Collection: Native Tribes about the East Texas Missions

Native Tribes about the East Texas Missions

The purpose of this paper is to furnish a partial introduction to the early history of the Spaniards in eastern Texas the scene of their first systematic activities between the Mississippi and the upper Rio Grande by presenting some of the main features of the organization of the compact group of tribes living in the upper Neches and the Angelina River valleys, the first and the most important group with which they came into intimate contact. These tribes furnished the early field of labor especially for the Franciscans of the College of Santa Cruz de Querétaro, who worked for fifteen years in the region and founded in it five missions, while one was founded there and maintained for more than half a century by the College of Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe de Zacatecas. It is hoped that this paper will throw new light on the all too obscure history of these interesting establishments, particularly with respect to their locations.

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Population of the East Texas Indians

It is easy to gain an exaggerated notion of the numerical strength of the native tribes. Popular imagination, stimulated by the hyperbole of writers for popular consumption, has peopled the primitive woods and prairies with myriads of savages. Students however, have shown that this is an error, and that the Indian population has always been, in historical times, relatively sparse. In their efforts to counteract these exaggerated notions, they, indeed, have leaned too far in the opposite direction. The Hasinai, apparently one of the most compact native populations within an equal area between the Red River and the Rio Grande, numbered only a few thousands at the coming of the Europeans. What I have already said about the nature of their villages has, perhaps, prepared the reader to believe this assertion. While our statistical information on this point does not constitute entirely conclusive evidence, it does, nevertheless, give us a basis for plausible conjecture. The earliest estimate that might be called general is that contained in a mémoire of 1699, printed by Margry, and based apparently upon the report of one of the survivors of the La Salle expedition. The mémoire states that from “Bay Saint-Louis, [Matagorda Bay] going inland to the north-northwest and the northeast there are a number of different tribes. The most numerous is the Cenys and Asenys, which, according to the opinion of a Canadian...

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General Character of the East Texas Settlements

It will be helpful, as a means of conveying an idea of the true nature of the work attempted by the early Spaniards, to present a brief sketch of the general character of these Indian settlements and of their numerical strength. They were a people living in relatively fixed habitations, and would be classed as sedentary Indians, in contrast with roving tribes, such as the neighboring Tonkawa west of the Trinity. They subsisted to a considerable extent by agriculture, and lived, accordingly, in loosely built agricultural villages, for miles around which were detached houses, located wherever there was a spot favored by water supply and natural or easily made clearings. Their dwellings were large conical grass lodges, which accommodated several families. In all of the tribes concerning which we have relatively full data there seems to have been a main village, which the surrounding communal families regarded as their tribal headquarters. It is these central villages that I have represented on the map. The arrangement of the settlements may be most safely learned from the accounts of some of the early eyewitnesses. Joutel tells us, in 1687, that from the edge of the Nabedache village, west of the Neches River, to the chief’s house in the middle of the settlement, it was a “large league,” and that on the way there were “hamlets” of from seven to fifteen houses...

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Other East Texas Indian Tribes

Of the location of remaining tribes we know even less than of the last, and can only record the few statements made of them by the early writers. Three leagues west of the Nasoni Joutel entered the village of the Noadiche (Nahordike) 1Relation, in Margry, op. cit., Ill 388. who, he said, were allies of the Cenis, and had the same customs. This location corresponds with that assigned by Jesus Maria to the Nabiti, and the tribes may have been identical. The site designated was apparently west of the Angelina River and near the southwestern corner of Rusk County. Similarly, the Nasayaya, put by Jesus Maria east of the Nabiti, may possibly have been the Nasoni. If they were a separate tribe they must have been in the same neighborhood. If separate, too, they early disappear from notice, unless possibly they may be the Nacaxe, who later are found in the same latitude, but farther east. All that we can say of the location of the Nacao is that they were northward from the Nacogdoche, and probably closer to the Nacogdoche than to the Nasoni, since they were attached to the Nacogdoche mission. A reasonable conjecture is that they were in the neighborhood of Nacaniche Creek, in Nacogdoches County. 2Jesus Maria puts the Nacogdoche tribe east and the Nacau tribe northeast of his mission. He says in another passage that...

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The Nadaco Tribe

For the rest of the tribes in this group our information is less definite. The Nadaco, though a prominent tribe, can not be located with certainty until 1787, when they, or at least a part of them, were on the Sabine River, apparently in the northern part of Panola County. 1Francisco Xavier Fragoso, Diary, in the General Land Office, Austin, Texas, Records, Vol. 68, p. 174. But in 1716 they were clearly near the Nasoni, and sometimes the two tribes seem to have been considered as one. Hidalgo, who must have known, for he was on the ground, distinctly states that the mission of San Jose was founded for the Nasoni and the Nadaco. 2Letter to Mesquia, October 6, 1716, in the Archive General de Mexico, MS. The Memories copy of Ram6n’s itinerary (XXVII, 158) calls this mission that of the “Noachis,” but the original reads plainly “Nasonis.” Although the mission was commonly known to the Spaniards as that of the Nasoni, the French writers, in particular, including San Denis, sometimes called it the Nadaco 3Thus, La Harpe noted in his journal that San Denis, who conducted the expedition of 1716 that founded the missions “proposed, sometime after his arrival, that he should be the conductor of nine missionaries to the tribes of the Adayes, Ayches, Nacocodochy, Inay and Nadaco” (Extrait du Journal manuscrit du voyage de la Louisiane...

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The Nasoni Tribe and the Mission of San Jose

Above the Hainai, on the waters of the Angelina, were the Nasoni. Joutel, in 1687, reached their village after going from the Nabedache twelve leagues eastward, plus an un-estimated distance north. Terán, in 1691, found it twelve leagues northeast of the Neche crossing below the Nabedache village. 1Joutel, Relation, in Margry, Découvertes III, 337-340; Terán, Descripción, in Mem. de Nueva Espana, XXVII, 47-48. The founding, in 1716, of a mission for this tribe and the Nadaco gives us more definite data for its location. The missionaries who took part in the expedition, in their joint report, called the distance from the Hainai to the Nacogdoche eight leagues east-southeast, and that from the Hainai to the Nasoni mission seven northeast. Pena, who called the former distance nine leagues east-northeast, estimated this as eight north. Espinosa put it at seven northeast. 2Padres Missioneros, Representación, 1716, in Mem. de Nueva Espana, XXVII, 163; Peña, Diario, 1721, Ibid., XXVIII, 44; Espinosa, Diario, 1716, entry for July 10. Thirty years later Espinosa said that the mission was founded in the Nasoni tribe and ten leagues from mission Concepción. 3Crómea Apostólica, 418. This increase in his estimate of the distance may be due to lapse of time and his long absence from the country. The direction of the Nasoni mission from that of Concepción was, therefore, evidently northeast, and the distance about the same, perhaps...

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The Nacachau, Nechaui and Nacono Tribes

Across the Neches from the Nabedache, only a few leagues away, and adjoining the Neche tribe on the north, was the relatively little known tribe called by Jesus Maria the Nacachau, and by Hidalgo the Nacachao. We have seen that Jesus Maria described the Neche tribe as being separated from the Nabedache only by the Neches River. Later he says, “Toward the north, where the above-mentioned Necha tribe ends, is that called the Nacachau.” The Neche and Nacachau villages were thus close together. Near them the second mission of San Francisco was founded in 1716. Ramon says that the mission was founded in the village of the Naiches, and the “Padres Missioneros” say that it was for the “Naicha, Nabeitdâche, Nocono, and Nacâchao.” 1Jesus Maria, Relación, 1691, 107-108; Ramón, Derrotero (1716), in Mem. de Nueva Espana, XXVII, 158; Padres Missioneros, Representa-ción (1716), Ibid., 163; Peña, Diario (1721), Ibid., XXVIII, 38-41; Rivera, Diario (1727), leg., 2140; Bonilla, Breve Compendia, 1772, in THE QUARTERLY, VIII, 35, 38. As I have indicated above, the Memorias copy of Ram6n’s itinerary states that the mission was founded in the village of the “Nacoches,” a miscopy for “Naiches.” The map on page 256 was made before I discovered this error in the copy, which I had first used. My opinion now is that, with this correction, the sources would not be violated by placing the...

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The Nabedache Tribe and the Mission of San Francisco

The westernmost tribe of the group was the Nabedache. The main village was a short distance perhaps six miles west of the Neches River, above the crossing, near a stream that early became known as San Pedro, and at a site that took the name San Pedro de los Nabedachos. It is this name San Pedro, in part, that has caused some persons to think, groundlessly, that the first mission of San Francisco was founded at San Antonio. The exact point at which the main Nabedache village stood I can not say, not having examined the locality in person, but certain data enable us to approximate its location pretty closely. First is the testimony of the diaries and other early documents. De Leon reported in his itinerary (1690) that from the camp half a league from the Nabedache chief’s house to the Neches River, going northeast, it was three leagues. 1Entry for May 26. He recorded the distance going and coming as six leagues. The site examined on the river at this point was deemed unsuitable for the mission be-cause it was so far out of the way of the Indians”; consequently the mission was established close to the camp “in the middle” of the village. 2De Leon, Derrotero, entry for May 27; Massanet, Letter, in The Quarterly, II, 305. In their reports to the home government Massanet and...

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The Neche Tribe and the Mission of San Francisco

Southwest of the Hainai village, nearly straight west of the Nacogdoche, was the Neche village, near the east bank of the Neches River, and near the crossing of the Camino Real. The diaries usually represent the distance from the Neche to the Hainai as about the same as that from the Hainai to the Nacogdoche some eight or nine leagues. 1Espinosa tells us that the mission was near a spring and also near an arroyo that flowed from the northeast. He gave the distance from the mission from the camp near the Neches River as one league, and that to the mission of Concepci6n, east of the Angelina, eight leagues, going northeast by east, then east (Diario, entries for July 2 and 6). Ram6n gave the distance to the mission of Concepción, from the camp near the Neches apparently, but possibly from the mission, as nine leagues east-northeast (Derrotero, in Mem. de Nueva España, XXVII, 157-158). The air line distance was evidently somewhat less in the former case than in the latter, but the route was less direct, since between the Neches and the Angelina Rivers the road bowed quite decidedly to the north. The usual crossing of this highway at the Neches, as now identified, was at Williams’s Ferry, below the mouth of San Pedro Creek. 2See maps cited above, and also the Map of Houston County, copied from a map...

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The Hainai Tribe and the Mission of Conce’pión

On the east bank of the Angelina River, a little north of a direct west line from the Nacogdoche village, was that of the Hainai. 1I follow the spelling of Mooney which has been adopted by the Bureau of American Ethnology. The more common Spanish forms were Aynay and Ainai. English writers frequently spell it Ioni. This tribe, whose lands lay on both sides of the Angelina, 2Espinosa, Crónica Apostólica, 425; Diario, 1716; MS. entry for July 12; Mezières, Carta, Mem. de Nueva España, XXVIII, 241. was the head of the Hasinai confederacy, and for that reason was sometimes called Hasinai. It is to this tribe, also, that the name Texas was usually applied when it was restricted to a single one. Within its territory was the chief temple of the group, presided over by the great Xinesi, or high priest. 3Jesus Maria, Relación; Espinosa, Crónica Apostólica, 423. At its main village the mission of La Puríssima Conce’pión was founded in 1716. After the Relación of Jesus Maria, our first sources of specific information on the location of this village are the diaries. Ramon tells us that he entered the “Pueblo de los Ainai” just east of the Angelina River, and that nine leagues east-south-east of this village he reached the “Pueblo de los Nacogdoches.” 4Derrotero, entries for July 7 and 8. Original in the Archive General y Pãblico,...

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The Nacogdoche Tribe and the Mission of Guadalupe

A starting point or base from which to determine the location of most of the tribes is the founding of the mission of Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe at the main village of the Nacogdoches in 1716, for it can be shown that this mission remained on the same site until it was abandoned in 1773; that the modern city of Nacogdoches was built at the old mission site; and, therefore, that the location of this city represents the location of the principal Nacogdoche village. The evidence briefly stated is as follows: Ramon, whose expedition founded this mission, wrote in has Derrotero that nine leagues east-southeast of the principal Hasinai village (the Hainai), on the Angelina River, he arrived at the “village of the Nacogdoches,” and that on the next day he “set out from this mission,” implying clearly that the mission was located where he was writing, at the Nacogdoche village. 1Derrotero, original in the Archive General y Pãblico, Mexico. The copy in Mem. de Nueva España, Vol. XXVII, is very corrupt. At this point a generous addition is made by the copist. See folio 158. As is well known, all of the missions of this section were abandoned in 1719 because of fear of a French invasion. Pena reports in his diary of the Aguayo expedition of 1721 that Aguayo, who rebuilt the abandoned missions, entered “the place...

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The Locations of the Hasinai Confederacy

For determining the location of these tribes our chief materials are the Journal of Joutel (1687), the Relación of Francisco de Jesus Maria Casañas (1691), De Leon’s diary of the expedition of 1690, Terán’s for that of 1691-2, those of Ramon and Espinosa for the expedition of 1716, Pena’s for that of Aguayo (1721), Rivera’s for his visita of 1727, Solis’s for that made by him in 1767-8, and Mezières accounts of his tours among the Indians in 1772, 1778, and 1779. Two only of these are in print, while two of them have not before been used. 1Of...

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Neches-Angelina Confederacy

Since Indian political organization was at best but loose and shifting and was strongly dominated by ideas of independence, and since writers were frequently indefinite in their use of terms, it would not be easy to determine with strict accuracy the constituent elements of this Neches-Angelina confederacy at different times. However, a few of the leading tribes those of greatest historical interest stand out with distinctness and can be followed for considerable periods of time. De Leon learned in 1689 from the chief of the Nabedache tribe, the westernmost of the group, that his people had nine settlements. 1“Poblaciones.” Letter of May 18, 1689, printed in Buckingham Smith’s Documentos para, la Historia de la Florida; evidently that cited by Velasco, in Memorias de Nueva España, XXVII, 179. Concerning the Memorias, see note 3, p. 256. Francisco de Jesus Maria Casañas, writing in 1691 near the Nabedache village after fifteen months’ residence there, reported that the “province of Aseney” comprised nine tribes (Naciones) living in the Neches-Angelina valleys within a district about thirty-five leagues long. It would seem altogether probable that these reports referred to the same nine tribes. Those named by Jesus Maria, giving his different spellings, were: Nabadacho or Yneci (Nabaydacho) Necha (Neita) Nechaui Nacono Nacachau Nazadachotzi Cachaé (Cataye) Nabiti Nasayaya (Nasayaha) The location of these tribes Jesus Maria points out with some definiteness, and six of them...

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Ethnological Relations: Historical Importance

The Hasinai belonged to the Caddoan linguistic stock. This family, which was a large one, was divided into three principal geographic groups of tribes: the northern, represented by the Arikara in North Dakota; the middle, comprising the Pawnee confederacy, formerly living on the Platte River, Nebraska, and to the west and southwest thereof; and the southern, including most of the tribes of eastern Texas, together with many of those of western Louisiana and of southern Oklahoma. 1Powell, “Indian Linguistic Families,” in the Seventh Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, with map; Handbook of American Indians (Bureau of American Ethnology, Bui. No. 30), 182. Of this southern group the tribes about the Querétaran missions were one of the most important subdivisions. They, together with the related Caddo tribes to the north, represented the highest form of native society between the Red and the upper Rio Grande rivers, a stretch of nearly a thousand miles. This fact gave them from the outset a relatively large political importance. While it has been clearly shown by writers that the immediate motive to planting the first Spanish establishment within this area was French encroachment, little note has been made of the fame and the relative advancement of the Hasinai Indians as factors in deter-mining the choice of the location. LaSalle’s colony, which first brought the Spaniards to Texas to settle, was established...

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The Names “Texas” and “Hasinai”

The tribes in question commonly have been called the Texas, but more properly the Hasinai. Concerning the meaning and usage of these terms I shall only present here somewhat dogmatically part of the results of a rather extended study which I have made of these points and which I hope soon to publish. 1The present paper embodies some of the results of an investigation of the history of the Texas tribes, which the writer is making for the Bureau of American Ethnology. The testimony of the sources warrants the conclusion that before the coming of the Spaniards the word Texas, variously spelled by the early writers, had wide currency among the tribes of eastern Texas and perhaps over a larger area; that its usual meaning was “friends,” or more technically, “allies”; and that it was used by the tribes about the early missions, at least, to whom especially it later became attached as a group name, to designate a large number of tribes who were customarily allied against the Apaches. In this sense, the Texas included tribes who spoke different languages and who were as widely separated as the Red River and the Rio Grande. It seems that the Neches-Angelina tribes designated did not apply the term restrictively to themselves as a name, but that they did use it in a very unethical way as a form of greeting,...

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