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Last update February 9, 2004
Native Americans in Texas
by Britt Brundige
Most scholars agree that until humans crossed the bridge over the
Berig Strait during the Ice Age about 30,000 to 40,000 years ago,
there were no humans in North America. As a matter of fact there
were no humans in South America either. But eventually humans
from East Asia walked from Siberia to Alaska and discovered a
whole new world. From Alaska, tribes of hunters and fishermen
began to filter through North America. It's estimated that they finally
settled in Texas about 12,000 years ago.
Comanche coming soon
Lipan or Lipan-Apache
Cherokee (originally from outside Texas)-
Choctaw (originally from outside Texas)
Chickasaw (originally from outside Texas)
Kickapoo (originally from outside Texas) coming soon
Shawnee (originally from outside Texas)
If you were a young Brave, what would your name be?
Texas Indians: (In alphabetical order)
Apache (see Lipan-Apache)
Alabama-Coushatta (coming soon)
The Caddo Indians were several tribes known collectively as "Caddo." In 1887 the tribes united into the Caddo Indian Tribe.
History shows the Caddos as very successful farmers, pottery makers, and tradesmen. They occupied the lands near the
Red River, and Eastern Texas. Deer was their primary source of meat. Caddos were a sedentary tribe. They generally
stayed in one place, and didn't travel with the seasons (which in Texas are mild all year long). One thing they are well kown
for is their word for friend, "Tejas," which was the basis for the state name, "Texas." Their numbers were greatly reduced
when they were exposed to the new diseases of white settlers. They now reside in Western Oklahoma.
Main Source: The Handbook of Texas Online
The above describes basic information about certain tribes from Texas. More detailed tribe definitions, stories and folklore
are planned. There are more than likely going to be numerous typing errors, but if there is anything that you feel is just
completely wrong, please let me know. As for the tribes that are not listed here, or are not yet complete, those updates will
take place as soon as time allows. Thank you!
Cherokee Indians were known as one of the "Five Civilized Tribes." They were sedentary, and did not travel with the
seasons. Their political structure was highly developed, and even had an elected chief. They easily wove European culture
into their own. Cherokee Indians were originally native to parts of the American South-East (Tennesee, Georgia, South
Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Alabama). The expansion of European settlements forced the Cherokee to migrate
West in what is now the states of Missouri, Arkansaw and Texas. Between 1838 and 1839, as many as 18,000 Cherokee
were marched (by order of the United States Indian removal program) to their new home in Indian Territory. Is is estimated
that 4,000 died during the march, now known as the "Trail of Tears."
Chickasaw Indians had a semipermanent residence, which means that they did do limited traveling. They were known as
farmers, and hunters, and did not stay in Texas long. Originally they lived in ares which are now known as the states of
Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama. Like many other tribes, the Chickasaw Indians eventually were forced
West of the Mississippi River. In the last 1830's they were told to move into Indian Territory, though some villages did reside
in Texas. For several years, the Commanche carried out destructive raids against the Chickasaw. The Texas government
tried to cut down the raids, but were largely unsuccessful. They did however, open up a trade route between Texas and the
United States. Texas moonshiners found a ready consumer, and helped to destroy the social structure of the tribe.
Choctaw Indians were classed as one of the "Five Civilized Tribes." They are closely releated to the Chickasaws, and an
early legend depicts the two tribes as twin brothers who lead their seperate nations to opposite sides of the Mississippi River.
The Choctaw went South into South-Eastern Mississippi and Alabama. Coctaw Indians were known to have a terrificly
democratic political system. They were also less warlike than many of their neighbors. If they were raided by enemy tribes,
the Choctaw would prepare for retaliation with a war dance. Women sometimes accompanied men onto the battlefield for
support. Home life depicted the Choctaw woman as hard working. She labored in the fields, made clothes, and prepared and
stored food. Choctaw men were responcible for building houses, making tools, hunting game and protecting the family from
harm. Marriage lasted as long as both parties wanted it to. Seperation or divorce was not frowned upon, though the wife
would keep the children. In the early 1800's the Choctaw's were exposed to white settlers more and more. By 1830 more
than 700 Choctaw had moved to the Mexican state of Texas. They stayed barely nine years before joining the rest of their
nation in Oklahoma.
First of all, Coahuiltecan is not the name of a single tribe. It is a name given collectively to as many as 120 different bands of
Indians that lived in Southern Texas alon the Rio Grande. They all had their own cultures, and many even spoke different
languages. They were nomadic, and didn't usually build permanent homes. Their diets were mostly vegeatarian. None of the
Coahuiltecan bands exist today. During the 17 and 1800's disease from white Europeans wiped out whole villages, and
severely weakened the structure of remaining bands. They were left starving, and with the climate shift from wet and lush to
dry and dusty, there was little to eat. Their blood was mixed by marriage to Spaniards and Mexicans, and their culture was
virtually lost.
Many Cherokee made their homes in Texas in 1820, and by 1822 their numbers had grown to about 300. With the Texas
Revolution brewing, relations were strained between the Cherokee and the rebelious Texans because the Indians had been
loyal to Mexico. They decided to remain neutral during the conflict. Sam Houston, the Texan General came to ensure that
the Cherokee remained neutral, and ended up becoming an adopted member. He lobbied for peace treaties to the Cherokee,
and to all Texas Indians during both of his Presidential terms in the Republic of Texas, but was largely unseccessful. Too
many tensions continued to be the result of the Cherokee's previous loyalty to Mexico. After Houston's first term in office, his
successor Mirabeau B. Lamar wanted all Cherokee Indians to leave Texas. This led to the Cherokee War in 1839. As a
result, the Indians were pushed into Indian Territory.
The name Karankawa refers to several different tribes who lived along the Texas gulf coast. None of these bands survive
today. The Karankawa Indians were usually the first tribe spotted by European explorers who landed on the coast, and their
experience with these misunderstood Indians may have colored their views of other much different tribes further inland. At
first glance, the Karankawa were very intimidating. They were big! The men were reportedly over 6 feet tall, some even
approaching 7 feet. Their (mostly naked) muscular bodies were covered in tatoos and their noses and nipples were pierced
with a piece of cane. Add to this that they covered their bodies in shark grease to repell mosquitos, and you have one stinky
first impression! The women were also mostly naked, and covered in tatoos. On closer inspection though, one might notice
the lovely jewelry and pottery made out of sea shells, and the care in which the treated their children. You might also get to
see if you were lucky one of their locally famous wrestling matches, of which they took great pride in. In their prime, the
Karankawa had few real enemies (other than each other).
Cannibalism, though it has been denied by some scholars, is thought to have been an important ritual. They did not eat their
own dead, and in fact seemed repulsed by the idea. Instead they would consume bits of flesh from their enemies as a way of
magically capturing their enemies power. It would also prevent him from having a second life. Superstition was very important
to the Karankawa. It must have seemed like a powerful omen when the diseases of the white settlers wiped out thousands of
their fellow tribesmen. The end would shortly follow. By 1858 all of the bands labled with the Karankawa name were
The Apache tribe was disorganized, and splintered into several seperate bands. The Lipan-Apaches lived mostly in Texas,
while the Mescalero-Apaches lived in Mexico. There were several other bands of Apaches with different names. Lifestyle of
the Apaches was considered nomadic. Though they would farm for part of the year, they would also follow the seasons to
hunt for game. They lived completely off of the Buffalo, and once horses were introduced, they readily adapted to them.
Though they had a successful trade relationship with settlers, it was hard to stay peacefull since the individual bands of
Apache Indians would do different things. One band would make peace with a certain village, while other bands would raid it.
It was very confusing and frustrating on both sides. Attempts to Christianize the Indians proved unsuccessful. By 1842 most
of the Lipan-Apaches crossed the Mexican border and joined with the Mescalero cousins. Lucrative raids were carried out
across the border for decades. In 1905 virtually all of the remaining Lipan-Apaches had moved onto the Mescalero Reservation
in New Mexico.
Shawnee Indians originally hailed from Kentucky. They built permanent homes, but traveled during Winter in search of game.
They would build new permanent homesteads once they settled down again. During the American Revolution, the Shawnee
tried to retain their land, but pressure from the growing white population forced them to find homes elsewhere. Around 1790 a
large Shawnee band migrated to Missouri, and from there they traveled into Texas in 1820. They were considered useful by
the Mexican, who wanted to keep America from expanding into its territory. They also helped to fight off the Comanche,
whose deadly raids were devestating to the fragile villages. After Texas won its independance, the Texans under Mirabeau B.
Lamar tried to rid themselves of all Indians. The growing conflict gave way to the Cherokee War, which had a devestating
effect on all immigrant tribes. Eventually the Shawnee were moved into Oklahoma, where they still reside today. Unlike
many existing Indian tribes, the Shawnee retains much of its rich culture.
"Tonkawa" was a name given collectively to several independant tribes of Indians that united together in the early 1700's.
They were migrated from the Great Plains into Texas sometime in the early to mid 1700's. They lived off of the Buffalo, but
also hunted other small game, and were fruit and nut gatherers. Pecans were an important trade item to the white settlers.
The Tonkawa were very valuble to the Mexican government, and later to the Texans because they helped to keep other Indian
raids down. They later served as scouts for the United States during the Indian war years. Eventually they were pushed into
Indian Territory, and though intermarriage with other tribes, their identity has been lost.
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