American Indian Relations

By: W. E. S. Dickerson

Type: Overview Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: March 11, 2021

The history of relations between the numerous groups of American Indians and the trans-Atlantic newcomers who started arriving in the sixteenth century and eventually came to dominate Texas is long and complex. On the American Indian side, the story is one of accommodation, resistance, and, ultimately, near-total eradication. On the side of the Europeans and, later, the Americans, the salient features range from well-meant attempts to Christianize the American Indians and educate them in such accomplishments as reading and writing, to deliberate attempts to annihilate or exile them. Between these extremes lie many unintended consequences, such as epidemic diseases (which were passed in both directions), as well as many attitudes that lie outside the often-noted arena of violence and fanaticism, such as attempts to set aside land for the displaced.

Spanish period. The earliest recorded contact between Europeans and Texas Indians came in November 1528, when members of Pánfilo de Narváez's expedition landed near Galveston Island and encountered people who were probably Atakapas. One member of the expedition, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, who spent more than six years traveling through coastal Indians of South Texas, penned vivid descriptions of the hunting and gathering groups that he encountered. Unlike many later observers, Cabeza de Vaca was not entirely disdainful of their culture, although his observations indicate their primitive lives. Later Spaniards often condemned the backwardness of the cultures of the native peoples, who similarly must have found their encounter with people so different from them both bewildering and terrifying, and this lack of understanding and a distrust that grew on both sides often had catastrophic results. Francisco Vázquez de Coronado traversed the northern plains while searching for Quivira in 1541, and Luis de Moscoso Alvarado reached the headwaters of the Trinity in 1542. But except for brief incursions into West Texas, such as those by Agustín Rodríguez in 1581, Antonio de Espejo in 1582, Gaspar Castaño de Sosa in 1590, Juan de Oñate in 1601, Hernán Martín and Diego del Castillo in 1650, and Diego de Guadalajara in 1654, the Spanish presence in Texas was only sporadic. These expeditions of New Spain touched the Texas Indians briefly and then passed on.

With the exception of a few pearls on the Concho River, Texas, had no treasure to compare with the gold of Mexico, there was no cry at the time for land, and only the faith of the Spanish priests held together Spain's nebulous scheme of empire in Texas. That is, until the French under René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, founded Fort St. Louis near Matagorda Bay in 1685. That unsuccessful venture awoke the Spanish to both their secular and religious goals in Texas. A brief flurry of mission building in East Texas followed. San Francisco de los Tejas and Santísimo Nombre de María were both established in 1690. Beginning in 1716, another period of missionary activity opened in East Texas with the establishment there of Nuestro Padre San Francisco de los Tejas, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de los Nacogdoches, Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de los Ais, Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de los Hainais (later Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Acuña), San José de los Nazonis, and San Miguel de Linares de los Adaes. In 1718, on the San Antonio River, San Antonio de Valero Mission was founded, and in 1720 San José y San Miguel de Aguayo was established a short distance away. In 1731 three of the East Texas missions were moved to the San Antonio River and renamed Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Acuña, San Juan Capistrano, and San Francisco de la Espada. Nuestra Señora del Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga Mission was founded at La Bahía in 1722, moved to the Guadalupe River in 1726, and relocated at the site of present Goliad in 1749. Farther westward three missions were established on the San Gabriel River: San Francisco Xavier de Horcasitas in 1748, San Ildefonso, and Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria in 1749 (see SAN XAVIER MISSIONS). In 1754 Nuestra Señora del Rosario Mission was located about four miles west of Goliad. In 1756 Nuestra Señora de la Luz Mission was established on the lower Trinity, and the following year Santa Cruz de San Sabá Mission was built on the San Saba River. In 1762 San Lorenzo de la Santa Cruz Mission and Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria del Cañón Mission were established on the upper Nueces River about halfway between Santa Cruz de San Sabá in west central Texas and San Juan Bautista in Mexico. In 1791 the last of the Texas missions, Nuestra Señora del Refugio, was established at the junction of the Guadalupe and San Antonio rivers.

The primary goal of the missionaries was to Christianize the native peoples and make them loyal subjects of the crown. The natives of the San Antonio area, who came from groups inhabiting the region between San Antonio and the Gulf Coast, proved to be the most compliant, and they were converted in large numbers. Other attempts, however, were less successful. The Franciscans' harsh discipline and insistence that converts follow a rigid routine sometimes brought resistance. For many, the Spanish were foreigners who represented a threat to traditional life, and a number of groups, such as the Karankawas and the nomads of the plains, resisted the missionary efforts. Among those who cooperated with the Spanish, many succumbed to European diseases or became the victims of other, hostile Texas Indians. Those who survived gradually assimilated and intermarried with Europeans, thus forming a basis of mestizo and later Tejano culture.

The Lipan Apaches, a western Texas group, were generally hostile to the Spaniards, but when pressed by the Comanches, they asked for protection. In 1749 the Spaniards negotiated a general treaty of peace with the Lipans, one of the earliest on record, and in the spring of 1757 established Santa Cruz de San Sabá Mission, near the site of present Menard, for the Lipans. On March 16, 1758, about 2,000 Comanches and their allies attacked the mission, destroyed it, and killed eight people. A year later the Comanches took the presidial horse herd, a prize of more than 700 horses and mules. Allied with the Comanches in these attacks were various northern tribes, among them Wichitas , Taovayas, Tonkawas, Bidais , and Tejas (see HASINAI INDIANS). In the summer of 1759, in order to punish them, Col. Diego Ortiz Parrilla led a force of 600 soldiers, Apache allies, and mission Indians against a combined force of Taovayas and Comanches at Spanish Fort on the Red River near the site of present Nocona, in Montague County. From within a fort that flew a French flag, the Taovayas and Comanches mounted a counterattack and inflicted a humiliating defeat upon Ortiz's troops, capturing their cannons and forcing them to retreat to San Sabá.

After the missions and the presidios on the San Saba and San Gabriel rivers failed, Spain turned to the French for aid and appointed Athanase de Mézières governor of the Natchitoches district. Mézières, an experienced Indian agent and diplomat, held conferences with the tribes on the Red River and in 1771 made treaties with the Kichais, Tawakonis, and Taovayas. In 1772 a reorganization of the Spanish holdings in Texas was ordered. The entire territory east and northeast of San Antonio and La Bahía was abandoned, the missions and presidios were evacuated, and most Spanish settlers were taken to San Antonio. Aware of the ever-present threat of the tribes that the missions had failed to reach, the Spanish, with a Frenchman negotiating, made a treaty with the Yamparikas or western Comanches at the Taovaya village on the Red River (1774). But south of this group lived the Kosoteka and Penateka bands, unaffected by the treaty, who continued their raids on the San Antonio establishments. In 1785, attempting to correct this error in treaty making, the Spaniards concluded a formal peace treaty with the two southern Comanche bands. In 1786 they made still another treaty with other western bands in order to permit travel through the vast Comanche plains. Four years later the Comanches, Taovayas, Wichitas, and Tawakonis were united into a supplementary fighting force by Juan de Ugalde and employed in his defeat of the Apaches. Although these agreements furnished some relief to the hard-pressed Spaniards, raids by both Comanches and Apaches continued until the end of Spanish rule in Texas. This end was hastened by the issuance of a decree in 1794 that ordered the secularization of all missions in existence for more than ten years. When carried out, secularization meant that Texas missions passed under the control of diocesan clergy and the Spanish government, and mission Indians became tax-paying citizens.

Republics of Mexico and Texas. After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Spain planned to impede the entrance into Texas of American traders and colonists by settling on the eastern frontier certain southeastern tribes, including the Choctaws, Cherokees, Alabamas, and Coushattas (see ALABAMA-COUSHATTA INDIANS), who were given lands between the Sabine and Trinity rivers. This arrangement lasted until 1821, when Texas passed under the control of the Republic of Mexico. Stephen F. Austin and other American colonizers in Texas found a ready-made problem awaiting them. They first had to consider those groups that they regarded as the more civilized tribes who wanted land, and then they faced the tribes who resisted European incursion. The population of Texas in 1821—3,500 White settlers and 20,000 American Indians—suggested a conciliatory policy. It was the intention of both the Mexican national government and the state of Coahuila and Texas to award land titles to the "civilized tribes." On December 24, 1824, the Shawnee Indians were awarded one square mile of land for each warrior. The Cherokees were less fortunate—toward their dream of making East Texas a Cherokee country they received nothing but promises. Therefore, when Benjamin Edwards was planning his abortive Fredonian Rebellion, he found the Cherokee chiefs John Dunn Hunter and Richard Fields agreeable to his plan of dividing Texas between themselves and White men. The tribe repudiated the plan, however, and executed the leaders, but they never received the land titles they desired, in spite of their loyalty to Mexico then and to the Americans later. They pursued a will-of-the-wisp until they were driven from Texas in 1839.

Upon Austin and his colonists fell the burden of protection against the hostile tribes, since Mexico offered no official assistance. Toward this end the settlers organized militia and made treaties. In 1823 Austin led an expedition against the Karankawas and reached an agreement with them that they would not move east of the San Antonio and Guadalupe rivers. In 1824 military threats by Whites led to a treaty with the Tonkawas, Karankawas, Wacos, and Tawakonis, which lessened the immediate danger from those groups. On the west, however, was the threat of the Comanches, who waged war against the scattered and unprotected settlements and captured horses and cattle to trade in the United States. The four conventions of Texas colonists (the Convention of 1832, Convention of 1833, Consultation , and Convention of 1836) grappled with the key issues of peace with the nearby tribes and protection from those on the western frontier. The treaty with the Cherokees and their associate bands on February 23, 1836, sought to provide peace, and the establishment of a border ranger force was designed to provide protection. After the battle of San Jacinto the military and political crisis of Texas had passed; the ad interim government under President David G. Burnet sought merely to tide over the complicated issues involving American Indian relations until the officers of the Republic of Texas took their places on October 22, 1836. The agent who was to deal with the American Indians was instructed to secure their neutrality but to avoid entering into any specific treaty relating to boundaries. The fact that Burnet held lands in conflict with the Cherokee claims may have influenced his cautious attitude. Meanwhile, the American Indians were becoming restless; an engagement between them and a ranger force took place on the San Gabriel River in the summer, and on May 19, 1836, the northern Comanches and their Kiowa allies raided Fort Parker, killed several persons, and took away five captives, one of whom was Cynthia Ann Parker. The Cherokees and associated groups were also feeling restless because their land titles had not been ratified, Mexican agents were still active among them, and White settlers were advancing into their territory.

President Sam Houston's policy of peace, friendship, and commerce, plus adequate frontier protection, was well set forth in a law of December 5, 1836, in which Houston was given power to send agents among the groups; to make treaties and distribute presents; to establish blockhouses, forts, and trading posts; to provide for a battalion of mounted riflemen to guard the frontier; and to call out the militia if necessary. His problem was complicated by the constant arrival of United States Indians, by the influence of Mexican agents, by private land companies that extended their surveys into territory occupied by native peoples, and by the mutual antagonisms of race between Whites and various tribes. As for the Plains Indians, he recognized their superiority in horsemanship and knowledge of the region and preferred to deal with them by establishing trading posts on the frontier rather than by sending untrained troops against them. On July 1, 1835, the Caddo Indians in Louisiana had made a treaty with the United States to relinquish their lands in that area and to move outside the boundaries of the United States and never return. In 1837 Houston vainly protested this action, saying that the Caddos were thus being thrown upon Texas and asking the United States government to supply troops to restrain them. In April 1838 the Choctaws from near Fort Towson in the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) clashed with White settlers south of the Red River, and in that summer the Cherokees and other East Texas Indians, allied with Mexican agents under Vicente Córdova, took part in the Córdova Rebellion. The Comanches were also becoming active in the west. President Houston initiated his policy of treaty making by concluding agreements with the Tonkawas at Bexar on November 22, 1837; with the Lipan Apaches at Live Oak Point on January 8, 1838; with the Tonkawas again on April 10, 1838 (at Houston); with the Comanches at Houston on May 29, 1838; and with the Kichais, Tawakonis, Wacos, and Taovayas near the mouth of the Washita at Shawnee Village in what is now Fannin County on September 2, 1838. Houston was genuinely sympathetic to their position in Texas. He had been intimately associated with them and could speak a language they could all understand. His policy was largely successful, although no completely satisfactory solution of the "Indian problem" was possible. Isolated bands continued to harass the settlements, and clashes with the armed forces were inevitable.

Mirabeau B. Lamar, who followed Houston as president, had neither experience with nor sympathy for the American Indians; he wanted to destroy them or drive them from Texas. The Cherokees, he said, had no just claim to their lands, since the promises of the Mexican government had induced them to make war on the Texans. He further held that the Cherokees should retain no tribal status, since the result would be an alien and absolute government within the bounds of the republic. He therefore repudiated the Cherokee treaty of February 23, 1836, maintaining that it had never been ratified and that the Cherokees by their acts had nullified it. Lamar's attitude was reflected by Congress in a series of four laws designed to strengthen the armed forces. The result was the Cherokee War. Other encounters during Lamar's administration included expeditions led by John H. Moore and W. M. Eastland against the Comanches, the Council House Fight at San Antonio, Comanche and Kiowa attacks on Victoria and Linnville (see LINNVILLE RAID OF 1840), and the Plum Creek Fight. Two efforts at conciliation, however, served to soften Lamar's stern policy. The first was a treaty with the Shawnees on August 2 1839, at Nacogdoches, in which they agreed to leave Texas peaceably if the government would furnish supplies and transportation and pay for improvements on their land. The Senate did not ratify this treaty. The other conciliatory action was a law passed on January 14, 1840, providing for the surveying and awarding of two leagues each of land in East Texas for the Alabama and Coushatta Indians, as well as a strip of land thirty miles square on the frontier to which all friendly groups should eventually be removed. Lamar's generally severe policy produced certain evident results: (1) it quelled for the time being the major American Indian disturbances, although at great loss of life; (2) it opened up for settlement the valuable Cherokee land and other land in East Texas; (3) it established the principle of exterminating the hostile groups and removing the friendly ones from the state or to reservations; (4) it extended the western frontier by military patrol and attack, thus making settlement easier and safer for White settlers; (5) it compelled the American Indians to reckon with the rapidly growing power of the Republic of Texas; (6) by its very severity, it prepared the way for the return of Houston's policy of peaceful American Indian relations; and (7) it contributed greatly to the rapidly growing public indebtedness of Texas and to its weakened financial structure. During Houston's first term, American Indian affairs cost the republic only $190,000, but Lamar's expenditures for the same purpose soared to more than $2.5 million, more than half the total cost of government during his administration.

The peace policy returned with Houston's second administration, though the work of pacification had to be redone slowly and patiently. Houston's plan was to send responsible Indian agents, build frontier posts, establish trading houses to furnish supplies, and draw the tribes into councils from which he hoped treaties would result. A fresh movement for peace grew among the various groups. The Caddos indicated their desire to make agreements with the government of Texas, and on August 26, 1842, a treaty was concluded at the Caddo village above the Chickasaw nation, in which the Caddos agreed to visit some twenty tribes and seek to persuade them to join in the first of a series of councils with the Texas commissioners. The council, held in March 1843 at Tehuacana Creek, was attended by the Delaware, Caddo, Waco, Shawnee, Hainai, Anadarko, Tawakoni, Wichita, and Kichai Indians (see TEHUACANA CREEK COUNCILS). They agreed that all hostilities should cease between them and the White men and that they would attend a grand council with all the Texas tribes at Fort Bird on the Trinity River in September. On August 9, a temporary treaty was also made at the Comanche encampment on the Red River with Pah-hah-yuco, a Comanche chief who agreed to visit all the Comanche bands to induce them to treat with the White men. All hostilities were to cease until the general council. The September council resulted in the permanent treaty of September 29, 1843, with nine groups, the Delawares, Chickasaws, Wacos, Tawakonis, Kichais, Anadarkos, Hainais, Biloxis, and Cherokees, participating. The treaty was ratified by the Senate on January 31, 1844, and signed by Houston on February 3. The Comanches, still smarting from events at the Council House Fight in 1840, refused to attend this meeting, as did the Wichitas. But on October 9 at Tehuacana Creek, the Comanches finally appeared to meet Houston himself, to exchange gifts and oratory, and to sign a treaty reiterating the provisions of the one made on September 29. On January 24, 1845, this treaty, too, was ratified by the Senate; it was signed on February 5 by President Anson Jones, who carried on Houston's policy faithfully. Only the Wichitas remained untouched by treaty; they did not appear at the third general council, at which no treaty was made since all the groups represented were already covered by treaties. But the patient perseverance of Houston and his commissioners was finally effective, for at the fourth and last of the general councils, on November 16, 1845, at the Torrey Trading House near the mouth of Tehuacana Creek, where all of the grand councils had been held, the Wichitas at last appeared. Again differences were resolved, and the last treaty was signed. A few days later, a final distribution of presents was made, and the American Indian affairs of the Republic of Texas were officially brought to an end.

The results of Houston's policies, like his purposes, were clear: (1) the substitution of a policy of peace for one of war (Congress did not pass a single act providing for offensive action against any tribes during his administrations); (2) the drawing of the American Indians into councils and the making of treaties with every major group in Texas; (3) the reduction of raids and the resultant decrease in need for protection; (4) the carrying out by the various groups, generally, of the terms of their treaties, especially with reference to surrendering captives and stolen horses; (5) the establishment of trading houses and the appointment of reliable agents and commissioners; and (6) reduction of administering costs. American Indian relations in Houston's second term cost $94,092. In Anson Jones's one-year administration they cost only $45,000.

Statehood. Annexation to the United States continued the seemingly inexorable process of expulsion of nearly all tribes from Texas. Several factors made American Indian relations even more confusing than they had been in the republic: (1) the federal government assumed control of them while Texas retained control of the land; (2) the various tribes thus had their claim to the land cut from under them—they were now federal wards on familiar soil suddenly become alien to them; (3) since the state had surrendered control of the American Indians, it no longer had an official policy toward them; (4) the continued clamor for land from the Texas public, to be held as property and cultivated or otherwise used, made extermination or expulsion of the American Indians, whose relation to the land was quite different, a practical necessity; (5) when Texas ceased to be a republic, the burden of frontier defense was shifted to the federal government; (6) the United States Senate refused to define clearly its relationship to Texas and vacillated in its dealing with the American Indians; and (7) Texas, seeing the temporizing federal attitude, adopted new policies for control on a state basis but thereby merely deepened the confusion.

The federal government sought first to profit from Sam Houston's peace policy by continuing the treaties already in force. Accordingly, on May 15, 1846, the federal commissioners met Comanche, Waco, Wichita, and Caddo representatives at the old council grounds on Tehuacana Creek and made a treaty in which the tribes acknowledged the authority of the federal government. In Washington on July 25, President James K. Polk, on the occasion of a visit from the chief of the Anadarkos, issued a proclamation of friendship between the United States and this group. On March 2, 1847, in the Meusebach-Comanche Treaty, the Comanches agreed to permit Germans to occupy an area of more than three million acres. On March 20, Robert S. Neighbors was appointed special federal agent for the Texas Indians. Governor James Pinckney Henderson attempted to reinforce the frontier line with Texas Rangers, and former president Burnet tried to get the federal government to acquire proprietorship over the vacant lands of Texas (see PUBLIC LANDS). The state legislature also began importuning the Congress to regulate trade and peaceful relations with the Texas Indians. Upon the end of the Mexican War in 1848, federal troops moved to the Texas frontier and established a new line of forts extending from Fort Worth to the site of Eagle Pass. In 1849–51 the rush of goldseekers to California brought hordes of disturbing intruders into the frontier lands, clamor for the settlement of western Texas mounted, land grants were made to the railroads, buffalo hunters intensified the slaughter of the principle sustenance of the Plains Indians, who became alarmed and began raiding again. Federal treaty makers moved rapidly. On December 10, 1850, on Spring Creek near the San Saba River, they concluded a treaty with the Comanche, Caddo, Lipan Apache, Quapaw, Tawakoni, and Waco Indians. This agreement was never submitted to the Senate, since it was regarded merely as a special application of the 1846 treaty. On October 28, 1851, on the San Saba River, an agreement was drawn up between most of the leading tribes and American officials to meet in council in October, and on November 23 a second general treaty was effected.

Meanwhile, the feeling was growing that colonizing the Texas Indians somewhere on Texas soil would be the best solution. Accordingly, in 1852 the state decided to provide land for two reservations. A third proposed reservation, consisting of five leagues located west of the Pecos River, never materialized. In February 1854 the legislature set aside twelve leagues, or approximately 70,000 acres, a tract that was surveyed by Maj. Robert S. Neighbors and Capt. Randolph B. Marcy. One tract, known as the Brazos Reserve, on the Brazos River twelve miles below Fort Belknap, was for the Anadarkos, Caddos, Ionies, Kichais, Tawakonis, Tonkawas, Wacos, and other semiagricultural tribes, which totaled about 1,110 people. The other, known as the Clear Fork Reserve, on the Clear Fork of the Brazos, was for the Penateka Comanches. Neighbors, who was the leading Indian agent, undertook the arduous task of persuading the various tribes to enter the reservations, and by 1856, largely through his efforts, most from the eastern half of Texas had done so (see AMERICAN INDIAN RESERVATIONS, BRAZOS INDIAN RESERVATION). Periodic raids, however, continued along the western frontier. Between October 1857 and April 1858, critics of the reservations claimed that 500 to 800 horses were stolen and some twenty-five settlers were killed. Although both White and American Indian residents of the area were victims of raids by still-unsettled tribes from the plains, reservation Indians were often blamed for the problems. In 1858 local settlers began to agitate to have the reservation residents expelled as the only way to solve the problem. This verdict was confirmed by George B. Erath, who, in a letter to Governor Hardin R. Runnels, argued that removal was the answer, since whether guilty or not the reserve tribes would always be blamed. Finally, on June 11, 1859, it was announced that the state and federal governments had reached an agreement to move them north of the Red River into Indian Territory. Escorted by soldiers and rangers, the 1,000 or so residents of the reservation crossed the river out of Texas on September 1.

The Civil War opened a new phase in American Indian activity. Although the Confederate forces, largely through the efforts of Albert Pike, were more effective diplomatically with the American Indians in the opening months of the year, the Union leaders succeeded in concluding a treaty with the Comanches on May 13, 1861, at Alamogordo, New Mexico. The terms of the treaty were not kept by either side, however, and the Comanches were soon raiding again. Pike induced many Indian agents to swear allegiance to the Confederacy and, on August 12, 1861, at Fort Cobb in Indian Territory concluded a treaty with the Wichitas and the Penateka band of the Comanches. On the next day he also made a treaty with other Comanche bands so that with the exception of the Quahadis every important Comanche group was leagued with the Confederacy. Shortly thereafter, however, a Yamparika chief and another Comanche who had signed the Confederate treaty appeared at Fort Wise, Colorado, and on September 6, 1861, entered into an agreement for peace with the Union authorities. Thus in the winter of 1861–62 the Texas Comanches were allied in about equal numbers with the forces of both the North and the South. On October 23, 1862, the ties joining the Comanche to the Confederacy were broken by the destruction of the Wichita agency by the Delawares and Shawnees, who were loyal to the Union forces until the end of the war. The Comanches then overtly allied themselves with the North. On April 6, 1863, the chiefs of the Comanches, Kiowas, Cheyennes, Apaches, and other tribes, who had been invited to Washington, signed a treaty that, though never ratified, provided them with annuities. In October 1864 the Comanches and Kiowas demonstrated their complete break with the South by a crushing attack on a Confederate outpost twelve miles west of Fort Belknap in Young County. But the American Indians were not free from federal attack; on November 26, a large encampment of Comanches and Kiowas in the future Hutchinson County was attacked and defeated by Kit (Christopher H.) Carson in what is known as the first battle of Adobe Walls. This attack evidently turned the fickle Comanches again, for in the waning days of the war they met the Southern representatives and made a final treaty with the tottering Confederacy. Nearly all the Comanche bands, the Kiowas, and other Plains Indians were signers to this treaty. Thus the Civil War continued the uncertain policy of the various governments toward the American Indians, with these results: (1) the American Indians were divided into opposing groups; (2) diminished military protection on the frontier left the way open for increased raids; (3) White movement onto the western plains was slowed up greatly; and (4) the western Indians were less disposed than ever to return to reservations.

By October 18, 1865, United States commissioners were at work reconstructing their badly shattered American Indian relations, for on that date, at the mouth of the Little Arkansas River, they signed a new treaty with the Comanches, Kiowas, and Apaches. Two years later, leaders of the Kiowas, Cheyennes, Arapahos, Apaches, and all the Comanche bands except the Quahadis met federal officials in a great council at Medicine Lodge Creek, some seventy miles south of Fort Larned, Kansas. The treaty made there set aside reservations between the Arkansas and Canadian rivers for the exclusive use of these bands. The army failed to enforce the provisions of the treaty, however. Rations often were inadequate, and White outlaws who entered Indian Territory to steal stock went unpunished. There was liquor trafficking and gun running, and buffalo hunters entered the reservations. Some American Indians began raiding, and fresh tales of attacks were again circulating on the frontier.

Gradually, the federal government determined upon more aggressive measures, a move reinforced by news of the Warren Wagontrain Raid in 1871. Ranald S. Mackenzie, chosen to lead the campaign on to the Llano Estacado, initially met with little success. The western Indians sought tenaciously to protect their rapidly diminishing buffalo-hunting grounds, particularly in the Panhandle and southward, but the desire of the White hunters for hides, horns, and sport brought an ever-increasing number of Whites into the last Comanche stronghold. On June 27, 1874, the Comanches, Cheyennes, and Kiowas, under the leadership of Quanah Parker, Lone Wolf, and the "war prophet" Isa-tai, attacked a party of hunters in the second battle of Adobe Walls. The attackers were repulsed, and the White buffalo hunters were soon on their way again into the Comanche country. At the end of August, Gen. Nelson A. Miles, leading a strong force southward from Camp Supply in Indian Territory, encountered the Cheyennes on the Washita River, and after a week's pursuit, engaged them on the Red River, forcing them to flee into Tule Canyon. On September 12, Maj. William R. Price, driving down along the Canadian River from New Mexico, fought and defeated the Kiowas between the Washita River and Sweetwater Creek, a tributary of the Red River. In the same series of campaigns, Frank D. Baldwin charged an encampment on McClellan's Creek on November 8, 1874, and by a ruse scattered the Cheyenne Indians and recovered two White prisoners, Julia and Adelaide German (see GERMAN SISTERS). Mackenzie administered another major blow to the American Indian resistance when, on September 24–26, he attacked and scattered a Cheyenne village in Palo Duro and Tule canyons and captured and shot many of their horses. These vigorous and unrelenting campaigns of the Red River War in 1874 spelled the doom of the Plains Indians in Texas. With their horses and equipment lost so that hunting was impossible, and with winter impending, the leading chiefs of the warring tribes surrendered unconditionally at their agencies, except the Quahadi band of the Comanche. But even these proud warriors had no means to face the overpowering force of men and guns that threatened them, and in June 1875 they too surrendered at Fort Sill. See also SPANISH MISSIONS, CAPTIVES OF AMERICAN INDIANS.

Carlos E. Castañeda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas (7 vols., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1936–58; rpt., New York: Arno, 1976). Donald E. Chipman, Spanish Texas, 1519–1821 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992). Dianna Everett, The Texas Cherokees: A People between Two Fires, 1819–1840 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990). Elizabeth A. H. John, Storms Brewed in Other Men's Worlds: The Confrontation of Indians, Spanish, and French in the Southwest, 1540–1795 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1975). George Klos, "`Our People Could Not Distinguish One Tribe from Another': The 1859 Expulsion of the Reserve Indians from Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 97 (April 1994). Lena Clara Koch, "The Federal Indian Policy in Texas, 1845–1860," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 28 (January, April 1925). Arthur J. Lefevre, Indian Policy of the Republic of Texas (MS, Texas State Archives, Austin). Anna Muckleroy, "The Indian Policy of the Republic of Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 25–26 (April 1922-January 1923). Kenneth F. Neighbours, Indian Exodus: Texas Indian Affairs, 1835–1859 (San Antonio: Nortex, 1973). William W. Newcomb, The Indians of Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1961). Original Indian Treaties (MS, Texas State Archives, Austin). Rupert N. Richardson, The Comanche Barrier to South Plains Settlement (Glendale, California: Clark, 1933; rpt., Millwood, New York: Kraus, 1973). Rupert N. Richardson, "Removal of Indians from Texas in 1853: A Fiasco," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 20 (1944). William C. Sturtevant, ed., Handbook of North American Indians (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1978-). Robert M. Utley, The Indian Frontier of the American West, 1846–1890 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1984). Walter Prescott Webb, "The Last Treaty of the Republic of Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 25 (January 1922). Dorman H. Winfrey and James M. Day, eds., Texas Indian Papers (4 vols., Austin: Texas State Library, 1959–61; rpt., 5 vols., Austin: Pemberton Press, 1966). Robert A. Wooster, The Military and United States Indian Policy, 1865–1903 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988).

  • Exploration
  • Peoples
  • Native American
Time Periods:
  • Spanish Texas
  • Republic of Texas
  • Antebellum Texas

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

W. E. S. Dickerson, “American Indian Relations,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 16, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

March 11, 2021

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