Cantona Indians

By: Thomas N. Campbell

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: June 1, 1995

Although they were reported as numerous and were widely distributed in east central Texas, the Cantona Indians have generally been ignored in studies of Texas Indians. In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries they were known to the Spanish by a variety of names, including Cantanual, Cantujuana, Cantauhaona, Cantuna, Mandone, and Simaomo (Simomo). During this period they ranged the prairies between the Guadalupe and Trinity rivers, particularly east of the sites of present San Antonio, Austin, and Waco. They were most frequently reported along the Colorado and Brazos rivers, where their skill and success in bison hunting were often mentioned. The Cantonas were rarely encountered alone; instead they shared settlements with other Indian groups, and they seem to have been welcome nearly everywhere. At times they encamped with the Jumanos and their associated tribes or with Coahuiltecans (Mescales, Payayas, Xarames) near San Antonio; farther east they sometimes shared villages with the Cava, Emet, Sana, and Tohoho Indians, all considered to be Tonkawans; northeast of Austin they were closely associated with the Yojuanes, also Tonkawan; in eastern Texas they were frequent visitors at the Hasinai Caddo villages; and later in the eighteenth century (1771) they were associated with Wichita groups (Tawakoni, Yscani) east of present Waco. A few Cantonas also entered San Antonio de Valero Mission at San Antonio in the first half of the eighteenth century.

The linguistic and cultural affiliations of the Cantonas are difficult to assess. J. R. Swanton listed them as a Coahuiltecan band, presumably because of their association with Coahuiltecan groups near San Antonio. Others have stressed association with Tonkawan peoples and have argued that the Cantona language must have been Tonkawan. It is clear that linguistic identification on the basis of association leads nowhere in the case of the Cantonas. At one time or another they were associated with nearly every group in or near their area. The same judgment also applies to Cantona cultural affiliations. The Cantonas disappeared in the second half of the eighteenth century. When last mentioned they were living with Wichita groups in the northern part of their range, and it seems likely that most of the Cantona survivors lost their ethnic identity among the southern Wichita groups, particularly the Tawakonis and Yscanis. One question deserves serious consideration: were the Cantonas the same people as the Kanohatinos named in documents of the La Salle expedition? Both groups occupied the same general area at the same time, and their cultures as known seem to have been similar. This question can be answered only by further archival research. The name Simaomo, clearly stated in one Spanish document to be an alternative name for Cantona, is puzzling. Since another document mentions both Cantonas and Simaomos as being represented in a large congregation of tribes or bands, it is impossible that Simaomo was the name of a Cantona subdivision that was sometimes used as a synonym for Cantona.

Herbert Eugene Bolton, ed. and trans., Athanase de Mézières and the Louisiana-Texas Frontier, 1768–1780 (2 vols., Cleveland: Arthur H. Clark, 1914). Herbert E. Bolton, "The Jumano Indians in Texas, 1650–1771," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 15 (July 1911). Herbert Eugene Bolton, ed., Spanish Exploration in the Southwest, 1542–1706 (New York: Scribner, 1908; rpt., New York: Barnes and Noble, 1959). Charles W. Hackett, ed., Pichardo's Treatise on the Limits of Louisiana and Texas (4 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1931–46). Frederick Webb Hodge, ed., Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico (2 vols., Washington: GPO, 1907, 1910; rpt., New York: Pageant, 1959). J. R. Swanton, Linguistic Material from the Tribes of Southern Texas and Northeastern Mexico (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1940). John R. Swanton, Source Material on the History and Ethnology of the Caddo Indians (Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 132, Washington: GPO, 1942).
  • 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, “Cantona Indians,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 29, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 1, 1995