"The Karankawas during revolution " By Ray Theiss

   I often say it to every revisionist I meet, that the beautiful fact of the Texas Revolutionary Army is that it was one of the earliest and most culturally mixed armies in American History.  
   Among its ranks were African Americans, Tejanos, Foreigners, Southerners, Northerners, women...and Native Americans. 
   Most of the ones that choose to listen to my statement find themselves confused that I included Native Americans. 
   For the most part, Native Americans (at least the ones in Texas at the time) are only known for Sam Houston advocating them to stay out of the war, and they mostly followed his advice.  
   But the ones Houston conversed with, the Cherokee primarily, were not the only native culture in Texas at the time. 
   A few years ago, I began researching the history of the coastal Karankawas.  
   As one of the original tribes of Texas, I always found it curious that they just...vanished.  
   They are known, primarily falsely, as being cannibals and that seems to have been the only factor that they are remembered for.  
   But, as my studies uncovered, they also played a small role in the Texas Revolution. 
   Since the early 1800s, the Karankawas were fierce opponents to the European colonists in Texas.  
   Although debatable, the troubles with the Europeans started with La Salle in the late 1600s.  
   The destruction of Fort St. Louis on Matagorda Bay was primarily blamed on the Karankawas, and during the 1700s, the coastal areas around Matagorda Bay were labeled as cannibal country. 
   Jean Lafitte’s pirates on Galveston Island in the 18teens only increased the friction between the Europeans and the Karankawas.  
   The pirates would frequently invade the mainland, kidnap a few Karankawa women, steal goods, and then retreat back to the island under the protection of a few long guns. 
   It should come as no surprise that when the first colonists began entering southeastern Texas, there was no love between them and the Karankawa.  
   During the 1820s, the coastal prairies became a war zone between Stephen F. Austin’s citizens and the Karankawas. 
   Initially, when the Texas Revolution started, the Karankawas willingly volunteered for service under Santa Anna.  
   According to Alice W. Oliver, who had been raised near Oyster Lake on Matagorda Bay in the 1830s and ‘40s, the Karankawas “...rendered very efficient service to the Mexicans by harassing the few scattered families along the coast...” 
   During the siege of the Alamo, according to Oliver, a number of Karankawa warriors went to San Antonio and offered their services to the Mexican Army.  
   “In the battle of the Alamo these Indians suffered greatly and many of their warriors...were either killed or captured.” 
   At some point, likely during the Goliad Campaign under General Urrea, a young Karankawa named Walupe was “...captured by the Mexicans and in spite of his youth...they put him to death.”  
   Unbeknown to the Mexican officers though, the boy’s father was a Chief Jose Maria who was known as “...a bellicose, daring and blood thirsty man.” 
   After learning about his son’s execution, Jose Maria’s tribe swore their allegiance to the colonists.  
   He is reportedly to have shown up at the ship of a Mr. Bridges and to have announced “...that bloody revenge would be taken upon the Mexicans for the deed.” 
   In an attack on the Mexican troops, following Jose Maria’s grim promise of blood, the Karankawas were “...routed, and the chief with almost all his men were killed by the Mexicans.” 
   For the most part, this account has been entirely swept into the shade of Texas History.  
   Even after hearing the story, although it comes from an interview from a woman that was raised with the Karankawas, many historians have labeled it as folklore and not substantiated by fact.  
   However, General Urrea talks about a deadly skirmish with the Karankawas in his journal. 
   “On the same date, [15 April, 1836] I notified His Excellency of the encounter sustained by a part of my division against the Tarancahuaces [sic] who had appeared at the house of Dimmit [south of present day Victoria] and demanded the delivery of the supplies that were kept there, claiming that they belonged to the Americans. Capt. Balderas refused their demand and when they attacked him he routed them completely. Their brave chief...and other braves were left on the battlefield, while the remainder fled.” 
   This was the only recorded engagement between the Karankawas and the Mexican soldiers.  
   After the war, the Karankawas and settlers lived in peace with one another until about the late 1860s when hostilities once again broke out between the two factions.  
   In the end, the remaining members of the Karankawas fled to northern Mexico where they assimilated with other native tribes. 
   Although it was only a minor alliance, the Karankawa’s decision to aid the Texans can lasso Native Americans aiding in the revolution.  
   In conclusion, even Native Americans can be included in the ranks of the Texas Revolutionary Army. 
   Thanks for reading, feel free to comment or messsge me.
Sources Used: 
   Gatschet, Albert and Hammond, Charles “The Karankawa Indians, the Coast People of Texas,” Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Cambridge, Mass., 1891. 
   Castaneda, Carlos “The Mexican Side of the Texas Revolution,” P.L. Turner Company Publishers, Dallas, TX. 1928.

 

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