A Timeline of European Contact with the Karankawa

(1528 – 1693) (1st Part of Research – A much more extensive timeline coming soon)


 Cabeze de Vaca crash lands on what was most likely Follets Island and comes in contact with a Karankawa cultured people called the Capoque.

The 4 Survivors of the Panfilo Narvaez Expedition (The Great Walkers):

  • Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca
    • Royal Treasurer of the expedition; a lofty position rivaling Narvaez’s. Cabeza de Vaca came from a prominent family that had its hands in tutoring kings and conquering islands.
  • Andrés Dorantes de Carranza
    • Captain of the expedition. A man with fighting experience that he acquired in the Comunero rebellion and a distinct scar on his face that showed it.
  • Alonso del Castillo
    • Captain of the expedition. Following more of an academic path, Castillo was educated at the University of Salamanca, but instead of continuing his education, like his father (a physician), he threw his lot in with Narvaez in hopes of obtaining wealth, fame, and glory.
  •  Estebanico
    • Captured, enslaved, and sold to Andres Dorantes, Estebanico would prove to be the most resilient of all the survivors, and would see his master become a slave himself. In reading about the long walk of the four Old Worlders, I think Estbancio’s story is the most compelling.

How Do We Know This?

2  Major Accounts:

  • Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo (a Spanish historian’s)account of the Journey: The Joint Report
    • Upon returning back to Spain, Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, Andres Dorantes de Corranza, and Alonso del Castillo de Maldonado each gave testimony on the disastrous Narvaez expedition. The original report was lost, but Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo, a Spanish historian, included a relatively full-length version of this account in his Natural History of the West Indies.
  • Cabeza de Vaca’s La Relacion (Narrative)
    • Written six-years after his nine-year journey from Spain to the Canary Islands to Espanola to Cuba to Florida to Mexico City, Cabeza de Vaca’s account of his “disasters” in the New World would make him an instant celebrity. Rightly so, as the ordeal that ended with four survivors (documented) out of the roughly three hundred men who first landed in Florida, was the stuff of legends. In La Relación we get our first and most significant source of Karankawa history


John Poole while looking for treasure, finds instead the Karankawa.

John Poole sailed into Matagorda Bay in search of a sunken treasure ship.  In the Bay it is likely the sailors made contact with a Karanankawa cultured people. John Poole would not find this treasure ship because it only existed in rumors. The pirates would continued south and eventually end up raiding Tampico. They would be captured by the Spanish three days later.



René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, in looking for his Mississippi river, mistakes Matagorda Bay for its mouth and establishes Fort St. Louis among Karankawa cultured people.

Fray Douay’s Source

Minet’s Journal

Henri Joutel’s Journal

Pierre Meunier Interrogation

Talon Brothers’ Interview

Jean Gerry


More coming soon…