Pacuache Indians

By: Thomas N. Campbell

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: July 1, 1995

As the Pacuache, a hunting and gathering people of southern Texas, were frequently recorded in Spanish documents, their name was spelled in a variety of ways. Over fifty name variants are known. In F. W. Hodge's Handbook of American Indians the Pacuaches were confusingly treated, and errors were made that went unchallenged by scholars for some seventy years. Pacuache and Pacuachiam were mistakenly given as names for two separate Indian groups, and the name Pacuache was equated with name variants that refer to other Indian groups of southern Texas and northeastern Mexico, such as Campacua, Paachiqui, Pacao, and Patzau. Early observational records (1684–1730) indicate that the Pacuaches were associated with an area in Texas southwest of San Antonio. This area included the territory of modern Dimmit, Zavala, and Frio counties, as well as that of portions of several adjoining counties to the west (Maverick, Kinney, and Uvalde). The Pacuache Indians shared the area with at least twenty-two other Indian groups and were most frequently seen on the Nueces, Leon, and Frio rivers. Prior to 1684 the Pacuaches and some of their associates may have been displaced by Apaches from an area that was nearer to the southern margin of the Edwards Plateau. Recorded figures indicate that early in the eighteenth century the Pacuaches may have had a population of at least 400. It is reasonably clear that they spoke a dialect of the Coahuilteco language. The Sacuaches and Tepacuaches, who are known only from a single document of 1693, were probably closely related to the Pacuaches. This is suggested by similarity in names and by the fact that in 1693 all three groups were recorded as living close to each other near the Nueces River southwest of San Antonio. Pacuache individuals and families can be linked with five Spanish missions of Coahuila and Texas. Most of the Pacuaches who entered missions went to San Bernardo Mission at the site of present-day Guerrero in northeastern Coahuila, a mission that was not far from their territory north of the Rio Grande in Texas. Although considerable numbers of Pacuache Indians are said to have entered San Bernardo shortly after it was founded in 1703, many of these repeatedly left the mission to live for a time in their native lands. Such mission records as have survived indicate that Pacuache was the numerically dominant Indian group at San Bernardo, and eighty-five Pacuaches were recorded there as late as 1772. A few Pacuache Indians also entered nearby San Francisco Solano Mission. In San Antonio at least thirteen Pacuache individuals were recorded at San Antonio de Valero Mission between 1722 and 1766. In 1749 one Pacuache family from Valero was sent to San Ildefonso Mission on the San Gabriel River in Milam County northeast of Austin, where the adults served as teachers and interpreters. In 1774 four Pacuache visitors from San Bernardo were recorded at Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Acuña Mission of San Antonio. It appears that the Pacuache Indians lost their ethnic identity late in the eighteenth century when San Bernardo Mission was secularized and the surviving mission Indians were absorbed by the Spanish-speaking population of modern Guerrero, Coahuila. A few details of Pacuache culture were recorded by Spanish missionaries and travelers. It was noted that they used the bow and arrow and hunted such animals as bison, deer, rats, and mice. They preferred to place their encampments in wooded areas near streams. Their regular houses were not described, but it appears that male hunting parties sometimes built small, semicircular lean-tos. These were made of tree branches covered with bundles of grass and were open on one side. Pacuache women processed bison and deer hides, and these were sometimes decorated with designs in red and yellow paint and traded to Spaniards and other Indians along the Rio Grande. Smoke signaling seems to be indicated, and two documents mention the theft of Spanish horses under cover of darkness.

Herbert Eugene Bolton, ed., Spanish Exploration in the Southwest, 1542–1706 (New York: Scribner, 1908; rpt., New York: Barnes and Noble, 1959). Thomas N. Campbell, Ethnohistoric Notes on Indian Groups Associated with Three Spanish Missions at Guerrero, Coahuila (Center for Archaeological Research, University of Texas at San Antonio, 1979). Lino Gómez Canedo, ed., Primeras exploraciones y poblamiento de Texas, 1686–1694 (Monterrey: Publicaciones del Instituto Technológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, 1968). 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). Robert S. Weddle, San Juan Bautista: Gateway to Spanish Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968).


  • 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, “Pacuache Indians,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 21, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995