Society of Southwest Archivists

A Statement Regarding Indigenous Peoples in Texas

23 May 2018 12:09 PM | Jaimi Parker (Administrator)

The Society of Southwest Archivists’ Diversity Committee acknowledges with respect the indigenous peoples of Texas, their history, and their influence on this area. A common tradition holds that the origin of the Spanish word for Texas, Tejas (from “taysha”), is the Caddo word for “friend.”[1] In that hopeful spirit of understanding (which too often in history has been ignored), this information is offered to the attendees of this year’s conference in San Antonio.

Historically, seven linguistic groups have been identified as having lived in what is now Texas. Long before Texas was a state, indeed, before it was even Mexican or Spanish territory, there lived here indigenous groups such as the Tonkawa, Lipan Apache, Mescalero Apache, Comanche, Caddo, and Kickapoo. As for the San Antonio area itself, the various independent tribes who constituted the Coahuiltecan peoples lived here for thousands of years, including the Payaya, who were known to be living near here in the late 17th century. The San Antonio area also marked the southern limits of the territory ranged by the Wichita people. As the Spanish arrived in larger numbers in the area and began establishing missions and other permanent settlements, Native lives and folkways were profoundly affected – and often lost or deliberately destroyed – first by European colonization and later by United States expansion and settlement.

Native Americans continue to reside in the area today. The Pacuache Tilijaya Coahuiltecan Tribe of Texas still flourishes in an area they have occupied for hundreds of years, even after generations of their ancestors were assimilated – often forcibly – into mission life. Likewise, the Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation, whose ancestral members were the original inhabitants of the San Antonio missions, continues to survive and to maintain its cultural traditions. In Texas at large, there are three Native American reservations: the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Tribe of Texas, the Tigua Indians of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo of El Paso, and the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas. As in the rest of the United States, the vast majority of Native Americans in Texas – of which there are some 278,000 – live and work outside the established reservations.

Learn more about the indigenous people of Texas:

American Indians in Texas. Texas Historical Association

Individual Nations in Texas or With Historical Interests in Texas

Absentee Seminole Tribe of Texas

Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas

Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town

Apache Tribe of Oklahoma

Caddo Nation

Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe of Texas

Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma

Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

Comanche Nation

Delaware Nation

Jicarilla Apache Nation

Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas

Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma

Kiowa Tribe

Lipan Apache Band of Texas

Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas

Mescalero Apache Tribe

Mount Tabor Indian Community

Muscogee (Creek) Nation

Osage Nation

Seminole Nation of Oklahoma

Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation

Texas Band of Yaqui Indians

Tonkawa Tribe of Oklahoma

United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma

Wichita and Affiliated Tribes

Ysleta del Sur Pueblo

[1] Recent scholarship postulates that, in fact, the word “Texas” is derived from the Tejo (bald cypress) tree, so common to this area.

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