What follows is a collection of sources that in some way describe the Karankawas’ hunting methods:
[1684-1687] The La Salle Expedition to Texas: 1684-1687
Author: Henri Joutel
Written In: ~1691
Description: Henri Joutel served as a trusted lieutenant during Sieur de La Salle’s attempt to establish a military settlement deep within the Karankawas’ territory in 1685. When French settlers and the Karankawas first encountered each other, they maintained cordial relationships. Trouble began when one of La Salle’s ships Aimable became grounded and split-up in the Bay. Some days after Aimable grounded, La Salle’s men saw the Clamcoehs (Karankawas) with goods from the shipwreck. A small number of hot-headed Frenchmen went to the Karankawas’ camp with their weapons on display and started a war. The Karankawas proved adept at ambushing and killing stray Frenchmen. The French proved less adept at ambushing and killing the Clamcoehs.
With La Salle’s colony floundering, the cavalier decided to traverse a thousand miles northward to Canada and acquire aid. Before doing so, La Salle made peace with the Karankawas. Forty-six of the original two-hundred and eighty colonists remained. Sixteen men accompanied La Salle, including Joutel. Twenty-five men, women, and children remained at the colony. Moreover, four deserters (or men purposefully left by La Salle among Native Americans groups) lived among the Caddos and Coahuiltecans.
On La Salle’s trip north, his men murdered him and would have murdered Joutel had they not been calmed by La Salle’s brother, Jean Cavelier. Joutel and those who did not participate in the assassination traversed to Canada and returned to France in late 1688. His journal is widely considered the most accurate source concerning the La Salle colony.
(1) La Salle’s first encounter with the Karankawas is mutually friendly. They swim to his ship, he provides clothing and food and asks about his location. Karankawas return to the beach and invite the French to land, but with seas too rough, La Salle continues further down the Texas coast. Karankawas follow his progress (72-75). This is key because often historians blame Karankawas for “immediately beginning depredations upon the colony.” Kathryn Stoner O’Connor, Presidio La Bahía (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones Co, 1966), 3. Instead, the Karankawas treated the newcomers with respect.
(2) In search of the Mississippi, La Salle lands his men on Matagorda Island and has them march along the coast until they encounter the river. On this march, they notice that the Karankawas had previously burned the prairie—likely to drive out game and attract buffalo to new sprouts (83, 139). Moreover, men are anxious about Karankawas. Not because of anything the Karankawas had done, but rather the European idea that Natives were inherently “savage” (84).
(3) The Karankawas second major encounter with La Salle is, again, quite favorable (88-89). Joutel describes the Karankawas’ sign language. Specifically, “demonstrating friendship by putting their hands over their hearts” (88).
(4) Karankawas invite a few of La Salle’s men to their village. Joutel describes their settlement in detail (89-90).
(5) La Salle’s ship Aimable wrecks (91-92). La Salle’s men spotted some Karankawas with bolts of Normandy blankets from the wreckage (93). A group of men, unwisely chosen by La Salle, recklessly march into the Karankawas’ camp with their weapons on display, causing most Karankawas to flee. These Frenchmen reclaimed their goods and in turn, stole canoes and other items from the Karankawas. They started a war. Karankawas ambush and kill two of these men shortly after (94).
(6) Karankawas are watching the French in their fort (98-106). They are keeping the men anxious and unable to stray too far. In short, they are making the living experience horrendous.
(7) La Salle makes a sweeping attack against the Karankawas. He and his men killed four and captured three women (117). One woman died from her wounds. A young girl was baptized and then shortly after perished (136). What became of the last woman is unknown.
(8) Karankawas kill six men in revenge (120).
(9) Another skirmish with the Karankawas takes place (141-142).
(10) Yet another skirmish is recorded, one Karankawa is wounded, presumed possibly dead (147-148).
(11) La Salle is preparing to leave for French-Canada, but before doing so he tries to make peace with the Karankawas so they will no longer attack Fort Saint Louis (155-159). Joutel writes, “if these precautions of [peace] had been taken from the moment we arrived in the country, the natives would not then have killed so many of us” (157).
Access: Henri Joutel, The La Salle Expedition to Texas: 1684-1687, ed. William C. Foster, trans. Johanna S. Warren (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1998). Unfortunately, educational fair-use only allows me to post 10% of this text. If you have the means, this source is well worth acquiring. There is a great deal of additional information that I wish I could upload. And more generally, Joutel’s account is plain fascinating. If additional context is required, contact me.
Further Reading: Robert Weddle has written prolifically on the La Salle expedition. See particularly: Weddle, The Wreck of the Belle, the Ruin of La Salle (College Station: Texas A&M University Press), 2001; Weddle, Wilderness Manhunt: The Spanish Search for La Salle (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1973); Weddle, “La Salle’s Survivors,” The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 75, no. 4 (April, 1972): 413-433.
[1777-1783] Morfi’s Memorias para la Historia de Tejas and Historia de Texas: 1673-1779 and Morfi’s Historia
Author: Juan Agustín Morfi
Written in: 1777-1783
Description: Father Morfi wrote two histories of Texas: Memorias para la Historia de Texas and the Historia de Texas. Memorias, his first history, was a collection of documents that he planned to condense into a more concise history—Historia de Texas. He died before fully completing Historia but historian Carlos Castañeda published a rough draft in 1935. Of the two histories, Memorias has far more information on Texas’s Native Peoples.
Morfi wrote his history during the Karankawa-Spanish war. With that the case, Morfi found little issue depicting the Karankawas as demonic. But Father Morfi had never set foot in Karankawa territory. His only encounter with these coastal peoples likely occurred in San Antonio, with Copano mission Indians when he toured the northern borderlands with the new Commandant General of the Interior, Teodoro de Croix. Therefore, Morfi relied heavily on Father Gaspar de Solís’s 1767 journal for information on the Karankawas’ cultural practices (copying it word for word in instances). Nevertheless, Morfi does provide some unique information such as estimated population sizes.
Father Morfi’s histories have since become quite popular and set in stone the image of Karankawas as inherently hostile group. It mythologized the Karankawas as impossible to civilize—as a Peoples who “eat children.”
Juan Agustín Morfi, Excerpts from the Memorias for the history of the province of Texas: being a translation of those parts of the Memorias which particularly concern the various Indians of the province of Texas; their tribal divisions, characteristics, customs, traditions, superstitions, and all else of interest concerning them, trans. Carlos E. Castañeda and Frederick C Chabot (San Antonio: Naylor Publishing, 1932).
Further Reading: Juan Agustín Morfi, History of Texas, 1673-1779, trans. Carlos Eduardo Castañeda (Albuquerque: The Quivira Society, 1935), 15-43; Irving A. Leonard, review of History of Texas, 1673-1779 in The Hispanic American Historical Review 16, no. 2 (May, 1936): 229-232.