A Walk Through Time
Indians In Texas
The Karankawas, from their location on the coast, in immediate proximity to the settlements, were a constant source of annoyance. The numbered about one thousand warriors, and had frequent skirmishes with the colonists, in which a few of the latter, and a still larger number of the former, lost their lives. In 1825, Colonel Austin felt sufficiently strong to expel this predatory band from his territory. Having, in connection with Captain Abner Kuykendall, collected about one hundred militia, he started to hunt the maranders. At the Menahuila, six miles east of Goliad, Austin was met by the Catholic priest of the mission, who had been sent by the Indians to make peace. It was agreed that the Indians should remain on the west side of the San Antonio river. Any Indian caught east of that stream was to be treated as an enemy. The old mission of La Bahia had been established mainly for this tribe; there many of the Indians had received baptism, and as long as the tribe remained in Texas, their children were taken to the Mission to recieve this Christian rite. In 1843, some forty or fifty, the sad remnant of this once powerful tribe, emigrated to Mexico, and settled in the state of Tamaulipas, where their tribal existence was soon lost.
The Comanches are supposed to have had from fifteen hundred to two thousand warriors, and some kindred tribes, whose names are now hardly remembered, numbered as many more. Burnet, who spent the years 1818-1819 among the Comanches, says this tribe was then true to treaty obligations. They were at peace with the United States, but at war with Mexico.
In April 1822, a party of fifty-four of these Indians captured Colonel Austin on the Nueces, when on his way to Mexico. As soon as the chief of the band understood that Austin was an American, his goods were restored, and he was permitted to continue his journey in peace. The government of the Comanches was republican, their chiefs being elective. They seldom killed Mexicans unless in self defence. Their lives were spared that they might raise more horses, as from them the Indians always obtained a supply. They were said to be averse to drinking whisky, pronouncing it fool's water, and said that it made Indian one big fool.
Austin, in his address, speaking of the Karankawas, Comanches, Wacos and Tehuacanies, pronounced them murderers. He says the smaller tribes of Lipans and Tonkawas were insolent and thievish. The smaller tribes, however, at a later period rendered valuable service to the colonists as spies and guides in campaigns against the frontier Indians. Then, as now, the small bands of Alabamas and Coushattas had their villages on the lower Trinity. "The Keechies," says Burnet, "were a pecular race. Their language differed radically from all others known in Texas. The Comanches held them in singular abhorrence, believing them to be possessed, and to exercise the mysterious power of witchcraft."
As early as 1822, a few Cherokees, and some families of other tribes, driven by the United States from their hunting grounds east of the Mississippi, sought a home in Texas. Though the Mexican authorities gave these Indians permission to remain in the country, no land titles were issued to them. It was the failure to obtain their land which induced the Cherokee chiefs so readily to join in the Fredonian movement. So far from the Mexicans giving encouragement to this Indian immigration, Colonel Bean, the agent, addressed a letter to Secretary Cass, at Washington, protesting against it. In response to this protest, President Jackson issued a proclamation to the Indians in the southwest, admonishing them not to cross the Sabine river. This immigration, however, continued to pour into Texas until the establishment of the republic.
During the year 1833, Josiah Wilbarger and two companions were out hunting on Walnut Creek, a tributary of the Colorado, when the party was surprised by Indians, and one of them instantly killed. Wilbarger was shot, scalped, and left for dead. The third escaped on a fleet horse into the settlement. A company who went out to bury the dead, found Wilbarger still alive. He lived twelve years, but finally died from the effects of the wound.
The same year S. F. Austin, D. G. Burnet, and B. Milam addressed an earnest remonstrance to General Bustemente, protesting against the introduction of anymore Indians into Texas. The Indian expeditions at this early period the colonists were ever ready to respond to the call of their chieftains. Those who were able always kept a supply of ammunition and a horse ready for immediate service. According to Almonte's estimate, there were in Texas, in 1834, four thousand five hundred friendly Indians, and ten thousand eight hundred belonging to wild tribes.