Who Rescued and Enslaved Simars de Bellisle? Part Two

A surprising number of historians consider the Native Americans that saved and later enslaved de Bellisle to be the Karankawas.[1] Instead, these First Peoples are almost certainly the Akokisas, the north-eastern neighbors of the Karankawas. This mistake is somewhat understandable. The Native Americans who resided on the Texas coast, although having widely different cultures, lived nearly identical migratory lifestyles and to Europeans—the primary writers of the most accessible History—all “savages” looked the same.[2] Expressing the European frustration is the interrogator tasked with questioning a man who lived with the Karankawas in the late seventeenth-century:

All the different nations of savages in this whole country live in a rather uniform manner and resemble each other so much that it is very difficult, not to say impossible, to distinguish them except with respect to their different dialects and the different geographical regions inhabited by those who have villages.[3]

Which Peoples Rescued and then Enslaved de Bellisle: The Akokisas

Identifying de Bellisle’s captors is challenging when only studying how his enslavers lived, even more so when the term “Karankawa” is used for every Native American group that inhabited the Texas coast despite their actual relationships or connections to the Karankawa-speaking Peoples.[4] However, the primary reason for the misidentification of de Bellisle’s Native American rescuers originates from a single citation made by Henri Folmer, the translator and editor of de Bellisle’s Relation:

In his “Memoir” de Bellisle called this tribe “Caux Indians,” whereas at the time he wrote the above he still did not know the name of his Indian masters.[5] De Villiers writes that it is possible de Bellisle called his captors Caux Indians after the name of the Indian woman who saved him from being killed. De Villiers suggests the name of Cocos Indians. The author was unable to verify these suggestions because he did not have access to de Bellisle’s “Memoir” Cf. de Villiers, “Les Indiens du Texas,” 421. Le Page du Pratz calls de Bellisle’s captors Atac-Apas, which means maneater.[6] Cf. Hodge, Handbook of American Indians, Part I, 114-115. H. E. Bolton in an article on the Mission Rosario, mentions the names of several Indian tribes living about the Matagorda Bay, among whom he mentions the Cocos. Bolton thought that these Cocos might be the same tribe as the Coaques met by Cabeza de Vaca. H. E. Bolton. “The Founding of Mission Rosario . . .,” The Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association, X, No. 2 [October, 1906], 114f [7]

Historians have interpreted Folmer’s confusing and ill-cited footnote in two contradicting ways. The more popular discernment is that de Bellisle’s captors were Karankawa-speaking, the Coco Peoples in particular. The second, less popular but correct interpretation is that de Bellisle’s captors were Atakapa-speaking, the Akokisa Peoples in particular. Because of the significance in gauging exactly who de Bellisle’s enslavers were, not just for this thesis but for future historical works on Texas Native American ethnology and History, I will clarify Folmer’s footnote and give strong evidence showing that de Bellisle spent his time stranded on the Texas Coast with the Akokisas, not the Karankawas as popularly believed.

To begin, Folmer initially states in his footnote that he did not have access to de Bellisle’s Memoir. The Memoir and the Relation are two different autobiographies that document de Bellisle’s enslavement. De Bellisle wrote the Relation before the Memoir. The Memoir, is untranslated and incredibly difficult to acquire (likely only housed in the French National Archives), but it presents greater detail of de Bellisle’s time on the Texas Coast and includes an admission that his captors tricked him into consuming human flesh.[8] The Relation is translated into English, well known, and is the basis for this chapter.[9]

Marc de Villiers du Terrage and Paul Rivet, early twentieth-century French historians, had access to de Bellisle’s hard to find Memoir and in an article they published about the castaway officer in 1919—“Les Indiens du Texas”—they mention that de Bellisle referred to his captors as the “Caux.” De Villiers and Rivet list the Memoir as their source. The two French scholars claim the Caux to be the Native American Peoples known as the Cocos primarily because of name similarity (“Coco” & “Caux”). This is their first mistake.[10] “Caux” looks and sounds phonetically similar to the first half of “Akokisa” and “Orcoquisac,” and the Akokisas’ word for water is “cacaux.” Continuing, there is no way of ascertaining why and with what association de Bellisle identified his captors. Phonetic similarity—in this instance—is not concrete enough to identify the Native Americans who rescued de Bellisle. Thomas Nolan Campbell and Tommy Jo Campbell, a father and daughter team of archaeologists and anthropologists renowned in the field of Texas Native American Ethnohistory, explain my assertion with more detail:

It does not take much research to discover that some names are not quite what they seem to be. Two similar names may refer to the same group or to two separate groups. Two dissimilar names may refer to the same group….European documents sometimes spell the name of a specific Indian group in many different ways, sometimes 50 or more, depending upon the phonetic complexity of the name. Some names are so badly distorted that scholars at times have regarded two or more variants of the same name as names of separate Indian groups.[11]

De Villiers and Rivet’s second err is that they mistakenly believe the Cocos to have been the ancestors of the Akokisas: “The Caux [Cocos] were eventually transformed into the Coquizas’, Orcoquizas or Orquizacos [Akokisas].”[12] The Cocos are presently and correctly considered to be a Karankawa-speaking Peoples. The Cocos did not transform into the Akokisas. The Cocos and Akokisas did intermarry and in the early nineteenth-century small parties of the Karankawas and Akokisas did merge to form composite groups, but during de Bellisle’s captivity in the early eighteenth-century, the Akokisas and Cocos had distinct cultures, identities, and languages.[13]

I believe de Villiers and Rivet are trying to say that de Bellisle’s captors are the Akokisas (which is correct). But they do so in the most roundabout and incorrect way that in the process they confused future historians by stating that the Cocos and Akokisas are one in the same tribe.[14] Henri Folmer misinterpreted de Villiers and Rivet’s article and accidentally spread the notion that de Bellisle lived with the Karankawas—which led a lineage of  scholars astray.

Further down Folmer’s footnote, there is a reference to Bolton’s work on Mission Rosario. This is an attempt to place the Cocos in the geographic area of where the Akokisas enslaved Simars de Bellisle. The evidence Folmer provides is inadequate. Although the Cocos are recorded at varying points to have resided around the southern end of Galveston Bay, the encompassing area of Galveston and Trinity Bay is most frequently documented by the archaeological and historical record as being inhabited by the Akokisas. In assuming that de Bellisle landed in the vicinity of Galveston Bay, of which he almost assuredly did, then the likelihood that de Bellisle encountered the Akokisas over the Coco-Karankawas is far greater.

With Folmer’s footnote explained, I will present two pieces of evidence that conclusively show that the Akokisas saved and enslaved de Bellisle. The first piece of evidence is a letter of assistance de Bellisle drafted that fell into the hands of the Bidais, a People closely related to the Akokisas. The second, is a dictionary compiled by the French Captain Jean Béranger of de Bellisle’s captors’ language that is different than the Karankawas’ language.

A Letter Scratched with Charcoal: The First Piece of Evidence

Sometime between 1719 and 1720 during de Bellisle’s captivity, he gave a letter he wrote in charcoal to his captors and instructed them to deliver it to the “first White” they encountered. If they did, he told them “they would be well rewarded.”[15] De Bellisle’s enslavers agreed to take the message but with no intention of actually doing so:

They told me that what they had done was to mock me, and that I must think them very dumb to believe that they would expose themselves to being badly treated by carrying this letter. Nevertheless, this letter had been taken but it was for the purpose of showing it to all their tribe.[16]

De Bellisle’s captors instead passed the letter from band to band as something to gawk at. This inadvertently accomplished what de Bellisle intended. The letter fell into the hands of a Native American group known as the Bidais, who then passed the charcoal note to the Hasinais, who then passed it to the commandant of Natchitoches, Louis Juchereau de St. Denis, who then implored the Hasinais—his close trading partners—to retrieve de Bellisle from the Akokisas.[17] The Hasinais agreed, and on April 5, 1721, de Bellisle reintegrated into French colonial society.

De Bellisle’s letter coming into the hands of the Bidais is the first overlooked piece of evidence that de Bellisle lived among the Akokisas. The Bidai Peoples acted as intermediaries in trade from the Texas Gulf Coast to the Texas interior. The coastal tribes, such as the Akokisas and the Atakapas, are frequently recorded as being at war with inland tribes, like the Hasinais and the Natchitoches.[18] The Bidais maintained their standing as middlemen between the coastal and inland groups by intermarrying with the Akokisas—their neighbors to the South—and the Hasinais—their neighbors to the North (along with many smaller nations in the vicinity). However, linguistically and culturally, the Bidais—during de Bellisle’s captivity—were to a greater extent related to the Akokisas.[19]

During the meager prominence of the Spanish mission system in East Texas, the frontier Friars learned that intermixing unalike tribal groups ended in conflict. Native Americans joined missions as family units, picking and choosing between places of worship based on whether or not they culturally paired with the other inhabitants. In a sense, Native Americans shopped around for missions and self-segregated themselves based on ethnicity.[20]

The Akokisas and Bidais frequently resided at the same missions, which is a telling sign that they considered each other as a related People. Andrée Francis Sjoberg, who wrote her thesis on the Bidais, confirms this suggestion:

[The Indians] were distributed according to their linguistic affiliations. The Tonkawa tribes (Mayeye, Hierbipiame, and Yojuane,) were placed in Mission San Francisco Xavier, the Karankawa group (including the Cocos and Tops Indians) were assigned to Candelaria, and in the third mission, San Ildefonso, were gathered the Bidai, Akokisa, Deadose, and Patriri Indians.”[21]

In addition to Mission San Ildefonso, the Bidais and Akokisas lived together at Mission Nuestra Señora de la Luz and Mission San Francisco Xavier. Simars de Bellisle in his Relation writes that his captors “showed [the letter] to all their tribes.”[22] The Akokisas, who spoke the same language as the Bidais, frequently intermarried with the Bidais, and resided at the same missions as the Bidais, reasonably would considered the Bidais to be one of “their tribes.”[23] The Karankawas, who spoke a different language, had different customs, and generally resided at other missions, would not.[24]

Different Languages: The Second Piece of Evidence

The second and most convincing proof that the Akokisas rescued and enslaved de Bellisle comes from the French Captain Jean Béranger. In 1720, the Governor of Louisiana ordered Captain Jean Béranger to reconnoiter Saint Bernard Bay in search of a feasible French settlement site.[25] Captain Béranger accidentally sailed past his intended destination (unwittingly passing the marooned and miserable Simars de Bellisle) and entered Aransas Bay. Béranger stayed in the area for an unspecified amount of time to repair his ship and Biscayan launch “that were springing many leaks.”[26]

In the process of these repairs, Béranger became friendly with a large group of Karankawas. With cordial relations between both parties, the Karankawas served as Béranger’s guides around Aransas and Copano Bays and helped the French Captain acquire the materials needed to repair his vessels. In turn, Béranger provided the Karankawas with valuable trinkets and documented their way of life.[28] Importantly, Béranger had the foresight to create a small dictionary of the Karankawas’ language. After finishing the temporary repairs to his vessels, Béranger embarked for Biloxi.

The following year, in 1721, the Governor of Louisiana assigned Captain Béranger to transport Bérnard de La Harpe and fifteen soldiers to Saint-Bernard Bay to establish a French military post.[29] Simars de Bellisle, recently rescued and considered an obvious asset to the expeditionary force, accompanied as an ensign interpreter.

Jean Béranger this time undershot his determined destination and sailed the French soldiers to Galveston Bay instead of Matagorda Bay.[30] The party disembarked, and immediately made contact with the Native Americans in the vicinity. De Bellisle recognized his previous captors and Beranger writes, “the savages were very much surprised to meet their slave again well fitted out, [de Bellisle] pointed out to us several of those who had maltreated him.”[31] Significantly, Captain Béranger made note that these Indians at Galveston Bay “were different” than those he met while repairing his ship while at Aransas Bay a year earlier.[32]

La Harpe asked de Bellisle’s former subjugators if they were opposed to a French fort being established in their vicinity. With de Bellisle translating, the Akokisas received the offer “coldly,” and asked “if the French had brought them any merchandise. Monsieur de Bellisle answered that it was still on the way and that they had only come as a sign of friendship. The Indians replied that when anyone came among strangers, he should not come with empty hands.”[33] The Akokisas, face to face with their former slave, expected him to seek revenge—the French refusal to give gifts heightened the suspicions and tensions.

Facing potentially hostile neighbors, La Harpe scrapped his plans to settle on the Texas Coast and prepared to leave for Mobile. Before setting sail, the disappointed Frenchman enticed roughly a dozen Akokisas to his ship under the guise of receiving gifts. Once aboard, La Harpe ordered four soldiers with bayonets to confine nine of the lured Indians “to bring to Louisiana.”[34] La Harpe justified the kidnapping in hopes that “upon seeing the French settlements and being well received [the Akokisas] would be influenced to want to have the French in their country.”[35]

On route back to Mobile, Captain Béranger compiled a dictionary from the imprisoned First Peoples.[36] In doing so, he recognized that “their language [was] different from the former [Karankawa language].”[37] An excerpt of the dictionaries Béranger created is presented below:


Jean Béranger Word List Comparison
Word Béranger’s First Word List (Karankawa) Béranger’s Second Word List (Akokisa)
A man alane chacq
The head enoquer sache
The neck emubecq coé
The eye(s) emicout audle
The mouth emy aquoy cat
The hair equioay queche
The arm(s) sumahaha noe
The nose emay aloumy audle
A knife cousila casme
Water clay cacaux
The sun clos gehe
The wind eta sst
Wood quesoul

These are not the complete Béranger dictionaries, only the words shared between the two dictionaries. For the full dictionaries see Karankawas.com/Language.

The two dictionaries are a compilation of two languages: one Karankawan and the other Atakapan.[38] The language Jean Béranger records Simars de Bellisle speaking very well is the language attributed to the Akokisas.  


1 –  Eugenia Briscoe, “A Narrative History of Corpus Christi: 1519-1875” (dissertation, University of Denver, 1972), 18; Kelly Himmel, The Conquest of the Karankawa and the Tonkawas, 1821-1859 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1999), XXX; Paul Schneider, Brutal Journey: The Epic Journey of the First Crossing of North America (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2006), 223-224; Edward W. Kilman, Cannibal Coast (San Antonio: The Naylor Company, 1959) XXX; Béranger’s Discovery of Aransas Pass, trans. William M. Carroll, ed. Frank Wagner (Corpus Christi: The Friends of the Corpus Christi Museum, 1983), 11; David La Vere, The Texa Indians (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2004), 112; Carol Lipscomb, “Karankawa Indians,” Texas State Historical Association, accessed 12/29/18, https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/bmk05.

2 –  This blanket statement, as with all blanket statements, isn’t quite right. Europeans make great efforts in distinguishing different Native American Peoples. They just had a hard time fully conceptualizing the Natives culture into their own.

3 – Robert Weddle, La Salle, the Mississippi, and the Gulf (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1987), 250. The diversity of Texas’s First People is dizzying. Friar Francisco Casañas de Jesús María, provides another good example of the confusion this Native diversity caused European chroniclers. When listing the Peoples who surrounded the Hasanias, Casañas writes, “The proper name of the province is Asinai. It is composed of the nine tribes already named. There is not one tribe of these nine called Asinai but each of the tribes combined with the remaining eight compose the Asinai Nation. The friendly tribes called the “Tejias” are: Nazonis, Nacan, Nabaydacho, Nesta, Guasco, Cataye, Neticatzi, Nasayaya, Naviti, Caxo, Dastones, Nadan, Tadivas, Nabeyxa, Nacoz, Caynigua, Caudadachos, Quizi, Natzoos, Nasitox, and Bidey….The Guaza, Yaduza, Bata, Cojo, Datana, Chuman, Cagaya, and the Assenay – different from the Asinai– live towards the south and west about eighty leagues from this province….The Caquiza, Quintanuaha, Coai, Canu, Tiniba, Vidix, Sico, Toaha, Cautouhaona, and Nepayaya, are located toward the southwest; the Canonidiba, Casiba, Dico, Xanna, Vinta, Tobo, Caquixadoquix, Canonizachitous, and Zanomi toward the south-east….The enemies of the Province of the Asenay are the following: Anao, Tanico, Quibaya, Cauzeaux, Hauydiz, Naviti, Nondacau, Quitxix, Zauanito, Tancaquaay, Canabatinu, Quiguayua, Diu-Juan, Sadammo….Others are called Apaches, Ca-au-cozi, and Mani.” Mattie Austin Hatcher, Descriptions of the Tejas or Asinai Indians, 1691-1722, II,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 30, no. 4 (1927): 286-287.

4 –  “Living identical lifestyles” inspired by Reséndez, A Land So Strange, 279. The more popular a Native American People, the more imagined territory they recieve in the historical record, see Elizabeth Fenn and her study on the Mandans, in which she constantly has to clarify the territory of the Assiniboines, Hidatsas, Mandans, and other Peoples living in the area, Elizabeth Fenn, Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People (New York: Hill and Wang, 2014), 68.

5 – The “Memoir” refers to a later document written by de Bellisle which covers his time on the Texas Coast. Mildred Mayhall seems to have confused de Bellisle’s Memoir with Captain Béranger’s Memoir. Mayhall says that Béranger’s Memoir “gives these Indians the name ‘Caux.’” I could not find any usage of “Caux” in Béranger’s Memoir. Mayhall also suggests that the Akokisas adopted de Bellisle after he killed one of their enemies. Mayhall received this information from De Villiers and Rivet, see De Villiers and Rivet, “Les Indiens du Texas,” 419; Mildred P. Mayhall, “The Indians of Texas: the Atákapa, the Karankawa, the Tonkawa” (dissertation, University of Texas, 1939), 101.  In actuality, Captain Béranger only writes, “[De Bellisle] told us how he had been in the war with that nation against those among whom I had been the year before, in which they were beaten. They took some prisoners, whom they made suffer all that is most horrible and would eat them even to the bones. They would make fun of [de Bellisle] because he was not willing to eat any. At last, however, by deceit they made him eat under the pretense of having him eat some smoked beef.” Béranger, Béranger’s Discovery of Aransas Pass, 29-30.

Weddle, on his citations in The French Thorn refers to Béranger’s relation as “Béranger, Mémoire” and “Wagner, Béranger’s Discovery.” Both appear to be the same document, not two separate memoirs which Mayhall’s comment led me to believe at first.

6 – Le Page du Pratz does not specifically call de Bellisle’s captors “Atac-Apas” or “man-eaters” as is implied by Folmer, instead du Pratz gives a geographical location of where the Atakapas resided with no mention of de Bellisle. Du Pratz writes, “Along the west coast, not far from the sea, inhabit the nation named Atacapas, that is, Man-eaters, being so called by the other nations on account of their detestable custom of eating their enemies, or such as they believe to be their enemies,” see Antoine Simon Le Page Du Pratz, “The History of Louisiana, or of the Western Parts of Virginia and Carolina,” Project Gutenberg, March 14, 2015, https://www.gutenberg.org/files/9153/9153-h/9153-h.htm.

7 –  Folmer, “De Bellisle on the Texas Coast,” 216.

8 – De Villiers and Rivet, “Les Indiens du Texas,” 417. Béranger also mentions this deception in Jean Béranger, Béranger’s Discovery of Aransas Pass, 29.

9 –  I found no citation to or the location of the Memoir in De Villiers and Rivet’s “Les Indiens du Texas” even though De Villiers and Rivet discuss and expand upon the Memoir’s contents: “[The] Memoir complements some of the shortcomings, rectifies the indicated distances and omits various improbabilities [in the Relation]. In this document, [de Bellisle] pushes the veracity to acknowledge having eaten, by surprise, it is true, human flesh—which made him vomit up blood!” My translation, see De Villiers and Rivet, “Les Indiens du Texas,” 417. I presume the Memoir is housed in the French National Archives. I intend to acquire it and translate it sometime in the future.

10 – De Villiers and Rivet, “Les Indiens du Texas,” 424. Edward Kilman in Cannibal Coast makes the poor assumption that because “Caux” looks similar to “Caoques” or “Cokes” that there should be “no serious doubt to their identity,” see Kilman, Cannibal Coast, 74.

11 – T.N. Campbell and T.J. Campbell, Indian Groups Associated with Spanish Missions of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, 2nd ed. (San Antonio: Center for Archaeological Research, 1996), 9-10. Pierre LeMoyne d’Iberville, the head of another French colonization mission on the Mississippi (this time more successful) directly touches on how the names of tribes recorded in former travel logs misaligned with the names of the Native American tribes he encountered. See Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberbille, Ibverille’s Gulf Journals, trans. and ed. Richebourg Gaillard McWilliams (Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 1981), 6, 60.

12 – “Les Caux se transformèrent sans doute par la suite en Coquizas’,Orcoquizas ou Orquizacos.” My translation, De Villiers and Rivet, “Les Indiens du Texas,” 425.

13 – The time period is crucial. As Kelly Himmel explains, “In 1821, American Indian groups occupied all of Texas….In 1859, American Indian groups held only the plains of the northwest and the more isolated mountains and deserts of the far west.” Looking at the Akokisas and the Cocos during different portions of the seventeenth century will reveal a totally different set of circumstances, see Himmel, The Conquest of the Karankawa and Tonkawa, IX.

14 –  De Villiers and Rivet consider the Cocos to have been Atakapas based on Albert Gatschet’s allocation (which can be dissected to reveal its own flaws) and believed “the Coco had for neighbors ‘Karankawa.’” De Villiers and Rivet, “Les Indiens du Texas,” 424.

15 – Folmer, “De Bellisle on the Texas Coast,” 217.

16 –  Ibid., 218.

17 –  Ibid., 221.

18 –  Two sources that immediately come to mind are, Robert Weddle, La Salle, the Mississippi and the Gulf (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 1987), 248; Mattie Austin Hatcher, Descriptions of the Tejas or Asinai Indians, 1691-1722, II,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 30, no. 4 (1927): 283-304.

19 – David La Vere contends, I think correctly, that “increasingly, the Bidais were being pulled into the Hasinais’ orbit.” La Vere, Texas Indians, 113. For more on why the Hasinais had an “orbit,” see Pekka Hämäläinen, The Comanche Empire (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008), 91.

20 –  As historian Juliana Barr explains in Peace Came in the Form of a Woman, “When allied groups of Mayeyes, Yojuanes, Deadoses, and Bidais first discussed joining a mission, Fray Mariano de los Dolores y Viana asked them to visit San Antonio, but they explained that the Indians there ‘were not related to them, nor did they come from their locality, and for that reason they could not live with them.’ Insisting instead on a mission settlement within their own territories, they said that ‘they could not move so far away from their relatives…nor could they leave their neighboring and allied nations because they were all intermingled and had intermarried.”Juliana Barr, Peace Came in the Form of a Woman (Chapel Hill: The Unversity of North Carolina Press, 2007), 131-133, 156.

21 – Andrée Frances Sjoberg, “The Bidai Indians of Southeastern Texas” (master’s thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 1951), 18, 32. Sjoberg isn’t exact enough. She could improve her paragraph by writing that the missions were distributed according to Native American linguistic affiliations. Otherwise it makes it sound like the Spanish had a stockpile of Native American converts awaiting to be assigned to a mission. In reality, the Native Americans were the ones requesting the missions, maintaining them, coming and going based on their needs, and many times playing one Order off another. As Barr vividly writes, “The idea of missions as institutions through which to ‘conquer,’ ‘subdue,’ ‘pacify,’ and ‘subjugate’ indians was so firmly locked in their imaginations that they refused to acknowledge the reality of their situation. Despite such stereotypes (more often found at higher levels of administration, in day-to-day life the warriors at the San Antonio missions were crucial to the defense of the mission-presidio-complexes, and the Spaniards knew it.” Barr, Peace Came in the Form of a Woman, 146. See also  Mayhall, “The Indians of Texas: the Atákapa, the Karankawa, the Tonkawa,” 87, 100-101; Herbert Bolton, Texas in the Middle Eighteenth Century: Studies in Spanish Colonial History and Administration (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1970), 3.

22 –  Folmer, “De Bellisle on the Texas Coast,” 218, 221; Mayhall, “The Indians of Texas: the Atákapa, the Karankawa, the Tonkawa,” 108.

23 –  Sjoberg, “The Bidai Indians of Southeastern Texas,” 11-12, 34. For consideration, de Mezieres does write in great detail in the late eighteenth-century of the close trading bond between the Akokisas and Karankawas. See Mezeries: I – 32, 114 II – 126, 190, 298-305. Mezieres also mentions that with the Akokisas aid (through gifts), they planned to lure the Karankawas to their village and with the Spanish/French decimate the entire tribe. 301

24 –  A blemish in my argument is noticeable when realizing that the Coco-Karankawas also at times lived in the same missions and encampments as the Akokisas and Bidais.The Cocos seem to be far more cosmopolitan when compared to other Karankawa-speaking Peoples. The Karankawas range is considered to be typically thirty miles from the coast. Yet the Cocos are found more than fifty miles from the coast and in such perplexing places that Historian William C. Foster has raised questions as to their classification as a Karankawa-speaking Peoples. As Foster explains: “A number of reports on early [Spanish] expeditions suggest that the Coco had a closer connection with tribes other than the Karankawa. In 1690, a Coco village was identified by De León over fifty miles from the central Gulf Coast and between two neighboring tribes of Toho and either Aranama or Aname. Thereafter, expeditions continued to report Coco living near and associating with tribes other than the three traditionally recognized Karankawan coastal tribes.” William C. Foster, Historic Native Peoples of Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2008), 183, 186, 201, 208, 272-273.” Archaeologist Robert Ricklis found Rockport Phase pottery (pottery associated with the Karankawas) well past thirty miles inland. He believes that the drop of population from European diseases, European conflict, and Native American conflict opened up greater territory for the Karankawas to push into. The Cocos took advantage of this open territory, and like the Bidais, became a People who spoke various languages and intermingled with bordering Peoples. There are a dizzying number of Native American tribes in Texas. These tribes have been lost and ignored in part because they are hard to nail down to a specific location. One reason why is because they constantly transitioned, merged, migrated, and intermarried. Ricklis (archaeologist and author of The Karankawa Indians) interview with the author, August 2018. See also Barr, Mapping Indian Borders in the Early Southwest. For the Akokisas and Bidais visiting the San Antonio de Béxar Presidio together, see Martínez Pacheco to Ugalde, “Reporting visit of Vidai and Orcoquisac Indians to Béxar” (Bexar Archive, 2C63, September 17, 1787), http://www.cah.utexas.edu/projects/bexar/gallery_doc.php?doc=e_bx_007907; Martínez Pacheco to Ugalde, “Reporting departure of Vidais and Orcoquizas visiting Béxar.” (Bexar Archive, 2C63, September 30, 1787), http://www.cah.utexas.edu/projects/bexar/gallery_doc.php?doc=e_bx_007924. For the Cocos and Akokisas visiting the San Antonio de Béxar Presidio together, see Martínez Pacheco to Ugalde, “Reporting arrival of Cocos and Orcoquisacs visiting Béxar” (Bexar Archive, 2C64, December 7, 1787), https://www.cah.utexas.edu/projects/bexar/gallery_doc.php?doc=e_bx_008071; Martínez Pacheco to Ugalde, “Reporting departure of Cocos and Orcoquizacs visiting Béxar” (Bexar Archive, 2C64, December 23, 1787), https://www.cah.utexas.edu/projects/bexar/gallery_doc.php?doc=e_bx_008089. For the Cocos, Bidais, and Akokisas willingness to attack the Karankawas, see Cabello to Croix, “reporting on visit of Tejas Indians who gave account of Comanche hostilities” (Bexar Archive, 2C42, August 17, 1780), http://www.cah.utexas.edu/projects/bexar/gallery_doc.php?doc=e_bx_003426. Keep in mind for all of these the date, this is the late eighteenth-century.

25 –  Saint Bernard Bay is recognized to be Galveston Bay, but in this instance, the French likely meant Matagorda Bay.

26 –  Jean Béranger, Béranger’s Discovery of Aransas Pass: A Translation of Jean Beranger’s French Manuscript, ed. Frank Wagner (Corpus Christi: Friends of the Corpus Christi Museum, 1983), 20.

27 –  Béranger’s first contact with the Karankawas is evocative of La Salle’s—to a point. As Béranger relates,  “[his] men, having caught sight of a band of savages were seized by fear and came back on board. The savages carried of their casks in order to get their iron hoops.” Instead of attacking the Karankawas for the iron hoops Béranger presented gifts and became affable with the Karankawas that he describes as “not [being] ungrateful to us, for they were giving to us lavishly.”[20-23] Iron hoops and supplies to start a colony, are, however, different.

There has been no argument to which culture the First People Beranger met at Aransas belonged to—the Karankawas. This is because the land surrounding Aransas and Copano bays has, until the nineteenth century, been considered by historians to be the traditional territory of the Karankawas.

28 –  Tim Seiter, “Cabeza de Vaca Galveston or Follets Island,” Karankawas, June 25, 2017, /https://karankawas.com/2018/06/10/sizing-up-the-karankawa-were-the-karankawa-giants/.  

29 –  Saint Bernard Bay has been the label for modern-day Galveston and Matagorda Bay. The party intended to reach Matagorda Bay and settle near the location of La Salle’s razed Fort Saint Louis. For the actual orders, see La Harpe, The Historical Journal, 15.

30 –  Historian William C. Foster makes clear that “the French were still confused over the locations of Matagorda and Galveston Bays.” Foster, Historic Native Peoples of Texas, 226

31 –  Béranger, Béranger’s Discovery, 30.

32 –  According to La Harpe’s testimony, Béranger left a man among the Karankawa during his visit with the Karankawas. The following year, when treating with the Akokisa, he could not obtain any information on the whereabouts or well-being of this man. Jean Baptiste Bénard de La Harpe, The Historical Journal of the Establishment of the French in Louisiana, ed. Glenn Conrad, trans. Joan Cain and Virginia Koenig (Lafayette: Center for Louisiana Studies, 1971), 128.

33 –  La Harpe, The Historical Journal, 128. The quote above has been used to make the Akokisas out as greedy, but the custom of gift-giving to establish alliances and partnerships is well established on the Gulf Coast. Sieur de Iberville, the successor of Sieur de La Salle in settling French Louisiana, owes his success—in many regards—to the free flow of gifts he provided to the tribes near the Mississippi. Although, de Bellisle suggests that the French colonists had few trinkets or trade goods, La Harpe’s orders clearly laid out that he hand out trinkets and trade goods to the local First Peoples in order to build the best possible foundation: “He should pay particular attention to make as many alliances as possible with the Indians of these regions, offering presents to them when he judges it indispensable. He will keep a separate account for each of the nations to which he will distribute merchandise, and he will send us a copy of it.” La Harpe, The Historical Journal, 125.

At every mention of a French settlement, the Akokisa responded adversely. The Akokisas claimed to be “afraid of white men,” but whatever fear they had evaporated when these First Peoples led French sailors “near a heap of bones of people they had eaten and made them understand that they would do it to the [sailors], also, if they did not give them their clothes.” La Harpe, The Historical Journal, 18; Béranger, Béranger’s Discovery, 30. Captain Béranger believed the hesitancy of the Akokisas spawned from their fear “that [the French] were seeking to get revenge for the bad treatment inflicted upon Monsieur de Bellisle.” Béranger, Béranger’s Discovery, 30.

34 –  Béranger, Béranger’s Discovery, 30.

35 –   Ibid., 30. Béranger disapproved of the beguilement. La Hape also writes that he was taking these nine individuals “to see the great chief of the French to explain to him the Indians’ refusal to receive his soldiers in their country.” La Harpe, The Historical Journal, 130.

36 –  Mayhall, “The Indians of Texas: the Atákapa, the Karankawa, the Tonkawa,” 90, 114.

37 –  Béranger, Béranger’s Discovery, 31.

38 –  The sheer difference between the two dictionaries recorded by Béranger is outstanding enough to disprove an idea of different dialects. To my knowledge, Robert Weddle is the first to point out that the word lists are associated with two different cultural groups. See Weddle, The French Thorn, 219-223.

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