Atajal Indians

By: Thomas N. Campbell

Type: General Entry

Published: June 1, 1995

In 1690 Damián Massanet reported an encounter with the Atajals and five other Indian groups in the Frio River valley southwest of San Antonio, apparently in what is now Frio County. Massanet's observations on Indian languages spoken in southern Texas seem to indicate that the Atajals and their associates spoke the language now known as Coahuilteco. The Atajals of Massanet were evidently the same people as the Etayax Indians, who are recorded as one of the groups known to Jean Jarry in 1688. The Atajals appear to have originally lived somewhere along the southern margin of the Edwards Plateau west of San Antonio. The southward thrust of Apaches must have displaced them from their homeland. In 1708 they were last recorded, under the name Atacal, as living farther south in Texas. After being reduced in numbers, they probably merged with a remnant of some larger group. Although there is some similarity in the names, it is not possible to prove by documentary evidence that the Atajals of Massanet were the same people as the Atayos of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. The Atayos were known to Cabeza de Vaca in the years 1533–34 and appear to have lived in an area 140 miles east of the Atajals. This was more than 150 years before the Atajals were first recorded. The similarity in names is probably fortuitous.

Thomas N. Campbell and T. J. Campbell, Historic Indian Groups of the Choke Canyon Reservoir and Surrounding Area, Southern Texas (San Antonio: Center for Archaeological Research, University of Texas at San Antonio, 1981). Lino Gómez Canedo, ed., Primeras exploraciones y poblamiento de Texas, 1686–1694 (Monterrey: Publicaciones del Instituto Technológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, 1968). Alonso de León et al., Historia de Nuevo León (Monterrey: Centro de Estudios Humanísticos de la Universidad de Nuevo León, 1961). P. Otto Maas, ed., Viajes de Misioneros Franciscanos a la conquista del Nuevo México (Seville: Imprenta de San Antonio, 1915).
  • Peoples
  • Native American
  • Tribes (Other)

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Thomas N. Campbell, “Atajal Indians,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 28, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 1, 1995