Cacaxtle Indians

By: Thomas N. Campbell

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: July 9, 2020

This was one of the more important early Coahuiltecan bands of southern Texas. Between 1653 and 1663 the Cacaxtle (Casastle, Cataxtle) and their allies repeatedly attacked the Spanish frontier settlements of Coahuila and Nuevo León, and two Spanish military expeditions in 1663 and 1665 finally crossed the Rio Grande to administer punishment. In two decisive battles a total of 200 Cacaxtle were killed and about the same number captured. The captives were sold into slavery for work in the mines of Chihuahua and Zacatecas, a common procedure in northern Mexico during the seventeenth century. The location of the Cacaxtle Indians in southern Texas cannot be precisely determined, but the data available suggest that it was somewhere on the southward bend of the Nueces River in the area of present La Salle and McMullen counties. However, on a map prepared by W. Jiménez Moreno the Cacaxtles are shown as living along the lower Pecos River. It seems likely that the Cacaxtle Indians originally ranged from the Nueces southward across the Rio Grande into what is now northwestern Tamaulipas and northern Nuevo León. This hypothetical range is in accord with reports of repeated raids on Spanish frontier settlements prior to 1663. If Spanish records are accurate, the two battles mentioned above destroyed Cacaxtle power, for little is heard of them afterward. The name of this group appears to be derived from a Coahuiltecan word, "kakaxtle," which refers to a special netted frame used for carrying loads on the back.

Vito Alessio Robles, Coahuila y Texas en la época colonial (Mexico City: Editorial Cultura, 1938; 2d ed., Mexico City: Editorial Porrúa, 1978). Herbert Eugene Bolton, ed., Spanish Exploration in the Southwest, 1542–1706 (New York: Scribner, 1908; rpt., New York: Barnes and Noble, 1959). Carlos E. Castañeda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas (7 vols., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1936–58; rpt., New York: Arno, 1976). David A. Cossio, Historia de Nuevo León (6 vols., Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico: J. Cantú Leal, 1925). Frederick Ruecking, Jr., "The Economic System of the Coahuiltecan Indians of Southern Texas and Northeastern Mexico," Texas Journal of Science 5 (December 1953). J. R. Swanton, Linguistic Material from the Tribes of Southern Texas and Northeastern Mexico (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1940).

  • 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, “Cacaxtle Indians,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 28, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 9, 2020