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Tawehash Tribe

Tawehash Indians (Ta-we’-hash, commonly known in early Spanish writings as Taovayas.) A principal tribe of the Wichita confederacy, distinct from the Wichita proper, although the terms are now used as synonymous. By the middle of the 18th century they had settled on upper Red river, where they remained relatively fixed for about a hundred years. Rumors of a tribe called the Teguayos, or Aijaos, who may have been the Tawehash, reached New Mexico from the east early in the 17th century1 . The Toayas found by La Harpe in 1719 on Canadian river with the Touacara (Tawakoni), Ousitas (Wichita), and Ascanis (Hasinai) were evidently the Taweliash, and his report gives us our first definite knowledge of them2 . Their southward migration, due to pressure from the Osage, Chickasaw, and Comanche, was probably contemporary with that of their kinsfolk, the Tawakoni. That their settlement on Red river was relatively recent in 1759 is asserted by Antonio Tremiño, a Spanish captive who was released by the tribe in 17653 .

The Spaniards of New Mexico usually designated the Tawehash as the Jumaoos; the French frequently called them and the Wichita Pani piqué, or tattooed Pawnee, while to the Spaniards of San Antonio and the officials in Mexico they were uniformly the Taovayas (in varying forms of orthography) and Wichita4 .

After La Harpe’s visit, in 1719, the group of tribes to which the Tawehash belonged became attached, through trade, to the French, while on the other hand they saw little of the Spaniards. But from indifferent strangers the Tawehash and the Spaniards soon became converted into active foes through their differing relations to the Comanche and the Apache. To the Comanche and the Tawehash alike the Apache were a hated enemy, while the founding of San Sabá mission in 1757, for the Lipan Apache, put the Spaniards in the light of Apache allies. The result was the destruction of the mission in Mar. 1758, by a large force of Comanche, Wichita, Tawehash, and other northern Indians. To avenge this injury, Don Diego Ortiz Parrilla, a soldier of renown, was put, in command of 500 men-regulars, militia, Tlascaltecan, and mission Indians and equipped for a four months’ campaign. Leaving San Antonio, in Aug. 1759, he marched with Apache allies to the Tawehash settlement, which he found flying a French flag, fortified by ditch and stockade, and so strongly defended that he was repulsed with loss of baggage-train and two cannon. Years afterward Bonilla wrote: “And the memory of this event remains to this day on the Taovayases frontier as a disgrace to the Spaniards”5 . The cannon were not recovered till 20 years later.

Parrilla’s report of the Tawehash fortification was confirmed in 1765 by Tremiñe, the released captive mentioned above. According to him it was built especially to resist Parrilla’s attack. It consisted of a palisaded embankment about 4 feet high, with deep ditches at the east and west ends, to prevent approach on horseback. Inside the enclosure were 4 subterranean houses or cellars for the safety of non-combatants6 . From the time of Parrilla’s campaign forward the Tawehash settlement was referred to in Spanish writings as the “fort of the Taovayas.” Of interest in this connection is the record that the Waco, also of the Wichita group, had at their village a similar earthen wall or citadel which was still visible in the latter part of the 19th century7 .

In 1760, the year after the famous battle, Fray Calahorra y Saenz, the veteran missionary at Nacogdoches, was sent to the fortaleza to effect a peace, which he accomplished, at least nominally8 . The liberation of Tremiño in 1765 was attended with special marks of friendship. He was escorted to Nacogdoches by head chief Eyasiquiche, who was made a Spanish official and sent home with presents of a cane, a dress-coat, and three horses. He would not consent, however, to Calahorra’s proposal of a mission for his people9 . In spite of these signs of amity, the Spaniards still entertained suspicions of the Tawehash, but matters were improved by the efforts of Mezières, a skilful Indian agent. In 1770 he met the Tawehash, Tawakoni, Yscanis, and Kichai chiefs in a conference at the Kadohadacho (Caddo) village. The treaty arranged at this time was ratified at Natchitoches in Oct. 1771, by three Tawehash chiefs, who by proxy represented the Comanche also. Among other things, they promised to give up their Spanish captives and Parrilla’s cannon, not to pass San Antonio in pursuit of the Apache without reporting there, and to deliver to the Spanish authorities the head of any violator of the peace. This compact was solemnized by the ceremony of burying the hatchet (Articles of peace, MS. in Archivo Gen., Hist., xx). From this time forward the Tawehash were generally named among the friendly tribes, but they were seldom trusted. They were, however, often turned against the Apache, and in 1813 they aided the revolutionists against the royal arms10 . As a tribe they were never subjected to mission influence, which may be said of all the tribes of the Wichita confederacy.

In 1772, and again in 1778, Mezières visited the Tawehash settlement to further cement their friendship, and from his reports we get our fullest knowledge of their relationships and society. They spoke nearly or quite the same language as their kinsmen and allies, the Wichita, Tawakoni, and Yscani. Their settlement was situated on Red river, at the eastern Cross Timbers. At the time of Mezières’ second visit it consisted of a population of 800 fighting men and youths, living in two villages on opposite banks of the river. That on the north side was composed of 37 and the other of 123 grass lodges, each containing 10 or 12 beds. To these two villages Mezières at this time gave the names San Teodoro and San Bernardo, in honor of the commandant general of the interior provinces and of the governor of Louisiana. The Tawehash had extensive agriculture, raising corn, beans, calabashes, watermelons, and tobacco, with which they supplied the Comanche, in exchange for horses and captives. The calabashes they cut up in strips which, when dry, were made into chains or mats for convenience in carrying. Though fish were plentiful in the river, they are said not to have eaten them. Women took part in the government, which was democratic. Chiefs, who prided themselves on owning nothing, did not hold office by hereditary right, but were elected for their valor. Regarding the religion of the people Mezières mentioned “fire worship” and belief in a very material heaven and hell11 .

There is some ground for thinking that one of the two villages of the Tawehash settlement described by Mezières in 1778 was composed of the Wichita tribe, who six years before had been living on Salt Fork of the Brazos, 60 leagues away. But the Wichita later were still living apart of the time at least on the upper Brazos. About 1.777 or 1778 the “Panis-Mahas” (Ouvaes, Aguajes, Aguichi [see Akwech]) came southward and settled with the Tawehash, but at the time of Mezières’ visit in 1778 they had withdrawn temporarily northwestward. Within a few months, however, they returned, and seem to have remained permanently with the Tawehash12. They evidently established a separate village, for Fernandez in 1778 and Mares in 1789 each noted in this locality three Jumanes or Tawehash villages a short distance apart13 . Twenty years later Davenport said that on Red river, 100 leagues above Natchitoches, there were still three neighboring villages of these people, which he called the Tahuyás, Huichitas, and Aguichi, respectively14 .

Austin’s map of 182915 and the Karte von Texas of 1839 both show the Tawehash settlement on Wichita river, above the junction of the two main branches.

For Further Study

The following articles and manuscripts will shed additional light on the Tawehash as both an ethnological study, and as a people.


  1. Bancroft, No. Mex. States, 1, 387, 1886 

  2. Margry, Dec., vi, 278, 282, 289, 1886 

  3. Testimony of Tremiño, Aug. 13, 1765, MS. in Béxar Archives 

  4. see Declaration of Pedro Latren at Santa Fe, Mar. 5, 1750, MS. in Archivo Gen. 

  5. Breve Compendia, 1772, trans. by West in Tex. Hist. Asso. Quar., viii, 55, 1905 

  6. Tremiño, op. cit. 

  7. Kenney in Wooten, Comp. Hist. Texas, 1, 745, 1898 

  8. Fray Joseph Lopez to Parrilla, Exp. sabre San Sabii, MS. in Archivo Gen., 1760 

  9. Calahorra, letter of July 16, 1765, MS. in Béxar Archives 

  10. Arredondo to the Viceroy, Sept. 13, 1813, MS. in Archivo Gen. 

  11. see also Wichita 

  12. Mezières, MS. letters in Meln. de Nueva Españia, xxviii, 229, 281-82 

  13. diaries in the Archivo Gen. 

  14. Noticia, 1809, MS. in Archivo Gen. 

  15. original in the Department of Fomento, Mexico