Sana Indians

By: Thomas N. Campbell

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: July 1, 1995

Much confusion surrounds this name because several Indian groups in Texas had names that approximated Sana, and some writers have oversimplified the picture by equating most of these with Sana. The Cana and Sama Indians, who evidently spoke Coahuiltecan dialects, are not to be confused with the Sanas, who lived farther east and did not speak Coahuiltecan. Furthermore, the Canas and Samas entered two of the San Antonio missions at their inception, whereas the Sana Indians did not appear on the mission scene until some twenty-five years later. From 1691 until 1750 the Sanas were consistently associated with an area east and northeast of San Antonio, especially between the Guadalupe and Brazos rivers. When encountered by Europeans the Sanas were usually occupying settlements jointly with other groups, particularly Cantonas, Cavas, Emets, and Tohahas. The Sana Indians began to enter San Antonio de Valero Mission at San Antonio in the 1740s and were mentioned as living there as late as 1793. Although the records are sometimes ambiguous, the main variants of the name Sana appear to have been Chana, Chane, Jana, Xanac, and Xana. Xanna is likewise a variant of Sana, but Xanna is also recorded in 1691 as the name of a group that seems to have lived farther east, certainly east of the Trinity River and possibly as far east as western Louisiana. The status of Xanna Indians needs further study. The Canus also remain a problem, since they cannot be satisfactorily related to any other known group. Because it appears clear that Sana Indians did not speak Coahuiltecan, Karankawan, or Caddoan, and because in the eighteenth century they were so frequently associated with Tonkawans, the language of the Sanas has been tentatively identified as Tonkawan. This appears to be a reasonable conclusion, but it is also possible that the Sana Indians spoke some other language, perhaps one that is still unknown.

Herbert Eugene Bolton, ed., Spanish Exploration in the Southwest, 1542–1706 (New York: Scribner, 1908; rpt., New York: Barnes and Noble, 1959). Fray Francisco Céliz, Diary of the Alarcón Expedition into Texas, 1718–1719, trans. F. L. Hoffman (Los Angeles: Quivira Society, 1935; rpt., New York: Arno Press, 1967). Frederick Webb Hodge, ed., Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico (2 vols., Washington: GPO, 1907, 1910; rpt., New York: Pageant, 1959). John R. Swanton, The Indian Tribes of North America (Gross Pointe, Michigan: Scholarly 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, “Sana Indians,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 11, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995