Karankawas: Reexamining Texas Gulf Coast Cannibalism Honors Thesis

After two years of work, I have finally finished my senior honors thesis. The full document is included below and I will be adding its content to this website over the summer.

Karankawas – Reexamining Texas Gulf Coast Cannibalism

Abstract: In 1688, the Karankawa Peoples abducted and adopted an eight-year-old Jean-Baptiste Talon from a French fort on the Texas Gulf Coast. Talon lived with these Native Americans for roughly two and a half years and related an eye-witness account of their cannibalism. Despite his testimony, some present-day scholars reject the Karankawas’ cannibalism.

Because of an abundance of farfetched and grisly accounts made by Spanish priests, bellicose Texans, and sensationalist historians, these academics believe the custom of anthropophagy is a colonial fabrication. Facing a sea of outrageously prejudicial sources, these scholars have either drowned in them or found no reason to wade deeper. Underneath the swamp of disinformation, historical truth is discernible: the Karankawas practiced a community-oriented, post-mortem, rare, and ritualistic cannibalism that colonizers embellished and used as a mechanism to destroy the Karankawa Peoples.

Although some historians believe that “cannibal” is a term too tainted by colonial rhetoric to hold any semblance of truth, to outright deny or overlook this cultural trait washes away Native American history and agency. Fully treating First Peoples as human means that as historians we must recognize that Indians, like Europeans, had cultural practices that are considered stomach-churning.

 

 

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