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APACHE INDIANS (Extract from the Handbook of Texas Online article Indians.)

Ethnologists have identified hundreds of groups of Texas "Indians," as the first European explorers to arrive called the peoples they found. Some of these were true tribes, accumulations of families or clans with social customs, traditions, and rules for order; these were occasionally quite large. At the opposite extreme, some were merely small family groups whose names or ethnic designations were taken for "tribal" names by the Spanish and French and in subsequent secondary literature. The extant names of Texas Indian groups present a dazzling array of variants, partly because the Spanish, French, and English heard the newly "discovered" peoples differently and recorded their names differently. Some names in the historical records are mistakes for groups that never existed.

Spanish period. The variety of the peoples and cultures whom Europeans first found in Texas and the different histories of each group make generalizations about Indians hazardous. Texas was not simply a Spanish-Indian or Anglo-Indian frontier, but rather a multisided frontier, a Spanish-Anglo-Comanche-Wichita-Apache-etc. frontier, where multiple groups acted for their own reasons. A few generalizations, however, apply to all Texas Indian groups. First, diseases introduced by the Europeans decimated them, especially after mission and military institutions brought people in contact so that they could be infected (see HEALTH AND MEDICINE). More broadly, anthropologist John C. Ewers has identified no fewer than thirty major epidemics-mainly of smallpox and cholera-between 1528 and 1890 that wiped out perhaps 95 percent of Texas Indians.

The Spanish entry into Texas altered regional trade networks and led the Apache, Comanche, and Kiowa Indiansqqv to migrate into the South Plains to be nearer the supply of Spanish horses. The Spanish also established missions among smaller groups that needed protection from more powerful northern invaders. The Jumanos,qv who lived on the western tributaries of the Colorado River and along the Pecos River and the Rio Grande, were targets of Spanish slave raids to obtain laborers for mines in Chihuahua. By the mid-1600s, however, they had positioned themselves as middlemen, trading Pueblo Indianqv textiles and turquoise, Caddo bows, Spanish metals and horses, and their own buffalo hides. This advantageous situation ended with the entrance onto the South Plains of the Apaches, who cut off the Jumanos from the New Mexico pueblos. Many small tribes sided with the Spanish in campaigns against the aggressive Apaches, but by the decade after 1710 the Jumanos had been so severely defeated that they lost their distinct cultural identity. Some merged with their former enemies, the Apaches, while others became wage laborers in Chihuahua and gradually blended into the Mexican populace.

A similar fate befell the Coahuiltecan Indians,qv who lived in small bands between the San Antonio River and the Rio Grande and along the Balcones Escarpment.qv Their only defense against Apache attacks was to congregate in the newly formed Spanish missions.qv San Antonio, in fact, was founded primarily as a cluster of missions with a presidio serving the small Coahuiltecan, Jumano, and other bands who needed protection from the Apaches. By the early nineteenth century, these peoples had intermarried and become so acculturated among the Spanish Mexicans that their ethnic identity as "Indians" was lost and they entered the lower strata of Hispanic society. San Antonio was a mixed blessing to both the Indian bands and the Spanish. While affording some protection from Apaches, the growing settlement also attracted Apache raids. In 1723 Spanish forces battled a large Apache camp in what is now Brown County,qv killing thirty-four warriors, including the chief. Such decisive victories were rare, however, and San Antonio and nearby missions continued to be plagued by Apache raids.

The Apaches themselves had a problem more severe than the Spanish. Just as they had displaced weaker bands from the South Plains, they too resisted dislocation at the hands of a more powerful newcomer to the region-the Comanches. Since the Apaches practiced some agriculture, their seasonal settlements were ripe targets for the completely nomadic Comanches. Eventually, the Comanches ousted the Apaches from the South Plains buffalo range. Some Apache groups moved westward into New Mexico, but others-Lipan Apaches-moved southeasterly to the area between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande. Relations with the Spanish were strained. On the one hand, the Apaches needed to ally with them against the Comanches; on the other, Lipan Apaches continued to raid San Antonio, and their recent displacement had brought them closer to the town.

George Klos

 
 Citation: "Apache Indians," extract from The Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association, 2001, <http://www.tshaonline.org/tools/article_extracts/bzi4_apache.html> [Access Date].
 

For bibliography and complete article go to Indians.
 
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