José María, Anadarko chief, diplomat, and proponent of peaceful relations with whites, was born sometime around 1800, probably in the region of present-day Nacogdoches. The residents of that area, a small Caddoan-speaking group known as the Anadarkos, were successful agriculturalists, long-range traders, and members of the Hasinai Confederacy, the largest grouping of Caddoan peoples in Texas. By the time of José María's birth, however, centuries of contact with white men and their missions, diseases, and violent rivalries had left the Anadarkos, and most of the Caddoes of East Texas, severely weakened.
José María first entered Texas history in 1841 when he was wounded during a skirmish between his group and a company of settlers led by George Bernard Erath. Significantly, this is the only recorded instance where he was involved in hostilities with whites, for over the course of the next two decades José María distinguished himself as a leader favoring peaceful coexistence with the settlers. Accommodation made sense for him and the Anadarkos. By the mid-nineteenth century, they numbered only about 200 individuals and lived under constant threat of attack from the Wacos and Tawakonis. As a result, José María turned to white authorities for protection and between 1843 and 1846 signed a series of treaties effectively surrendering Anadarko sovereignty in return for protection and trade goods. During these important councils, José María emerged as a spokesman not only for the Anadarkos but for other small Caddoan groups, and he often served as an intermediary between agents and other tribes. Yet despite his relatively high standing among government officials and his efforts to encourage the Anadarkos to pursue the path of peace and adopt some aspects of white culture, José María was unable to prevent frontier whites from encroaching on the lands reserved for his people under the various treaties. In 1848 he expressed concern that his people were in danger of being driven from their farms, a fear that was heightened when, in the following year, tribal lands were surveyed. The situation was so unstable that when, in 1854, the Texas legislature voted to establish reservations for the state's remaining Indians, the Anadarkos accepted the offer readily. In 1855, joined by a number of Indians from destitute tribes in East Texas, they moved to the Brazos Indian Reservation on the Brazos River near the mouth of the Clear Fork. While there, the Anadarkos established farms and began serving as scouts for army expeditions into Comanche country.
But the Texas Indian reservations lasted just four years. According to the familiar frontier pattern, the lands set aside for the Anadarkos and their compatriots on the Brazos became a focal point for frontier violence. In February 1859, after the murder of several Indians, José María was indicted for horse stealing by the Palo Pinto County grand jury. Evidently the charges had no basis in fact, but given the tense situation, innuendo was enough to stimulate the Texas legislature into taking action. Legislation passed on July 11 abolished the Texas Indian reservations and placed the Indians under the charge of federal officials whose plan was to remove the Indians from the state. The removal process was set in motion on July 31, 1859, when 1,112 Indians, including 235 Anadarkos, were escorted by a military regiment to the Wichita reservation in western Oklahoma. There, gradually losing their distinctive identity, they remained. José María, it is said, died on the reservation during the Civil War years.