fort Huachuca, Arizona. The raiding party then moved northeast across the southeastern corner of Arizona, covering 75-100 miles a day. They crossed into New Mexico where they killed a federal judge and his wife and kidnapped their young son to be raised as an Apache warrior. During their raids, the Apaches killed 26 Americans. They managed to escape back into Mexico without being seen by any American soldier.

In response to the raids, an American army unit of 320 men under the command of General George Crook crossed the boundary with Mexico in search of “hostile” Chiricahua and Warm Springs Apache. The expedition’s principal guide was Tzoe (called “Peaches” by the Americans), a Cibecue Apache who had been a part of the hostile bands. In addition, a number of Apache and Yavapai scouts accompanied the Americans.

The Americans managed to surprise the Apache in their mountain stronghold. Consequently, a number of the Apache leaders-Geronimo, Naiche, Chihuahua, Chato, Bonito, Nana, Loco, Mangas, and Kahtennay-agreed to return to the reservation in Arizona.

In 1885, two bands of Chiricahua Apache left the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona.  Tiswin was a traditional Native alcoholic beverage which had been forbidden by the American government. In open defiance of the government’s prohibition, the Apache had brewed up the tiswin (a kind of beer or wine), got drunk and had fled into Mexico. One of the bands was led by Naiche and the other one by Chihuahua. There were about 140 people in the two bands, including 35 men and 8 boys old enough to fight.

One raiding party of ten warriors slipped back into the United States, carried out raids for a month in an area patrolled by 83 companies of soldiers. They killed 38 Americans, captured a number of horses, and escaped back into Mexico with the loss of only one warrior.  

In the Bavispe Mountains of Sonora, Mexico, Chihuahua’s band encountered U.S. troops. While the warriors diverted the troops, the women and children hid in a cave. However, the army found the women and children. They killed some, and then forced the survivors, including the wounded, to walk several hundred miles to Fort Bowie, Arizona. At the Fort, food was simply thrown on the ground for the women and children, implying that the prisoners were no more than animals. The women, including the wounded, were forced to dig latrines.

What many histories record as the final intrusion into Mexico during the 1880s Apache Wars came in 1886 when the Chiricahua Apache surrendered to the United States Army in Mexico on the condition that they would be held as prisoners for two years and would then be allowed to return to their own land. Instead, they spent the next 27 years as prisoners of war in prisons in Alabama, Florida, and Oklahoma.

The Red River War

After 1871, the United States’ policies regarding American Indian nations was no longer based on negotiating treaties, but on concentrating Indians onto reservations where they could be “civilized” by forcing them to become English-speaking Christian farmers. In his annual report to Congress in 1872, Commissioner of Indian Affairs Francis A. Walker wrote:

“There is no question of national dignity, be it remembered, involved in the treatment of savages by a civilized power. With wild men, as with wild beasts, the question whether in a given situation one shall fight, coax, or run, is a question merely of what is easiest and safest.”

On the Southern Plains, American policy regarding the so-called “nomadic” tribes, was to destroy the buffalo herds on which they had traditionally depended for subsistence. Once the buffalo had vanished, these tribes would be forced to remain on the reservations or starve. On the other hand, they also starved on the reservations when the supplies which had been promised them as payment for their land failed to arrive.

With regard to the Comanche and Kiowa in Oklahoma, Indian Commissioner Francis A. Walker reported:

“The United States have (sic) given them a noble reservation, and have provided amply for all their wants.”

The Comanche, however, felt that the United States had not “given” them a reservation: they felt that the United States had only recognized their claim to a small portion of their traditional territory.

To pressure the Indians to stay on the reservations, the United States waged an active war against the buffalo. By 1873, non-Indian buffalo hunters (known as “runners”) were crossing into Comanche territory to hunt and the army did nothing to stop them. Instead, the army took a proactive role by providing protection for the runners and by supplying them with both equipment and ammunition.

In 1874, the Comanche held a Sun Dance. This is not a traditional Comanche ceremony, but was borrowed from the Cheyenne. This Sun Dance coincided with the emergence of a new medicine man:  Eschiti (Coyote Droppings; also spelled Esa-tai). Unlike most Comanche medicine men, he did not wear a buffalo skull cap or ceremonial mask. He was attired only in breechclout and moccasins. He wore a wide sash of red cloth around his waist. A red-tipped hawk feather was in his hair and from each ear hung a snake rattle.

Eschiti had been given strong powers in a vision quest. In his vision, Eschiti ascended to the home of the Great Spirit, a place which is far above the Christian Heaven. It was reported that Eschiti was capable of vomiting up all the cartridges which might be needed for any gun; that he could raise the dead; that he was bulletproof and could make others bulletproof; that he could control the weather. His messianic message to the people was that he had been sent by the Great Spirit to deliver them from oppression.

In 1874, in the panhandle of Texas, buffalo hunters armed with high powered telescopic rifles capable of killing buffalo at 600 yards, set up camp at the abandoned trading post of Adobe Walls. The camp was attacked by an intertribal war party of about 300 made up of Comanche, Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Arapaho warriors. War party leaders included Tabananaka, Wild Horse, Mowaway, Black Beard, and a rising new leader, Quanah. The Indians were confident that Eschiti’s power would render the hunters’ guns useless.

Adobe Walls

Eschiti had warned the warriors not to kill a skunk on their way to Adobe Walls. His medicine had foreseen that the hunters would be asleep when attacked; they would not use their big guns, and his anti-bullet protection would never be put to the test.

Just as the war party prepared to attack the sleeping buffalo hunters, there was a loud crack which awakened them. The hunters, fearing that the ridge pole had snapped, were suddenly awake and scrambling around.

The hunters settled down for the siege, and with plenty of ammunition and good marksmanship, they repelled the war party. Eschiti blamed the failure of his medicine on the actions of a Cheynne member of the war party who had killed a skunk. Since skunk meat was a favorite of many of the southern plains Indians, killing a skunk was not unusual. Hungry members of a large war party would eat whatever strayed into their path.

One of those who was wounded in the battle was Quanah Parker. After his horse was shot out from under him, he crawled to a buffalo carcass for protection and was shot in the side. He then crawled to a thicket where he remained until another warrior rescued him.

This was the second battle of Adobe Walls-the first battle of Adobe Walls had taken place in 1864 when American troops under Colonel Kit Carson fought against Comanche and Kiowa warriors. The second battle of Adobe Walls marked the beginning of an Indian war known as the Red River War or the Buffalo War.

Army troops were called in to capture the war party, but their movement was hampered by drought and by temperatures well over 100 degrees. Eschiti took credit for arranging the weather. The troops, however, were relentless and managed to destroy lodges and capture horses.

In the battle of Palo Duro Canyon, an American force of 700 was attacked by 75 Cheyenne warriors. The Indians were driven back to a steep wall of the canyon where the full force of about 500 warriors made their stand. The army had superior firepower, including Gatling guns and artillery. The Army troops at this time were armed with .45-caliber single-shot Springfield rifles. Many of the Indians had repeating rifles, such as the 16-shot, lever-action Henry and the .50-caliber Spencer. While the Spencers could fire more rounds in less time than the Springfields, the single-shot army rifles could reach farther across the plains to keep the enemy at bay. It may well have been the better weapon for its time and place.

The Indian warriors under the command of Iron Shirt (Cheyenne), Poor Buffalo (Comanche), and Lone Wolf (Kiowa) were scattered by the superior firepower of the Americans. There were few Indian casualties (it is estimated that only 25 Indians were killed), but the Americans killed more than 1,000 horses and destroyed the Indians’ winter food supply.

This was the last major conflict fought by the Indians of the Southern Plains. It was a last desperate and hopeless resistance to the new order which the United States was to impose upon them.    

The Kickapoo and the War Against Texas

As American settlers began moving into Texas-a Spanish colony-in the early nineteenth century, they brought with them an anti-Indian arrogance and attitude than came to define both the Republic of Texas and the State of Texas. They tended to recognize no Indian rights in Texas, and during the Civil War period this anti-Indian attitude was enfolded into racism. Incidents at the end of the Civil War ignited a war with the Kickapoo Indians that would last for decades and would include illegal military expeditions into Mexico.  

Civil War:

As soon as the Civil War broke out, the Confederacy sent treaty delegations among the Indian nations in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) to negotiate treaties of friendship and alliance. Many of the Indian nations had ties to the South, including the ownership of African slaves, and were friendly to the Confederate cause. In addition, many of the tribes held some animosity against the United States as a result of their removal to Indian Territory.

The Kickapoo were not a southern tribe, but one whose homeland was in the Great Lakes area. In their dealings with the United States government they had found the Americans to be less than honorable and therefore had little loyalty to the United States. On the other hand, signing a treaty with the Confederates would require them to declare their friendship for Texas and to stop their raids on Texas ranches and settlements. Their dislike of Texans was greater than their dislike of Americans and so they hoped that a path of neutrality would keep them out of the war. They left Indian Territory and fled north to Union-held Kansas with other pro-Union Indians. In Kansas they did not find peace, but instead there were conflicts with the Osage and the seemingly constant solicitations from Union agents to join their cause.

In 1862, about 600 Kickapoo under the leadership of Machemanet left Kansas with the goal of settling in west Texas or northern Mexico. They wished to escape from conflicts with the Osage and to avoid the Civil War. At this time, there were already Kickapoo villages in Coahuila, Mexico.

They traveled without incident to southwest Texas. While camped on the Little Concho River, the Kickapoo were spotted by a mounted Confederate battalion. Noting the large Kickapoo horse herd, the Confederates attacked. Kickapoo warriors quickly recovered the horses and drove off the Confederates. They hurriedly packed up their camp and crossed into Mexico where they were welcomed by Mexican officials. In return for a pledge from them to drive out the Comanche and Apache raiders and to protect the northern frontiers of Mexico, the Mexican government made a grant of land to Machemanet’s people.

The following year, couriers from Machemanet’s Mexican Kickapoo brought an invitation from the Mexican government to the Southern Kickapoo to move to Mexico. Pecan (the younger) and Papequah held a number of councils to discuss the matter.

The Spark:

In 1865, the Southern Kickapoo bands under the leadership of Pecan (the younger), Nokowat, and Papequah were migrating to their new home in northern Mexico. They had been following a carefully selected course to stay away from any settlements. Upon reaching the South Concho River, they decided to camp for several days to give the horses an opportunity to rest. It was cold and windy, so no scouts were posted.

A scouting party of 20 Confederate cavalry, however, had picked up the Kickapoo trail. At one point they opened a fresh Kickapoo grave and stole the grave goods. They were reinforced with regular Confederate troops bringing their strength up to about 400. With this force they struck the unsuspecting camp.

While the attack took the Kickapoo warriors by surprise, they quickly recovered. Their deadly fire killed 30 of the attacking Confederates, including four of their officers. After a half-hour of intense fighting, the Texans panicked and scattered in retreat. The Kickapoo, who had lost 16 warriors in the fight, quickly packed up camp, leaving large quantities of supplies behind, and fled to Mexico.

Historians would later call this the Battle of Dove Creek, and in the annals of Texas history it was recorded as the most disastrous defeat ever suffered by the Texans in their long history of Indian wars. Their shame was such that an official investigation was held to inquire into the conduct of the military leaders. The inquiry found that there were no indications that the Kickapoo were anything but friendly. In one incident before the attack, an unarmed Indian had come into the camp with two children. He told Captain Fossett that they were friendly Indians. Fossett replied that there were no friendly Indians in Texas and ordered the man and the children to be shot. The men, however, opposed the order to kill the children and they subsequently escaped during the army’s retreat.

From the Kickapoo perspective, the Battle of Dove Creek was a declaration of war by the Texans. Since Texas had declared war against them, the Kickapoo were able to rationalize their raids along the Rio Grande until the 1880s.

The War:

In 1865, while the Americans in the Martin Settlement of Indan Territory were celebrating the Fourth of July with a dance, Mexican Kickapoo warriors raided their horse corral. A twelve-man posse under the leadership of the well-known Indian fighter Levi English set out in pursuit. The Americans had estimated that there were only 18 Kickapoo warriors. It was soon apparent, however, that the posse had been led into a trap in which three were killed and another six wounded.

In 1870, Mexican Kickapoo raiders from Coahuila captured about 40 horses from a ranch near Fort Clark. Two ranchers trailed the raiders back into Mexico, and, while the warriors were sleeping, they recaptured the horses. However, the ranchers were caught by the Mexican army and arrested on suspicion of stealing horses. When the Kickapoo warriors came to Santa Rosa to claim the horses, the Texans filed a suit against the Indians in the local court. Jesus Galan, acting as the attorney for the Kickapoo, argued that since the Kickapoo were at war with the Texans, they had a right to steal north of the border. In the end, 17 horses were awarded to the Texans.

In response to raids by the Mexican Kickapoo, the Texas state legislature in 1870 authorized the formation of 20 companies of Texas Rangers. However, authorizing the companies and paying for them are two different issues. Inadequate funding nullified the force of this measure: only about half of the companies were ever formed, and these were disbanded the following year.

In an attempt to capture Mexican Kickapoo and force them onto a reservation in Oklahoma, the United States Army, in violation of federal laws and in violation of international treaties, invaded Mexico in 1870. The invasion was in response to complaints about Kickapoo raids into Texas. The army succeeded in capturing some Kickapoo and locating them on an Oklahoma reservation.

In 1871, General William Tecumseh Sherman, frustrated at the army’s inability to cross into Mexico to fight against the Kickapoo, asked the State Department to apply to the Mexican government for permission for American troops to invade Mexican soil when they were in hot pursuit of Kickapoo war parties. The Mexican government quickly denied the request.

While the army sought a military solution to the Kickapoo-Texas war, the Quakers were seeking a peaceful solution. In 1871 Quaker Indian agent Jonathan B. Miles was assigned the task of making contact with the Mexican Kickapoo in Coahuila and inviting them to return to the United States. He left Kansas for Mexico with several Kickapoo leaders, including Nokowhat, Parthe, and Keoquark, and an interpreter.

In Mexico, he made contact with Cheeno and his band. He quickly found that they had little interest in the promises of presents, annuities, and land if they would return to the United States. He found that the Mexican government had promised them $10,000 to be used for agricultural development in exchange for their continued border defense against other Indians.

Wapakah, a band leader who was favorable to returning to the United States, told Miles that the American proposal was lost. According to Wapakah, those favorable to returning to the United States were at that very moment being won over by Mexican presents and promises. He advised Miles to abandon his mission.

In 1872, under orders from General Phil Sheridan, the U.S. Cavalry followed Kickapoo and Lipan Apache raiders into Mexico. More than 160 miles south of the border, the Americans killed 19 warriors, captured 40 women and children, and burned three villages. Mexican denial of the hot pursuit request and the concept of sovereignty were simply ignored.

The Congressional commission investing the Kickapoo war on Texas concluded in 1873 that the war could be settled by the removal of the Kickapoo from Mexico and their resettlement on a reservation in the United States.

In 1873, General Philip Henry Sheridan, the commander of the Department of Missouri, and Secretary of War William Belknap met at Fort Clark for a secret meeting with Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie. General Sheridan told Mackenzie:

“I want you to be bold, enterprising, and … when you begin, to let it be a campaign of annihilation, obliteration and complete destruction.”

When Mackenzie asked about authority, he was  simply told that he had the backing of President Grant.

Consequently, U.S. troops from Texas invaded Mexico. The troops found the Kickapoo villages undefended: the warriors had left the day before. The Kickapoo were caught completely by surprise. Those who had remained in the villages-women, children, and old men-were panic-stricken, but they fought like demons when the terror of the surprise assault passed. Methodically, the troops hunted out the hiding Indians, killed those who resisted, and took as prisoners the few who surrendered.

Some 40 Kickapoo women and children were taken prisoner, tied to horses (sometimes as many as three per horse), and rushed back to Texas. The Americans feared that the Kickapoo men would soon return, and desired a fast retreat. The prisoners were then sent to Fort Gibson in Indian Territory where they were held as prisoners of war.

The Mexican government issued a strong protest. The attack was not a spontaneous excursion into Mexican territory, but one which had been planned over the course of several months and had involved special training for the troops. As usual, the United States ignored the protest.

In Oklahoma, the army refused to turn over the Kickapoo women and children to the care of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The army insisted on holding them as prisoners of war until the Kickapoo returned to a reservation.

In Coahuila, Mexico, American negotiators persuaded the Kickapoo to remove to Oklahoma. The army raid on their village had completely devastated them and they had to be fully outfitted for removal. In their journey north, the 317 warriors, women, and children were taken on a long route to avoid contact with communities in Texas.

When they arrived in Oklahoma they were initially assigned to a reservation next to the Osage and the Kaw, traditional enemies of the Kickapoo. The chiefs protested because they had been told that they would be able to select their own reservation.

In 1874, the Kickapoo in Oklahoma were placed under the jurisdiction of the Sac and Fox Agency. The establishment of the new Kickapoo reservation had an impact on the surrounding tribes. Indian agents soon found that Sac, Fox, and Shawnee families joined the Kickapoo religious rites; they became disdainful of the missionaries laboring among them; they rejected Christian teachings; and they neglected their fields and livestock herds to participate in the Kickapoo dances, festivals, and games. The Indian agents became distressed at the carefree Kickapoo attitude toward life. The agents resented what they considered the ‘time wasted” by the warriors and their families in native religious observances, tribal festivals, dances, and games.

In 1874, the Kickapoo Removal Commission traveled to Coahuila, Mexico to meet with the scattered bands of Mexican Kickapoo and persuade them to return to the United States. While Cheeno was seen as the principal chief, the Commission met with Mosquito in Cheeno’s absence. The Commission fed the assembled Kickapoo, gave them blankets, and told them about the pleasant life on the Oklahoma reservation.

The following year, a band of 115 Kickapoo from Mexico under the leadership of Mosquito removed to the new reservation in Oklahoma. The U.S. government provided each family with supplies and food for their journey.

While the major military campaigns against the Kickapoo ended at this time, the war still continued for another decade, though with less intensity. Kickapoo warriors living in Mexico still considered Texas to be at war with them, thus providing them with an excuse to raid north of the border. From the American and Texan viewpoint, however, there was no longer a war, but simply criminal bands to be dealt with by local law enforcement.  

Tigua: The Forgotten Pueblo

( – promoted by navajo)

In 1680, the Pueblo Indians of what is now New Mexico united in a revolt against the Spanish. As a result the Spanish were driven from the area. Not all of the Pueblos, however, joined in the revolt. The Tiwa-speaking pueblo of Isleta did not join the Pueblo Revolt and 1,500 Spanish settlers from the lower river area took refuge in this pueblo before fleeing south into Chihuahua, Mexico.  

The Spanish re-conquest of the New Mexico Pueblos began in 1681. At Isleta the Spanish found a thriving community with the church in ruins. The villagers told the Spanish that they did not want any visitors. The Spanish, however, were not deterred and forced their way into the pueblo. Here the pueblo leaders approached their guests peacefully. The Spanish threw all of the Pueblo ceremonial masks, ceremonial clothing, prayer sticks, and katcina dolls into a flaming pyre. They baptized the babies born in the past year and sent messengers to the other Pueblos promising pardon and demanding submission. The initial Spanish attempt at re-conquest was not successful and they burned the village of Isleta. They took 385 people from Isleta as captives with them as they retreated to El Paso.

When the retreating Spanish soldiers arrived in El Paso with their Indian captives, the Franciscans established three new pueblos for Indians: Senecu, Socorro, and Ysleta. Each pueblo was named for its old pueblo and given the designation of del sur (“of the south”). Thus the people from Isleta, later known as the Tigua, came to live in Ysleta del Sur.

In 1751, the Tigua were given canes by the Spanish which symbolized the recognition of their sovereignty. The Spanish Crown also provided them with a land grant totaling 17,712 acres. The land grant was intended to provide the Tigua with a permanent and protected land base. This would safeguard them from threats posed by non-Indian encroachment and would afford Pueblo governors some measure of authority and sovereignty. The Tigua reestablished their ceremonial and political life around the mission church at Ysleta del Sur.

Ysleta del Sur went from being a part of the Spanish Empire to being a part of Mexico, and then, following a brief war between the United States and Mexico, it became a part of the United States. In 1850 Congress passed an Organic Act which established the boundaries of Texas. With this Act, El Paso became a part of Texas which meant that the Tigua in Ysleta del Sur were now in Texas. The Tigua were thus separated from the other Pueblos in New Mexico.

In 1895, the Tigua established a compact which set forth some rules and regulations regarding the government of their pueblo. The officers for the pueblo, according to the compact, were the cacique, lieutenant-cacique, governor, lieutenant-governor, war captain, and subordinate war captains. José Tolino Piarote was the cacique who served for life as both chief and spiritual leader. As with the New Mexico pueblos, the governor carried a staff of office. The war captain preserved order at the public dances and regulated hunts.

In 1935, Tigua Cacique Manuel Ortega lamented that the title to their Spanish land grant had been lost and stated:

“Our neighbors soon learned of the loss, and, denying our ownership, gradually usurped our rights.”

In 1956, the city of El Paso annexed Ysleta, the home of the Tigua. The annexation meant that the Tigua, who had inhabited the pueblo for centuries, now had to pay city property taxes. The property taxes were more than $100 per year in a community in which the average annual income was less than $400. The Tigua maintained that their land was part of a Spanish land grant and was thus exempt from taxation as the land grant implied sovereign status.

In Texas, the mayor of El Paso wrote to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) voicing the opinion that the Tigua should have the same rights, privileges, and protections as other American Indian tribes. In response to this letter, the BIA pointed out that with one exception (the Alabama-Coushatta) the federal government had never assumed responsibility for any Indian tribe in Texas. According to the BIA, Texas entered the Union as a fully self-governing state and thus there were no public domain lands nor any trust responsibility for any tribes living upon them.  Alan Minter, the Assistant Attorney General of Texas, wrote:

“When Texas became a state in 1845, it was the beginning of the end for the Indian.”

In 1965, attorney Tom Diamond began an inquiry on the status of the Tigua. He was told by anthropologists that the Tigua were extinct. The Tigua, however, maintained that their culture still existed. The problem for outsiders, such as anthropologists, was that Tigua culture had changed and it had been kept hidden from the surrounding non-Indian community.

The following year, Tom Diamond, acting as the attorney for the Tigua, notified the city of El Paso that tribal members would no longer be responsible for taxes to any local division of government. The notification was based on the fact that the Texas Legislature in 1854 recognized that the Tigua held title to the Ysleta Land Grant. Local authorities were cooperative and receptive to the Tigua claim.

In 1966, a study by University of Arizona anthropologist Nick Houser showed that the Tigua were still a culturally distinct Indian tribe. The Texas State Historical Survey Committee acknowledged the accuracy of the report and passed a resolution stating that the tribe was entitled to federal recognition. The following year, the Tigua of Yselta Del Sur were recognized as an Indian tribe by the state. At the recognition hearing, Cacique Jose Granillo performed ceremonial songs. Isleta Pueblo governor Andy Ayeta testified that the Tigua ceremonial songs were identical to those performed in Isleta. The National Congress of American Indians also supported the Tigua claim for recognition. State recognition made the tribe eligible for a tax-exempt reservation as well as special state programs.

In 1968, the Tigua were given limited federal recognition through Congressional action. While the federal act recognized the Tigua as Indian people, it denied them federal services and transferred any federal responsibility to the State of Texas.

In 1985, the Tigua sought full federal recognition through Congressional action. The bill which would give them federal recognition was supported by the Isleta Pueblo (to whom they are related), the All Indian Pueblo Council in New Mexico, the Kiowa, the National Congress of American Indians, and the National Tribal Chairmen’s Association. Unfortunately, the bill got tangled up with the national debate on Indian gaming. Two years later, however, Congress did give the Tigua federal recognition.  The restoration act passed by Congress requires that tribal members have at least 1/8 Tigua blood quantum.

With federal recognition came the right to operate gaming facilities and in 1993, the Tigua opened their Speaking Rock Casino. Most of the residents in the El Paso area supported the casino.

In 1998, the Tigua made a small contribution to a gubernatorial candidate who was well-known for his support for Indian tribes. In response, the campaign team for Governor George W. Bush called Indian tribes the same as drug dealers and called for the other candidate to return the money. An article in Indian Country Today (October 2001, p. A3) quotes Bush’s press secretary as saying:

“If he wouldn’t take money from drug dealers, why would he take it from Indians?”

At this time, Bush led in the polls by over 2 to 1.

The political problems of the Tigua increased and in 1999 a candidate for mayor of El Paso aired a series of commercials claiming that the Tigua did not pay taxes. The Tigua responded with a series of ads pointing out that 80% of the tribal members lived off the reservation, that they paid sales taxes, and the Tigua provided the city with both property and sales tax revenues.

The 1987 Congressional Act which gave the Tigua federal recognition required any changes in tribal enrollment requirements to be approved by Congress. Thus, in 2000, the Tigua asked Congress to change the required blood quantum for tribal membership from 1/8 to 1/16. Moments before the Senate was to vote on the measure, one Texas Senator had the bill withdrawn from consideration. The Pueblo’s governor, Albert Alvidrez, commented:

“Texas has a long record in promoting segregation, racism, and failing to recognize the contributions Native Americans have made in this country and our rights as indigenous people. The genocide and government eradication of Native Americans in this state is a hallmark of Texas politics.”

Without the change in blood quantum it was estimated that tribal enrollment would fall to a handful within three generations.

In 2001, a state court ruled that Indian tribes, including the Tigua, have no more rights in Texas than do associations and ordered the tribal casino to be shut down. While the tribe argued that gaming was allowed under the 1987 Pueblo Restoration Act, the judge declared that there were no Indian tribes in Texas because the state legislature appropriated all Indian lands in 1871. The following year, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the Tigua and upheld the earlier ruling. As a result of this ruling, the Tigua closed their profitable casino.

Quanah Parker: A Texas Hero?

Seventh-graders in Texas are supposed to be introduced to the historical figure Quanah Parker, a Comanche military leader and a leader in the Native American church. Teaching history in Texas, and in many other parts of the United States, is intended to instill in the students a sense of patriotism, loyalty, and nationalism.

Cynthia Dunbar of the Texas State Board of Education has stated:

We as a nation were intended by God to be a light set on a hill to serve as a beacon of hope and Christian charity to a lost and dying world.


The Board has written new educational standards to emphasize the Christian and English-speaking heritage of Texas and of the United States. The story of Quanah Parker seems to be at odds with these standards unless a new biography is invented for him. His mother, Cynthia Parker, is to be omitted from the seventh-grade education. As a non-Indian captured by the Indians she resisted repatriation and preferred to remain with her adopted people. This does not fit into the image of American superiority that some people would like to believe.

What follows is a short biography of Quanah Parker. This biography has not been authorized by the Texas Board of Education.  

Perhaps the most famous Comanche chief is Quanah Parker, the son of Cynthia Ann Parker and Chief Peta Nocono. He was born about 1845. As a youngster, Quanah was noted for his superb horse riding abilities, his bravery, and his leadership.

Quanah’s brother and his father were killed by Texans and his mother was kidnapped by them and died among them in captivity. Thus Quanah had some hatred of the Euroamericans who were invading Comanche lands.

Quanah joined the Kwahadie band whose territory was in the Texas panhandle area. In 1867 he became one of the band’s war chiefs.

While the Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867 called for the Comanche (meaning all of the Comanche bands, including those not represented at the treaty council) to take up residence and be confined to a reservation between the Washita and Red Rivers in present-day Oklahoma, some of the bands refused to give up their nomadic ways. As a consequence, the army moved in and began a campaign to pacify the southern plains. This war was aimed primarily at the Southern Cheyenne, Southern Arapaho, Kiowa, and Comanche.

In 1868, the army attacked and defeated a combined group of Kiowa and Comanche at the Battle of Soldier Spring. The soldiers burned the tipis and destroyed the Indians’ food, driving the Indians out on the plains to die in the winter weather.

In 1871, 600 American soldiers marched against the Comanche in Texas and Oklahoma. The military objective was to find and defeat the bands under the leadership of Quanah Parker, He Bear, Wild Horse, and Bull Elk who had refused to sign the 1867 Medicine Lodge treaty and move them to the reservation.

In 1871, Quanah Parker led two charges against the army at the Battle of the Staked Plain in the Texas panhandle. In the first charge, Quanah and his warriors hit the army camp at Rock Station where they stampeded and captured many army horses. In a second attack, Quanah’s warriors defeated a scouting party. The army called off their pursuit of the “hostile” bands until spring.

The following fall, the army defeated the Kotsoteka band under the leadership of Mow-way, killing at least 30 Comanche and capturing 124. However, the Kwahadie Comanche (including Quanah Parker) and the Kiowa remained at large.

The free Indian bands on the Southern Plains also had a second concern: non-Indian buffalo hunters were slaughtering thousands of buffalo on Indian land and the buffalo were becoming scarce. In 1874, the Indians began a war known as the Buffalo War or the Red River War against these buffalo hunters. To assure the participation of the Southern Cheyenne, Southern Arapaho, and Kiowa in the war, Comanche medicineman Isatai held a Sun Dance, a ceremony which was not traditional to the Comanche but which was (and still is) important to the other tribes.

Quanah Parker was one of the leaders of an allied force of about 700 Indian warriors who attacked 28 buffalo hunters at Adobe Walls in the Texas panhandle. The American buffalo hunters, however, were armed with long range repeating rifles and managed to kill 15 warriors and repel the attack.

During the months following the battle at Adobe Walls, the Comanche, as well as the Kiowa under the leadership of Lone Wolf, Mamanti, and Big Bow, and the Southern Cheyenne under the leadership of Bull Bear, carried out a series of raids against American settlements. In response, the U.S. Army launched a massive campaign. At the battle of Duro Canyon, the army captured or killed most of the Indian’s horses (estimated at 1,500) and destroyed most of their tipis.

In 1875, Quanah Parker’s Comanche, starving and war-weary, turned themselves in to the reservation. This marked the beginning of a new period in Quanah’s life.

On the reservation, Quanah identified himself with his mother’s American last name (Parker) and became useful because of his fluency in English and Spanish. By 1878, he was the spokesman for the Kwahadie band when it met in council with the Indian agents. He advocated the leasing of surplus pasture areas for grazing rights and for rights-of-way, and he worked deals with American cattlemen. He became a prosperous rancher.

From 1886 to 1898, Quanah Parker was one of three judges on the Court of Indian Offenses for the Comanche, Kiowa, Apache, and Wichita. One of the American concerns regarding the Indians at this time was polygyny-the marriage of one man to more than one woman at a time-and Quanah Parker had five wives. This caused friction with the American Indian agents and so he eventually lost his job as judge.

In 1890 Quanah Parker was recognized by the American government as the principal chief of all the Comanche bands. As the main Comanche leader, he not only negotiated with treaty councils, but he also made nearly 20 trips to Washington, D.C. to negotiate Indian issues.

As with all Oklahoma tribes during this time, the Comanche were under pressure by the government to divest themselves of their lands through allotment or sale. In 1892, Quanah Parker signed an agreement to sell “surplus” reservation lands. Many of the Comanche disagreed with this sale and they blamed Quanah Parker for the loss of reservation lands.

On several occasions, Quanah Parker traveled to Washington, D.C. to argue against opening Comanche lands to non-Indian settlement.

In 1890, Quanah Parker also discovered the Peyote Road and became a participant in and advocate for the Native American Church. He helped spread the Peyote Road to other tribes.

In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs to provide “a touch of color” for his inaugural parade by providing some Indians. The BIA provided Geronimo (Apache), Quanah Parker (Comanche), American Horse (Sioux), Hollow Horn Bear (Sioux), Little Plume (Blackfoot), and Buckskin Charley (Ute). The old men rode painted ponies in full regalia. Behind them came a troop of marching Carlisle Indian students. Throughout the parade route, they were greeted with war whoops and similar derisive shouts from the crowd.

To counteract some of the misconceptions about the use of peyote in the Native American Church, Quanah Parker met with the Medical Committee of the Oklahoma State Constitutional Convention in 1909. He managed to convince them that peyote was not harmful and that it was necessary for their religious services.

Quanah Parker died in 1911. He was buried next to his mother’s grave in a funeral which was attended by about 1,500 people.  

The Republic of Texas and the Comanche Indians

With the new standards recently adopted by the Texas Board of Education which appear to emphasize the historical accomplishments of English-speaking Christians, I thought it might be interesting to look at some of the forgotten (or at least ignored) history of Texas: the relationship between the short-lived Republic of Texas and some of the Indian nations within its territory.

In an earlier diary I looked at Texas and the Cherokee and in this diary I’m going to look at the Comanche.  

Prior to the birth of the Republic of Texas, the Comanche had actively raided against all intruders into their lands: the Spanish, Mexicans, American expatriates, and other tribes. They had a reputation as fierce warriors and the very name “Comanche” often struck a chord of fear in the hearts of non-Indians.

Like the Mexicans before them, the Texans at times attempted to negotiate treaties with the Comanche and at other times they tried to militarily drive them out or exterminate them.

In 1838, the Comanche signed a treaty with the Republic of Texas. The treaty called for the Comanche to surrender their sovereignty and to visit the Texas capital on the second Monday every October to talk with the President. Signing the treaty for the Comanche were Muguara, Muestyah (also known as Puestia), and Muhy.

The following year, a Lipan Apache hunting party found a Comanche village on a tributary of the San Saba River and reported it to the Texans. A group of 60 Texans and 16 Lipan Apache under the leadership of Chief Castro attacked the village, catching the Comanche by surprise. When the Texans stopped to reload, their horses were run off and they were surrounded by several hundred Comanche. At a pause in the firing, the Comanche approached the Texans under a white flag. They proposed to trade their Texan prisoners for the Comanche taken in the initial attack. However, the Comanche prisoners had already been killed by the Lipan Apache.

In 1839, a force of 60 Texas Rangers attacked a band of about 20 Comanche buffalo hunters. The Comanche fled and easily outdistanced the Rangers. The Rangers, however, continued their pursuit and soon their captain noticed that the Comanche seemed to be getting more numerous. The Ranger captain became alarmed at this observation. He halted the reckless pursuit and turned about in retreat. Too late he discovered that he had now made the ultimate error in Comanche warfare. The 20 Comanche buffalo hunters were now 200 warriors who were in pursuit of the Rangers. From a ravine, the Rangers were able to fend off the Comanche because they are able to shoot from cover. While the Comanche warriors could easily have wiped out the whole company, the cost in blood was too high.

In 1840, an incident known as the Council House Affair took place in San Antonio. Comanche leader Muguara with 65 men, women, and children came to San Antonio under a flag of truce. The Comanche came to trade, bringing with them many horses and furs and one captive. The Texans, on the other hand, wanted to meet to discuss the release of women and children who had been captured by the Comanche during the past 10 years. Many of the children who had been raised as Comanche had no desire to return to their biological parents’ people.

Twelve Comanche men, described by the Texans as chiefs, met with the Texans in the Council House on the plaza. When the Texans demanded that more captives be returned, Muguara denied that his band had any more. Soldiers surrounded the council house and attempted to take the Comanche prisoners to exchange for prisoners held by the Comanche. As the Comanche tried to escape, the Texans killed them. In the end, 35 Comanche were killed and 27 women and children and two old men were taken captive.

One Comanche woman was sent back to the Comanche camps to secure the release of the other captives. She returned with two Texan and five Mexican captives whom she attempted to trade for her relatives. The Texans released an equal number of Comanche captives in exchange.

The Comanche were outraged by the killing of their chiefs under a flag of truce. In Comanche culture, a council was sacred. To talk in time of peace, especially after smoking the pipe, meant to tell the truth. To fight in council, however, was considered offensive to the spirit world.

In retaliation for the Texan betrayal of the council, Buffalo Hump led a war party of 500 warriors through Texas, burning homes and killing hundreds.

The Comanche surrounded the town of Victoria. They killed a number of black slaves who were working in the fields outside of the town. While some of the houses were attacked and set on fire, the Comanche decided that the cost of the battle was too much and continued on the war path toward the Gulf.

The Comanche warriors then attacked the small port settlement of Linnville. Here they captured a number of women, including the granddaughter of Daniel Boone. In Linnville, the Comanche found a warehouse filled with goods and they spent the day looting the town. They packed great quantities of goods on pack mules and began the slow journey home.

The Texas Rangers and Texas Militia caught up with the slow-moving Comanche column at Plum Creek. While the Comanche warriors managed to avoid a fight for a while, the Texans soon attacked the main body and routed them. Eighty warriors were killed and the Comanche lose all of their loot.

In another incident in 1840, a Comanche group encountered a small patrol of Texas Rangers on Walker’s Creek near the Guadalupe River. The Comanche dismounted and shouted taunts at the Texans. The Texans attempted to slip around and attack the Comanche from the rear, but quickly found themselves surrounded and having to fight their way out. Fending off the Comanche from a refuge in the woods, the Rangers managed to kill the Comanche chief. The Comanche retreated and were pursued by the Rangers.

The Walker’s Creek fight is purported to be the first combat test of the Colt revolver. A number of versions of the story see this battle as the first time the Comanche warriors had encountered the new weapon and that it was so effective that the warriors retreated. However, many of the Comanche warriors and leaders had actually seen the Colt revolver demonstrated the year before. In addition, the reliability of the new revolvers was somewhat less than the Colt myth would have it.

In 1842, Texas made another attempt at securing peace with the Comanche. The Texans sent a delegation to find Comanche chief Pahayuko and to persuade him to come to a peace conference at Bird’s Fort. The delegation included the Waco chief Acahquash and his wife, several Delaware guides, and two Comanche children. The delegation was not, however, well organized and was therefore delayed in making contact with the Comanche.

After an initial meeting with the Texans, Pahayuko went into council with the chiefs and warriors. A number of the warriors, particularly those who had lost relatives at the Council House fight, advocated retaliation first, then peace. Acahquash addressed the council and explained that the head chief of Texas was not the same as the chief who ruled at the time of the Council House fight and that the new chief wished friendship with the Comanche.

The following day, the leader of the Texas delegation was allowed to meet with the council. He presented a pipe (the Alamo Council Pipe), but Pahayuko refused to smoke with him. However, at the end of the council, Pahayuko agreed to meet with the Texans again, this time with all of the Comanche chiefs, in order to negotiate a firm and lasting peace.

In 1844, Delaware scouts John Conner and Jim Shaw made contact with the Comanche on the Clear Fork of the Bazos. They invited Comanche chiefs Old Owl and Buffalo Hump to meet with the Texans in council. While Old Own readily agreed, Buffalo Hump was somewhat reluctant.

The Comanche met in council at Tehuacana Creek near present-day Waco with Texas President Houston. As a result of the council, a pledge of mutual friendship was made. Buffalo Hump said: “What I came here for was to hear the words of peace. I have heard them and all is right; peace is peace.”

With the new agreement, the Texans were to establish trading houses and the Comanche were to stop their raids. The Comanche were to meet with the Texans in council annually and the Texans promised to provide them with gifts. The two sides, however, could not agree on a boundary settlement.

When Texas joined the United States in 1846 it was clearly understood that Texas was to be for Texans: Indians were not welcome in the new state. The problems of war and peace with the Comanche now became the concerns of the federal government, as well as the task of persuading the Comanche to settle on a reservation in Oklahoma.  

The Republic of Texas and the Cherokee Indians

With the new standards recently adopted by the Texas Board of Education which appear to emphasize the historical accomplishments of English-speaking Christians, I thought it might be interesting to look at some of the forgotten (or at least ignored) history of Texas: the relationship between the short-lived Republic of Texas and some of the Indian nations within its territory.

The Republic of Texas came into being in 1836 after breaking away from Mexico. Then a decade later Texas joined the United States as a state. The interactions between the Republic of Texas and the Indian nations within the region were not always honorable.

With the election of Mirabau B. Lamar as President of the Republic in 1838, Texas openly advocated the expulsion of all Indians from the new republic.   President Mirabau B. Lamar addressed the Texas Congress:

“The white man and the red man cannot dwell in harmony together. Nature forbids it.” His solution: “It is to push a rigorous war against them to their hiding places without mitigation or compassion.”

This is the way the Handbook of Texas Online describes Lamar’s Indian policy:

For Houston’s conciliatory Indian policy, Lamar substituted one of sternness and force. The Cherokees were driven to Arkansas in 1839; in 1840 a campaign against the Comanches quieted the western Indians in the west at a cost of $2.5 million.…

This diary focuses on the Republic of Texas and the Cherokee Indians.  

The Texas Cherokee:

The Cherokee homeland is not in Texas, but in the Southeast, in what are now Georgia, the Carolinas, and Tennessee. Following the Revolutionary War, the American government and the government of the state of Georgia sought to remove the Cherokee and other Indians from the United States. As early as 1782, some Cherokee began to look for a new homeland outside of U.S. jurisdiction. They applied to the Spanish governor of the Louisiana Territory for permission to resettle west of the Mississippi River.

In 1785, some of the Cherokee began to move into Spanish territory. One group under the leadership of Konnetue settled on a tract of land given to them by the Spanish King. By 1786, Cherokee hunters from Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina were regularly hunting in Spanish-controlled territory.

In 1786 another group of Cherokee moved to Spanish territory. The Spanish government approved the establishment of six Cherokee villages along the Saint Francis River in what is now Arkansas and Missouri.

In 1802, President Thomas Jefferson signed a secret compact with Georgia in which the state of Georgia relinquished its claims to land in Mississippi and Alabama. In exchange, the United States vowed to extinguish title to Cherokee lands in western Georgia. The Cherokee were neither consulted nor informed.

The following year, the United States purchased the right to govern the Louisiana Territory. The Cherokee who had immigrated east of the Mississippi to escape American restrictions found themselves under American law once again. Meriwether Lewis reported more than 1,000 Cherokee living in Missouri in 1804.

By 1818 one band of Cherokee under the leadership of Bowle (also spelled as The Bowl, Bowles, and Duwala) had settled on the east side of the Red River in Arkansas. The following year Bowle led a group of about 300 Cherokee to Texas where they established a settlement near the present-day city of Dallas. Bowle was angry at having been told to leave Arkansas and was seeking to escape the jurisdiction of the United States. Soon after the move, Richard Fields was chosen to replace Bowle as the principal leader.  

Spain granted citizenship to the Indians of Mexico in 1820. This included what would later become Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and California.

In 1822, the Cherokee under the leadership of Richard Fields met with the provincial governor in San Antonio and signed a treaty. Under the treaty, the Cherokee were granted the right to reside in Texas. Richard Fields moved the Cherokee settlement from a location near present-day Dallas to a forested area in east Texas north of the Spanish fort of Nacogdoches. The Cherokee moved because of continuing conflicts with the Plains tribes which resulted in the deaths of nearly one-third of their warriors.

In 1827, Cherokee leaders Bowle and Big Mush conspired to kill Chief Richard Fields. While Fields had worked hard for his people he had tried to lead them in a political direction they did not wish to go.

The Cherokee  continued their efforts to obtain a land grant. In 1833, the Mexican governor of Texas issued the order for a title for a Cherokee land grant, but he died before the order could be carried out. The Cherokee continued to press for title, but the Indian agent persuaded the Mexican government not to give them title to land in east Texas, but instead to settle them in the west where they could act as a buffer against the Plains tribes.

At this time (1833) there were about 800 Cherokee living in Texas. Many were prosperous farmers and stockgrowers. Most of the adults were able to read and write in English and/or Cherokee.

The Republic of Texas:

With the creation of an independent Republic of Texas the Cherokee quest for a Mexican land title became moot. The Texans originally vowed friendship with the Cherokee. The Texans issued a declaration recognizing the Cherokee land claims in east Texas and vowing friendship with them.

The Texas provisional government met in council with the Cherokee under the leadership of Bowle. A formal treaty was negotiated and was signed by Texas leader Sam Houston and others. However, the treaty generated great dissatisfaction among many Texans and was not presented to the provisional convention for ratification.

In 1837, Sam Houston again met with the Cherokee to sign a treaty of friendship and trade with the new Texas government. The treaty recognized Cherokee title to the lands in east Texas which were claimed by the tribe. The treaty was signed by Bowle, Big Mush, and six others. Houston then presented Bowle with a sword, a silk vest, a sash, and a military hat. Bowle responded by declaring Houston to be a chief among the Cherokee. Houston was then presented with Bowle’s daughter for a wife.  

While Sam Houston may have been friendly with the Cherokee, the rest of Texas was not. The Texas Senate met in secret session and rejected the treaty with the Cherokee in spite of Sam Houston’s efforts on their behalf.

In spite of their refusal to acknowledge the treaty with the Cherokee, Texas still turned to the Cherokee as allies and friends in their conflict with the Comanche.  In 1837, Cherokee chief Bowle was commissioned by the government of Texas to visit the Comanche and assess the potential for peace. Following Bowle’s report, Texas President David G. Burnet, who had lived with the Comanche, sent a representative to negotiate a peace treaty with the northern Comanche bands, but the bands refused to enter into a treaty agreement.

In 1829, letters from the Mexican government to Chief Bowle were intercepted by the Texas government. In the letter, the Mexicans promised the Cherokee land in exchange for raiding Texas settlements. While there was no indication that the Cherokee had known about the offer or had encouraged it, an enraged President Mirabau Buonaparte Lamar publicly vowed to eject the Cherokee from Texas. Lamar wrote to the Cherokee:

“The Cherokee will never be permitted to establish a permanent and independent jurisdiction within the inhabited limits of this Government.”

The Texans offered the Cherokee $25,000 for their improvements, goods, crops, and other property. The Cherokee refused the offer which would require that they give up their guns and leave Texas under military escort as prisoners.

Texas moved militarily against the Cherokee, killing 100 Cherokee and Chief Bowle in the first day of fighting. Chief Bowle was eighty years old and he rode into battle wearing a Mexican army hat and carrying a sword that had been presented to him by Sam Houston. His body was scalped, mutilated, and left to rot unburied. The Texans killed 55 Cherokee and wounded another 80. The militia followed the survivors, cutting down Indian cornfields and burning Indian houses.

Some of the Cherokee who escaped fled to the Mexican state of Coahuila where they established a village.


Texas joined the United States on the condition that Texas was for Texans: Indians were not welcome in the new state. The United States federal government was to assume responsibility for the Indians, while the new state of Texas reserved all rights to “public” lands (those lands which had been Indian lands). Indians were to be removed to Oklahoma.  

Emergency for Texas Native Americans who own land where Government wants border fence

Emergency in el Calaboz, Lipan Apache & Basque-Indigena North American Land Title Holders

My mother and elders of El Calaboz, since July have been the targets of numerous threats and harassments by the Border Patrol, Army Corps of Engineers, NSA, and the U.S. related to the proposed building of a fence on their levee.

Since July, they have been the targets of numerous telephone calls, unexpected and uninvited visits on their lands, informing them that they will have to relinquish parts of their land grant holdings to the border fence buildup. The NSA demands that elders give up their lands to build the levee, and further, that they travel a distance of 3 miles, to go through checkpoints, to walk, recreate, and to farm and herd goats and cattle, ON THEIR OWN LANDS.

This threat against indigenous people, life ways and lands has been very very serious and stress inducing to local leaders, such as Dr. Eloisa Garcia Tamez, who has been in isolation from the larger indigenous rights community due to the invisibility of indigenous people of South Texas and Northern Tamaulipas to the larger social justice conversation regarding the border issues.

However recent events, of the last 5 days cause us to feel that we are in urgent need of immediate human rights observers in the area, deployed by all who can help as soon as possible-immediate relief.