Heritage, Volume 3, Number 4, Spring 1986 Page: 14
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OLD RIVER FESTIVAL
The City of Freeport
you to attend the
OLD RIVER FESTIVAL
April 25-27, 1986
Stephen F. Austin's ship,
with the dedication
of an Historical Marker
Three days of festivities include:
Arts and Crafts
Ricky Skaggs Concert
with special honored guests Vice President and
Mrs. George Bush and other state dignitaries.
Festivities are sponsored by
and proceeds to benefit:
The City of Freeport
The Freeport League
The Freeport Shrimp
The Freeport Jaycees
The Texas Historical
For more information contact:
The Texas Historical
The Spanish indifference spared the lives of
thousands of Texas' Indians for another 140
years. It was not until the French attempted a
settlement along Lavaca Bay in 1685 that the
Spanish again gained a jealous interest in their
Indian populations outside the urban civilizations
such as the Aztec, Maya, and Inca were
surprisingly small. Probably no more than
1,000,000 Indians lived in all of North America
north of the Rio Grande in 1500. Of
those, only 900,000 or so were in what is now
the United States. Estimates of Texas' Indian
population at the time of contact vary from
35,000 to over 100,000; a population of
50,000 would be a conservative estimate. At
least half of that number were among the
Caddo Confederacy of east Texas. Densities
were also high among the Jumanos of the Rio
Grande valley in the west. The plains of
Texas, although large in area, had small populations,
perhaps less than 10,000 among the
Plains Indians at the time of contact.
What happened to Texas' Indians? Like North
American Indians elsewhere, the nemesis was
not warfare with the white man but his viral
diseases. Chicken pox, small pox, whooping
cough, measles, mumps, influenza, and
colds-all of these are only childhood nuisances
to Europeans born with at least some
natural immunity to such diseases. Such viral
diseases were deadly to adult Indians with no
experience or immunity. Between one-third
and one-half of the Indian population succumbed
shortly after contact with Europeans.
It is easy to imagine the fear and hatred which
this engendered. It was the AIDS epidemic of
its age, but with one-third to one-half of the
population being wiped out. Of the survivors,
half intermarried with Europeans or otherwise
became absorbed into the European cultural
sphere. The Indian remnant with the mestizo
population of Mexico is obvious, admitted,
and dominantly Indian racially. Even among
Anglos in North America, such intermarriage
was more common than once thought. ScotchIrish
frontiersmen might produce informal offspring
by an Indian mistress. Such "halfbreeds",
however often married Europeans;
their offspring were just "Americans." In this
fashion many Indians were absorbed into the
Anglo majority, even in North America.
When having an Indian ancestor became stylish
(or perhaps even lucrative) in the 1960s
and 1970s, it was striking how many Texans of
European background were able to produce at
least one Indian ancestor three or four generations
in the past.
As to the other half of the Indians who survived
the viral diseases, their offspring are still
with us-as Indians. In 1980 Texas had just
over 40,000 American Indians, about 0.3 percent
of the state's current population. Texas'
current Indian population is very near the best
estimates of Texas' Indian population at the
time of contact.
Texas' Indians of 1980 are not the same Indians
as in 1500, however, and their distribution
is quite different. Where the Spanish
later set up missions and presidios such as
among the Caddo, Tonkawa, Karankawa,
Coahuiltecans, and Jumanos, the resulting
mestizo society lost its Indian identity and suffered
the same fate in Texas as other Hispanics.
Returning soldiers, governmental officials,
and perhaps even a philandering church
friar might bring home an Indian wife or mistress.
After 1772, all Spanish settlement was
collapsed to San Antonio or Goliad, and with
them the bulk of the surviving Indians as mestizos.
Although small numbers (2,000 or less),
Hispanics and mestizos fared well through the
Anglo occupation of Mexican Texas and the
Republic. After the U.S. War with Mexico,
however, feelings ran high on both sides, and
many Hispanic patriots of the Texas Revolution
moved to Mexico. There are undoubtedly
though some Hispanics in San Antonio and
perhaps Nacogdoches, El Paso, or the older
Rio Grande Valley communites who might
trace their ancestry to a mestizo union with
Texas' Indians during the almost 150-year period
of Spanish colonial rule (1689-1836).
The remaining Plains Indians, especially the
Comanches, were sent to reservations in Indian
territory (Oklahoma.) Today, the Comanches
represent the second largest tribal
group, after the Choctaw, in Texas. Dallas is
the principal Texas destination for Oklahoma
Indians in Texas with around 10,000 Indians
in the Dallas area. Houston is the second destination
with about 5,000. Texas has two
Indian reservations, but both of these are
Indians from other states: the AlabamaCoushatta,
representing refugees from central
Alabama who arrived beginning 1800-1807
and the Tigua, remnants of the Santa Fe, New
Mexico Indian revolt of 1682.
The movement of the plantation culture of
the Lower South westward in the early 1800s
drove Indians of the Five Civilized Tribes in
front of them toward Texas. After the AlaSPRING
86 * HERITAGE
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 3, Number 4, Spring 1986, periodical, March 1, 1986; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45441/m1/14/: accessed December 16, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.