What follows is a collection of sources that in some way describe the Karankawas’ shelters:
[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.
Tags: Appearance, Canoes, Disease, Dress, Environment, Hunting, Shelter, Sign-language, Trade, War
 Alonso De León’s First Expedition
Author: Alonso De León, the younger; Damián Massanet
Written In: 1689 (Alonso de León), 1690 (Father Massanet)
Description: Spanish captain Alonso de León is sent to locate and destroy La Salle’s military settlement. De León finds Fort Saint Louis already destroyed by the Karankawas. Smallpox and a war that the French began served as motivation for ransacking Fort Saint Louis. I cover this expedition in my thesis, see pages 15-38. I am also writing an article on this event that I will link to after its publication.
Two authors are represented in this entry. Alonso de León, who kept a detailed diary during his entrada (pages 388-404), and Father Massanet, who accompanied de León and wrote a letter about his experiences after this expedition occurred (pages 357-366). Of note, both chroniclers thought very little of the other. Both de León and Massanet discuss an “old Frenchman” who helped guide the expedition. That Frenchman is Jean Henri. These sources also discuss the “Tejas,” these Indians are Caddos, not Karankawas.
(1) Discovery of Fort Saint-Louis. See page 362 (Father Massanet), page 397-399 (Alonso de León Diary).
(2) Discussing how Natives in the region “dig wells for drinking water.” Page 363 (Father Massanet).
(3) Interior Indians, perhaps Caddos, telling Alonso de León that the Karankawas had killed the French settlers and that an epidemic of smallpox had broken out when the killings occurred. Evidence that the Karankawas likely correlated the break out of smallpox with the French settlers. Page 395 (Alonso de León Diary). Also see Teran’s entry, “relevant information” point two.
(4) Alonso de León tours the Karankawas’ country, but only encounters an abandoned seasonal village of theirs. Pages 389-401 (Alonso de León Diary).
Access: Herbert E. Bolton, Spanish Exploration in the Southwest: 1542-1706, (New York: Barnes and Noble Inc., 1908), 357-366; 388-404.
Further Reading: Lola Orellano Norris, General Alonso de León’s Expeditions into Texas: 1686-1690 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2017). Bolton’s version has numerous errors. Lola Orellano Norris’s recent translations are the best available. She also gives fantastic background information on the expeditions. Bolton’s version is nonetheless represented because the document is in the public domain. To see the path De León took, see William C. Foster, Spanish Expeditions Into Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000), 17-33.
Tags: Disease, Environment, Migrations, Shelter, War
 Alonso De León’s Second Expedition
Author: Alonso De León, the younger; Damián Massanet
Written In: 1690
Description: After Alonso de León’s expedition to the coast, the Viceroy of New Spain ordered Alonso de Leon back to Fort Saint-Louis to burn it completely to the ground. Suspicious as usual, the Spaniards had no intention of giving the French an opportunity of repopulating their failed fort. The Viceroy also ordered De León to capture the remaining French interlopers living among the First Peoples in the area.
Analogous to the 1689 expedition, two authors are represented in this entry. Alonso de León, who kept a detailed diary during the entrada (pages 405-425), and Father Massanet, who accompanied de León and wrote a letter about his experiences after these expeditions occurred (pages 367-388). Of note, both chroniclers thought very little of the other. Both de León and Massanet discuss an “old Frenchman” who helped guide the expedition. That Frenchman is Jean Henri. These sources also discuss the “Tejas,” these Indians are Caddos, not Karankawas.
(1) The expedition arrives at Fort Saint Louis and burn it to the ground. Pages 369 (Father Massanet), page 409 (Alonso de León Diary).
(2) In an attempt to acquire children that the Karankawas abducted and adopted from Fort Saint Louis, violence breaks out. Spaniards, in-turn, kidnap three children from the Karankawas: Marie-Madelaine, Robert, and Lucien Jr. Talon. Three more children remain among the various Karankawa groups on the coast: Jean-Baptiste, Eustache Brahman, and an unnamed French girl. Father Massanet and De León’s testimony on this event differ dramatically (see my honors thesis, page 29). Juan Bautista Chapa also relates this event, but his loyalties lie with De León. Jean-Baptiste Talon’s testimony (see Jean Baptiste Talon’s entry, page 241) is likely the most accurate accounting of this incident. Pages 384-385 (Father Massanet), pages 419-421 (Alonso de León Diary).
Access: Herbert E. Bolton, Spanish Exploration in the Southwest: 1542-1706, (New York: Barnes and Noble Inc., 1908), 367-387; 405-424.
Further Reading: Lola Orellano Norris, General Alonso de León’s Expeditions into Texas: 1686-1690 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2017). Bolton’s version has numerous errors. Lola Orellano Norris’s recent translations are the best available. She also gives fantastic background information on the expeditions themselves. Bolton’s version is nonetheless represented because the document is in the public domain. To see the path De León took, see William C. Foster, Spanish Expeditions Into Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000), 17-33.
Tags: Environment, Migrations, Shelter, Sign Language, Smoke Signals, War
 “Journal of Stephen F. Austin on his first trip to Texas.”
Author: Stephen F. Austin
Written In: 1821
Description: This journal documents Stephen F. Austin’s first travels through Texas. His view on the Karankawas is extremely biased—they are Indians on the land he intends to colonize. Most of his information on the coastal Indians was steeped in Spanish propaganda. Infamously, Austin discusses that “there will be no way of subduing [the Karankawas] but extermination.”
Relevance: See pages 300-305.
Access: Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 7, no. 4 (April 1904): 286-307.
Further Reading: Gregg Cantrell, Stephen F. Austin: Empresario of Texas (Austin: Texas State Historical Society, 2016).
Tags: Appearance, Cannibalism, Dress, Height, Shelter, Tattoos
[1833-1834] John Charles Beales’s Rio Grande Colony: Letters by Eduard Ludecus, a German Colonist, to Friends in Germany in 1833–1834, Recounting His Journey, Trials, and Observations in Early Texas
Author: Eduard Ludecus
Written In: 1833-1834
Description: Eduard Ludecus and other settlers rest and resupply in La Bahía (Goliad) on their way to settle along the Rio Grande. In the ramshackle city of La Bahia, and in the missions in close proximity, they encounter Karankawas.
(1) Ludecus inaccurately states that “when Colonel Austin’s grant was settled, they [Karankawas] invaded there [Austin’s lands] and killed anyone they found.” This is backward, but it shows that Anglo-Americans, Mexicans, and Tejanos believed this falsity. Ludecus received this information from Holley Austin’s account of Texas (Austin Holley, 95-97). In essence, Ludecus is already biased when he first encounters the Karankawas. He sees these Indians as always looking to steal and murder.
(2) Ludecus then goes on to state that Stephen F. Austin “succeeded in exterminating half the tribe.” A large group of Karankawas fled to La Bahía, where Mexican officials murdered half of the survivors.  As already mentioned, all this information has come from Mary Austin Holley’s Texas. This information is not unique. All the following information that Ludecus provides is unique.
(3) Ludecus refers to Karankawas as “well over six feet tall” and gives a detailed description of their tattoos, piercings, weapons, and dress. [pages 79-86]
(4) Ludecus provides a great deal of information about Chief Prudentia. He also describes that Dr. Beale asks Prudencia whether he and other Karankawas would like to join the settlement. [78-83]
(5) States that Comanches and Karankawas are “mortal enemies” at this time. 
Access: Eduard Ludecus. John Charles Beales’s Rio Grande Colony: Letters by Eduard Ludecus, a German Colonist, to Friends in Germany in 1833–1834, Recounting His Journey, Trials, and Observations in Early Texas, ed. and trans. Louis E. Brister (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 2008).
Further Reading: For a well-written overview of the Beales colony, see Kyle B. Carpenter, “A Failed Venture in the Nueces Strip: The Mismanagement of the Beales RioGrande Colony, 1832-1836” The Southwestern Historical Quarterly,(Forthcoming Spring 2020); For another source on Cheif Prudentia see Kelly Himmel, The Conquest of the Karankawa and the Tonkawas, 1821-1859 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1999), 52-53.
Tags: Appearance, Dress, Height, Prudencia, Shelter, Tattoos, War.