Episode 35 – The Republic and Relations With The Tribes
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When I wrapped up the last episode, I had begun talking about how Republic President Sam Houston had wanted to establish better relationships with the Indians of Texas. Today I’m going to dive deeper into that whole concept and try to get a better understanding of the relationship between the Anglos and the Native tribes. It was very messy, and it became very bloody. Again, I have to bring up the thought, that based on the morality of today, what happened back then is today considered genocide. I’m not going to try and justify what took place. It doesn’t do any good to get angry over the actions that took place, it might serve as a warning of what can, and in many places, still does happen to others.
Before I go into the relationships in 1836 and beyond, I want to go back over some of the history of the native people prior to this time. Remember, how in early episodes I talked about how when the Spanish arrived in Texas there were multiple groups or tribes of indigenous people in all parts of Texas. Now I’m not going to go back 10,000 years ago and talk about the Clovis people, there are several excellent books out there that discuss the people and how they evolved, and it does make for fascinating reading. I want to start with those who were here when the first Spanish explorers bumped into Texas.
November 6, 1528, is the day when the lives of the native peoples of what is now Texas began to change, and not for the better. That was the day when the Karankawas met Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca and the remnants of his crew on Galveston Island. At that time, the Karankawas were one of many tribes or bands of native people who lived in Texas. The Karankawas were a hunter gatherer group who lived mostly on the Texas coast. They were hunter-gatherers, and they necessarily lived a somewhat nomadic life because they had to travel to find food. There were approximately 5 bands that are historically associated with them, one such group were the Cocos who lived the furthest east between Galveston Island and the Colorado River. They were the group that de Vaca’s band of survivors lived with. And that proved to be a disaster for the Cocos, because Cholera hit and killed nearly half of their band. These groups were the first to encounter the Spanish and the first to suffer from those encounters. The native people’s simply were not equipped to handle the germs and diseases that the Europeans brought with them.
Another group that suffered from their encounter with the Europeans where the Caddos. Around 1500, the Caddos had already built a complex political system that consisted of alliances between different bands and tribes. In addition to their lands in Texas, they were also located in the Great Plains, Eastern Woodlands, and present-day Arizona and New Mexico. They had built extensive trading networks where they exported salt, pottery, and wood for making bows, and they imported seashells, copper, and flint.
It was natural that once the French and Spanish merchants arrived in Texas and the surrounding areas, that the Caddo’s would trade with them as well and that began their downfall. As with the Karankawas the Europeans brought new diseases that had devastated the people. It’s estimated that between 1646 and 1816, the Caddo population dropped by 95%. In 1859, the United States government forced 1,050 Texas Caddos to relocate to a reservation in present-day Oklahoma, removing them from the home they had occupied for more than 1,000 years.
One group of people who initially had fairly good relations with the Spanish were the Jumanos. They lived in present-day West Texas, and like the other nations, they had their own complex political alliances, networks, and farming practices. They lived along rivers and near springs, and they were an agrarian group who raised corn, squash, and beans. They traded with other tribes for things like pottery, animal hides, salt, and piñon nuts. Their problems began to surface in the early 1700s, when the Apaches began moving into their territory. They were unable to fight off the Apache and so they finally joined them. By the time of the republic, the Jumano no longer existed as a separate tribe.
While there were numerous smaller bands of native peoples living throughout the region at the time of the birth of the republic, one group stands out as the one considered the most troublesome by the Anglos. Those were the Comanches.
Prior to the mid to late 1600s, the Comanche were primarily located in the Great Plains. During the late 1600s and early 1700s, multiple and unrelated bands of Comanches began to migrate south from what is now eastern Colorado and western Kansas. As they moved they waged war on tribes they encountered and that included the Apache. Within 100 years, the Comanche controlled a vast territory that is known as the Comanchería and encompasses today’s Eastern New Mexico and Western Texas. They roamed over and ruled this territory, and they hunted bison and deer, traded with their neighbors, and raided their enemies’ settlements.
Even though the Comanches displaced the Apaches and other tribes when they moved into the region, they were also displaced by others including the Anglos settlers who moved into Texas. Once Texas won its independence in 1836, the republic’s leadership began to try and exterminate the Comanche. Part of this was natural as an Increasing numbers of Anglos moved into the republic and who wanted to control the Comanche land and resources.
The Comanche were not the only tribe the Anglos of the republic did battle with. In 1839, the Battle of the Neches took place in Van Zandt and Henderson counties, near present-day Chandler. The armed forces of the Republic of Texas fought against the Cherokee people led by Chief Bowles, also called Duwali. These Cherokees had been forced from the southeastern U.S. after the War of 1812 by the U.S. government. They settled on land northeast of the Trinity River.
The first president of the republic Sam Houston, wanted to create friendly relations with the Indians, however, his successor Mirabeau B. Lamar was hostile to the Indians because he claimed they might ally themselves with Mexico and present a future danger to Texas. He was able to enforce his hostile Indian policy and had the Cherokee farmers driven north across the Red River into the Oklahoma Territory.
Few public lands were reserved for Indians. Since the federal government did not own any land in Texas, they were unable to allocate any of it to the tribes. In 1854 the Texas legislature made 53,000 acres of land near the Brazos River available for two reservations. However, Clear Fork Reservation and Brazos Reservation near Fort Belknap soon encountered suspicion and hostility from white settlers in the area and were mostly deserted. In 1859, the Comanche remnant at Clear Fork and the Tonkawas, Wichitas and the Caddo remnant at the Brazos Reservation were forced north across the Red River into Indian Territory.
From then on, there was no significant peace between the native tribes and the Anglos in the State. And that’s going to do it for this episode. Next time, I’ll explore more of the conflict between the tribes and the settlers, including a look at the Texas Rangers. Not the baseball team…
Subscribe to the podcast, I try to keep posting new episodes, sometimes though life gets in the way and there’s a gap between. But hey and remember if you want more information on Texas History, visit the Texas State Historical Association. I also have three audiobooks on the Hidden History of Texas one which deals with the 1500s to about 1820, one 1820s to 1830s, and the latest release the 1830 to 1836, the Texas revolution period. You can find the books pretty much wherever you download or listen to audiobooks. Just do a search for the Hidden History of Texas by Hank Wilson and they’ll pop right up. Links to all the stores are on my publishers website https://ashbynavis.com.
Thanks for listening y’all