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Throwback Thursday: Native Americans in Rio Grande Valley history

Throwback Thursday

BROWNSVILLE (KVEO) — We are going to tell a story about how the basic human existence in South Texas began and it did not begin with the westerner.

It began with the Apache, the Comanches, and other Native Indian tribes. In the beginnings of the 20th century, there was an archaeologist but actually he was a surveyor that went all through this range and his name was A.E. Anderson.

He collected, as a part-timer, because he was a surveyor, he collected thousands of relics of Indian culture.

It was a interesting story that ties it back with our Native American ties with this part of the country. Amazingly enough, it exhibited a trade pattern between the native peoples that were here that came here about a thousand years ago and with their trade partners in the Mayan lands.

These were all Coahuiltecans and Huastecans from a descendant from an old Mayan group that came up the coast here about a thousand years ago. How do they know they were trading partners?

With all of the exploration and the anthropological diggings that were done, they found shards from Huastecan pottery. They found jadeite which is resident only to the Yucatan peninsula about a thousand miles away. Fast forward up to about 1750, the time of the Nuevo Santander Expedition. The rub came into the picture about the late 1700′ into the early 1800’s. That was the vacuum created by the western expansion and the planes were being developed by the European peoples that were coming through.

It was a very unfortunate time for the Native Americans because they were being dispossessed of their lands. The first peoples to come here were the Lipan Apaches, the first major tribe. Along with the Lipan Apaches were the Kikapoos, and then the Comanches. The Comanches were the thorn on everybody’s side. The Lipan Apaches were actually Indios Amigos to a great degree. They assimilated into the populations and they became over time the best herders that this part of the country ever had. They were excellent horsemen but these Comanches were the difficult point.

The early raids going into relatively modern times of the 1850’s for Brownsville and South Texas. Those early raids were replete throughout this range and they were mainly Comanche driven. A very significant point occurred in the relationship between the Native Americans and the Spaniards that were coming through for the Nuevo Santander Expedition around 1750.

The governors and the viceroy of Mexico saw that there was an antagonism between the basic Indian tribes and the new colonizers, and they couldn’t have that because it was wreaking havoc. There were animosities being built and the assigned José de Escandón as the head of that expedition. What was his chief qualifier? He was a pacifist.

From that point on, they took an approach that they did not want to have a warring stance. It didn’t serve their purposes. So they pacified and they integrated these tribes into their community. Central Texas was a mixed batch. People always think about the mission in San Antonio. That was an abysmal disaster for a couple of reasons. Number one is that the tribes that they were trying to assimilate were in a major part nomadic. They didn’t want to settle into Missions and all of that. The Karankawas were definitely not part of that mix and never assimilated.

The tribes that were on the coast, many of them were decimated by the diseases that were brought in by western man. Warring factions among the various Indian groups that were here and also the displacement by the American troops to the groups further out west. It was a sad story for these people because they were displaced around every corner.

The legacy that the Native American peoples brought to this part of the country was enormous in our culture and in our understanding of the land. We had to learn from them. They were here for a thousand years and they taught us how to live on this land.

What we built afterward was literally from their graces and the rest is history.

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