Half Million Dollar Statues of a Conquistador, a Missionary, a Pirate, and a Karankawa

Half Million Dollar Statues of a Conquistador, a Missionary, a Pirate, and a Karankawa

Join the Indigenous Peoples of the Coastal Bend and the Karankawa Kadla tomorrow on Facebook live as they discuss Rockport artist Steve Russell’s “Cultural Interface.” According to the Rockport Cultural Arts District, the statues “symbolize the impact of Europeans on the area.” According to the Native peoples of the region, like Love Sanchez, “the priest represents assimilation, the conquistador represents slaughter, and the pirate represents trafficking and rape.”

Pictured is another controversial statue–this one located in Indianola and featuring the intrepid and intractable Sieur de La Salle.

Karankawas Sue U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Karankawas Sue U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

𝗡𝗮𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗲 𝗔𝗺𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗰𝗮𝗻𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗟𝗼𝗰𝗮𝗹 𝗥𝗲𝘀𝗶𝗱𝗲𝗻𝘁𝘀 𝗦𝘂𝗲 𝗨.𝗦. 𝗔𝗿𝗺𝘆 𝗖𝗼𝗿𝗽𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗘𝗻𝗴𝗶𝗻𝗲𝗲𝗿𝘀 𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗿 𝗢𝗶𝗹 𝗘𝘅𝗽𝗼𝗿𝘁 𝗧𝗲𝗿𝗺𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗘𝘅𝗽𝗮𝗻𝘀𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗔𝗽𝗽𝗿𝗼𝘃𝗮𝗹

Love Sanchez: 361-558-2945, IndigenousPeopleCoastalBend@gmail.com

Patrick Nye: 361-658-1089, patrick@nyexp.us

Efforts by MODA Ingleside Oil Terminal, LLC (MODA) (the country’s leading oil export terminal) to double its capacity will destroy Karankawa cultural site, seagrasses, and wetlands.

Corpus Christi, Texas – The Indigenous Peoples of the Coastal Bend, Karankawa Kadla Tribe of the Texas Gulf Coast, and Ingleside on the Bay Coastal Watch Association have filed a lawsuit in federal court against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for issuing a permit for MODA to expand its operations into an undeveloped area sacred to local Indigenous people, without addressing environmental and community concerns as required under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act.

Continue reading “Karankawas Sue U.S. Army Corps of Engineers”

The Karankawa-Spanish War from 1778 to 1789: Attempted Genocide and Karankawa Power

The Karankawa-Spanish War from 1778 to 1789: Attempted Genocide and Karankawa Power

Southwestern Historical Quarterly has published my latest article on the Karankawa-Spanish War. The following is an abstract: 

This article is a narrative history of the little-known Karankawa-Spanish War. It has two primary purposes. The first is to uncover and name the actions attempted by the Spaniards against the Karankawas as genocidal by documenting three major attempts of annihilation led by Athanase de Mézières, Domingo Cabello y Robles, and Nicholas de La Mathe. The second purpose is to show how this attempted annihilation acted as a mechanism for various Karankawa tribes to consolidate into a more unified body. In the process of achieving these goals, this piece also demonstrates how Native Americans familiar with the Spaniards’ customs and language acquired advantages for themselves and their tribe and how shipwrecks served as a means of bypassing typical webs of trade for the Karankawas.

For a full version, visit the Texas State Historical Association.

If you are unable to access the article through TSHA please reach out to me personally.

Continue reading “The Karankawa-Spanish War from 1778 to 1789: Attempted Genocide and Karankawa Power”

La Salle’s Doomed 17th Century French Colony on the Texas Gulf Coast

La Salle’s Doomed 17th Century French Colony on the Texas Gulf Coast

In 1684, the famed explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle embarked from France to establish a military settlement on the lower reaches of the Mississippi River.[1] Roughly two hundred and eighty souls on four vessels accompanied La Salle—only a handful would survive the expedition.

From a present-day perspective, the voyage began poorly. Illness struck fifty men with two dying. Spanish corsairs captured the colonizers’ supply ketch, limiting the expedition’s supplies. And La Salle and the fleet captain continually clashed, sowing discord among the sailors and the colonizers. Despite these hardships, officers on the ship exclaimed that “it had been a long time since they had such a fortuitous crossing,” a testament to the usual hazards of a trans-Atlantic voyage in the seventeenth-century.[2]

After two months of overseas travel, the colonists temporarily landed at the port town of Petit Goâve in Saint Domingue (Haiti) to resupply. While at Petit Goâve, locals persuaded six of La Salle’s colonists to desert the expedition by listing dangers awaiting them on the voyage to the mystical Mississippi: keel-crushing reefs, relentless Spanish fleets, blinding winds, mountains of fog, and most fearfully, “miserable savages who live on roots.”[3] Continue reading “La Salle’s Doomed 17th Century French Colony on the Texas Gulf Coast”

Historiography of the Karankawa Indians

Historiography of the Karankawa Indians

This article is a history of the historical works about the Karankawa Indians of the Texas Gulf Coast. Recently, the Karankawas’ image in the historical record has improved greatly, but I argue there is still an immense amount of work to do. Scholars need to better integrate Karankawa historical actors into their work. Authors need to start their histories of Native Peoples prior to European contact. And finally, Karankawas are alive today—the writing of their history requires their voice.

To keep the post manageable, I only touch on a handful of secondary works related to the Karankawas. 

Continue reading “Historiography of the Karankawa Indians”

Karankawa Press Release and Public Notice

Karankawa Press Release and Public Notice

A message from the Karankawa community:


Request for all Karankawa Kadla & Allies to address the Army Corps of Engineers regarding Development near Historic Karankawa Camp Site

Houston, TX March 7, 2020- On March 6, 2020 representatives from the Karanawa Kadla Nation received notice from the Ingleside On The Bay Coastal Watch Association (IOB-CWA) that MODA Mainstream LLC, has submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers & the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, a proposal for work (SWG-1995-02221). The proposal for work is to build a new pier next to the existing pier located on Arleigh Burk Rd. The second pier would extend from Wisconsin Rd and stretch the distance into the coastal waters matching the existing pier.

The proposed development of the land and the construction of the second pier may disturb and affect an archaeological site (41SP11), a site proving prehistoric occupation by the Karankawa prior to European colonialism. The site is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places and is also eligible for designation as a State Archeological Landmark. An archeological investigation was performed in 2008 by the TRC Environmental Corporation & sponsored by the Port of Corpus Christi Authority, which produced evidence supporting the theory of occupation by the Karankawa. This investigation produced more than 39,000 sherds of pottery, 11 fragments of ceramic pipes, 103 arrow points and a variety of other items specific to the Karankawa culture and way of life. The earliest recording of our inhabitants of that camp came from the French explorer, Jean Beranger in 1720, who after anchoring his ship in Aransas Pass, noted that an encampment existed housing at least 500 persons in a dozen large round huts.

We request all Karankawa, and allies, to immediately email the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to request a public hearing in order to establish protective measures of the historic site, which is a part of the Karankawa’s little remaining history.

Please send your request via email to swg_public_notice@usace.army.mil.

Comments made in reference to a public notice should include your name, address, phone number and the Department of the Army permit number referenced in the public notice (SWG1995-02221)


Sample Email

To whom it may concern,

[An introduction as to who you are]. I am writing to request that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers work with the Karankawas to protect the archaeologic site located on McGloin Bluff—a significant settlement site for these First Peoples and scholars.

Department of the Army permit number referenced in the public notice: SWG-1995-02221

Thank you,



[Phone Number]

Joseph María, the Most Prominent Karankawa Chief During the Karankawa-Spanish War (1778-1789)

Joseph María, the Most Prominent Karankawa Chief During the Karankawa-Spanish War (1778-1789)

There exists a multitude of eminent Karankawa men and women in history: Mateo, Jose Luis María, Manuel Alegre, Prudencia, Llano Grande, the daughter of Big Chief, to name a few. In past writings about these coastal Indians, authors often neglect to highlight these Natives.

In an on-going effort to reorient the Karankawas’ history away from the “Whites'” perspective and back to the Karankawas’, I have written an encyclopedia entry on Joseph María, the most prominent Karankawa figure during the Spanish-Karankawa war in the late eighteenth century. Joseph María united different Karankawa Peoples and demonstrated that the Karankawas held the most outstanding power on the Texas Coastal Bend.

Handbook of Texas encyclopedia entry on Joseph María

Continue reading “Joseph María, the Most Prominent Karankawa Chief During the Karankawa-Spanish War (1778-1789)”

Why are the Karankawas maligned as savage cannibals?

Why are the Karankawas maligned as savage cannibals?

In 1767, Fray Gaspar José de Solís toured the faltering missions of Texas. When he visited the mission of Nuestra Señora del Rosario, which the Spanish built to convert the Karankawa Indians to Christianity, he wrote a lengthy report on their cannibalism in his journal: “Dancing and leaping and with sharp knives in their hands, they draw near to the victim, cut off a piece of their flesh, come to the fire and half roast it, and, within sight of the victim himself devour it most ravenously.” Despite captivating readers for generations, Padre Solís’s account of the Karankawas’ cannibalism has a major problem—it is almost certainly fictitious. Although the Karankawas did, in fact, practice a rare exo-cannibalism, this disgruntled priest likely fabricated an exaggerated version of the custom. He has tarnished the image of the Karankawas for the past two-hundred and fifty years. This article explains why Fray Solís’s account, a source utilized by numerous scholars, should be used selectively and with caution.

I published this article as a guest post. To view its entirety, visit Texas History Notebook.

Nicholas de La Mathe: Handbook of Texas Entry

Nicholas de La Mathe: Handbook of Texas Entry

Recently I wrote an entry for the Handbook of Texas on Nicholas de La Mathe. I have included the encyclopedic entry below with attached source footnotes.

LA MATHE, NICHOLAS DE (?-?). Nicholas de La Mathe lived as an Indian trader, a rancher, and a militia captain in Spanish Louisiana and Spanish Texas. He made overtures of peace with the Norteños, he smuggled goods from Louisiana into Texas, and he proposed an unsuccessful plan to exterminate the Karankawa Indians.

A wealthy merchant of Pointe Coupee, Louisiana, La Mathe acquired a passport to enter Texas in 1775 to collect debts at the virgin settlement of Nuestra Senora del Pilár de Bucareli. Supposedly having a fondness for the town’s namesake saint, La Mathe offered to construct an impressive church for which he hired two workers to build in 1776. While some historians believe that La Mathe’s religious fervor alone “moved him” to erect this sumptuous church, in all likelihood it served as a means of forging a positive reputation for future smuggling operations among the citizens of Bucareli and its leader, Antonio Gil Ibarvo, whom La Mathe had traded with for several years prior. While in Bucareli, La Mathe acquired a small herd of cattle by selling an enslaved black child. He increased his cattle, mustang, and mule holdings in Texas until he had accumulated over 700 stock animals by 1779. Continue reading “Nicholas de La Mathe: Handbook of Texas Entry”

Who Rescued and Enslaved Simars de Bellisle?: Part Two

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 Europeans frustration is the interrogator of Jean-Baptiste Talon, who lived with the Karankawas as a child:

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]

Continue reading “Who Rescued and Enslaved Simars de Bellisle?: Part Two”