Native American History
Of SouthWest Texas

Copyright 2010 © Bandera County Historical Commission

Bandera County, Texas USA

All Rights Reserved

The Apache

The State of Texas was home to hundreds of native American Indians.

The Apache tribes dominated most of West Texas. Two groups of Apaches, the Lipans and Mescalaros were important tribes in Texas.  Apaches were among the first Indians to learn to ride horses.  Their lifestyle and culture was shaped by following the buffalo.  They farmed, growing maize, beans, pumpkins, and watermelons.  The Lipan are first mentioned in Spanish records in 1781 when they attached San Antonio.  It is reasonable to believe that the Lipan Apache were established in Texas during the latter years of the 17th century.  They moved southward during the 18th century where a Coahuila Spanish mission had been built in 1754 and another mission on the San Saba River, built in 1757.  It is not certain if the Lipan lived on the Spanish missions, but by 1767 that had deserted the missions. The territory they had occupied was from the

Colorado River to the Rio Grande.  

In 1762 two Lipan Chiefs were estimated to have a total of 700 people and there were a least 12 other Lipan groups in the local area.  Morris Opler, anthropologist (1907-1996), who studied the history and culture of the southwest native Americans, estimated the population of the Lipan Apache was about 6,000 in 1700.     

When the Spanish ruled over Texas the Apache staged many raids against the Spanish missions.  The Spanish and Lipan were in conflict when Spain tried to invade and colonize the Texas territory.  The Spanish tried to provoke a conflict between the Lipan and Mescalero with alcohol, making them dependent on Spanish trade goods, and through missionaries.  In 1767 the Lipan entered into an alliance with Spain against the Mescalero.  The alliance fell apart in 1800.  Another enemy of the Lipan was the Comanche, who was also an enemy of Spain.  In the beginning of the 19th century the Lipan formed an alliance with the Comanche to attach the Spanish.

Many historians believe that the Comanche aggression pushed the Lipan’s out of the territory that they had occupied for many years.

When the white settlers began to settle in south Texas, the Apaches united and formed friendship with the settlers against the Comanche.  The friendships broke down in 1842, believed to be because of the murder of Lipan chief, Flacco the Younger, whom the Lipans believed was killed by white settlers.  

In 1869, Mexican troops attached many Lipan camps.  Survivors fled to the Mescalaros in New Mexico.  From 1875 to 1876, the United States Army troops entered joint military campaigns with the Mexican Army to eliminate the Lipans from Coahuila.  In 1881, a large campaign by the Mexican Army’s Diaz division, assisted by US troops, forced all Lipans out of Coahuila and into the state of Chihuahua.   

The Comanche

The Comanche dominated a vast area of land in Texas including the area now know as Bandera County.  There was a least thirteen active bands of Comanches in Texas history.  These bands of horsemen and their families lived a lifestyle and culture of following the buffalo.  They were the leaders in buffalo products, horses, and captives.

In the 1700’s, the Comanche were at war with the Apaches and the Spanish.  In fear of loosing Texas to the Comanche, the Spanish negotiated a treaty with them.  The Spanish failed to keep their promises of trade goods and gifts.  After the treaty failed, the Comanche raids resumed.  They stole spanish horses and traded them to the new white settlers for goods and gifts.  The Comanche ended the Spanish expansion in North America.  They defended their homeland and expanded their territory against the best military forces the Spanish brought against them.  Stories have been told and recorded that the Comanches had stolen every horse in

New Mexico.

After the Texas Revolution, Americans began settling in Texas.  The Comanche resisted these settlements with raids of destruction and death. The Comanche were great warriors and expert bowman.  Their mastery of cavalry tactics, horsemanship, and mounted bowman-ship was renowned. They raided settlements and small towns throughout southwest Texas and as far South at Victoria, Texas.  The single-shot fire arms were no match for the Comanche swift movement and bowman-ship.  The Comanche has learned to use the single-shot firearms very well, but found their bows superior in terms of fire rate.  In the “Great Raid of 1840”, the Comanche under Buffalo Hump, attached the towns of Victoria and Linnville, Texas.  After these destructive raids, President Sam Houston appointed Captain John Coffee Hays to recruit a company of rangers to contain the comanche. 

Historic Battle at Bandera Pass

  In 1841 President Houston appointed Captain John Coffee Hays commander of a special Texas Ranger company.  Captain Hays was instructed to put together a company of special forces to contain the Comanche.  He was known for improving discipline and morale with solders.  He filled his Texas Ranger company with noted Indian fighters which included men such as: Bigfoot Wallace, Ben Highsmith, Creed Taylor, Sam Walker, Robert Addison Gillespie, P.H. Bell, Kit Ackland, Sam Luckey, James Dunn, Tom Galberth, George Neill, Frank Chevallier, and many others well known in Texas frontier history.  The Paterson Colt Six-shooters had just been invented and Captain Hays and his men were fortunate to be armed with fifty or sixty of these weapons instead of single shotguns. The Comanches were unaware of these new weapons when they attacked Captain Hays and his company in “Bandera Pass in 1841”.  The exact day of the Battle is not known, but the time it occurred is known.  Captain Hays and his men, approximately 50 in number, arrived at the pass about eleven o’clock in the morning and were surprised and confronted by a large band of Comanches.  Hays’ report indicated his men were alarmed by the large number of comanche warriors.  Captain Hays was reported to have ordered his men to “dismount and tie those horses, we can whip them. No doubt about that”.  Captain Hays reported that they were badly out numbered, but the new weapons enabled the rangers to hold their ground.  The fierce battle began at eleven o’clock in the morning and according to records left by Hays, lasted all day.  Both sides finally ended the conflict as night fell.  Finally the Comanche retreated and the Rangers followed.  Both sides buried their dead.  The Rangers lost five men dead and many wounded.  The Comanche loses were much greater.  The fact that 50 Rangers had held their ground with Colt Six-shooters against hundreds of Comanche warriors marked a change in the way the frontier wars would be fought, and marked the turning of the tide in the war between Texas and the Comanche.

In the 1870’s. Comanches attacked buffalo hunters at Adobe Walls in Texas. This attack brought a retaliatory U.S. Army campaign under Colonel Ranald S. Machenzie that defeated and broke the power of the Comanche.  The Comanches were forced to surrender and the painful transition to reservation life began.  Today, their tribal government operates near Lawton, Oklahoma.


Alabamas and Coushattas Tribes

The tribes known as the Alabamas and Coushattas were two separate tribes but were long considered one tribe culturally.  They began migrating from present-day Alabama in 1763.  The Alabamas and Coushattas were skilled warriors but preferred to live in peace.  They fought with Stephen F. Austin in his campaigns against the Karankawas and the Fredonian Rebellion, and drove the Comanches out of their territory in 1839.  They assisted the Texans during the Runaway Scrape in 1836 and won the friendship of Indian fighter, Mirabeau B. Lamar.

In 1853 the Alabamas moved to a Polk County reservation, and in 1859 the Coushattas joined them. These two tribes helped move military supplies for Texas during the Civil War.  Their support was praised by Confederate governors Francis R. Lubbock and Pendleton Murrah.

In 1880’s the Alabamas and Coushattas were experts in the lumber industry. The tribes formally incorporated under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 and developed a constitution and by-laws.

The Cherokee

The Cherokee settled in Texas near the Red River around the early 1800’s.  They moved into south Texas after the white settlers movement began.  In 1820, Chief Bowl and about sixty families settled in Rush County near the Caddos.  More settlers moved into the Texas territory. The Cherokee did not trust the settlers and hoping to gain legal title to their land, the Cherokees entered into a relationship with Mexico to protect their land.  The Cherokee remained neutral between Texas and Mexico during the Texas Revolution.  President Sam Houston was an adopted member of the Cherokee tribe and a forceful advocate for the Cherokee people.  He negotiated a permanent reservation for the Cherokee tribe in East TexaS, but the treaty was never ratified by the Texas Congress.  In September 1839 Mirabeau B. Lamar was elected President of Texas.  After taking office, President Lamar changed the previous Indian Policy.  He did not accept the coexistence and conciliation with the Indian tribes and proposed to drive the Indians out of the areas of white settlements and aggressively went after the Apache and Comanche.  During Lamar’s presidency, the Cherokee went to war against Texas and were defeated.  Most Cherokees were forced into Indian Territory.

Other Native American tribes that lived in Texas 

Anadarko, Arapaho, Biloxi, Caddo, Cheyenne, Chickasaw, Coahuiltecan, Delaware, Hainai, Jumano, Karankawa, Kichai, Kiowa, Kickapoo, Pakana Muskogee, Potawatomi, Shawnee, Tawakoni, Tigua, Tonkawa, Waco,

and the Wichita.

The Native American Indian tribes that once lived, hunted buffalo, and graced the Texas plains and hill country were productive, smart, and brave people with great pride.  Their warriors were highly skilled in horsemanship, weapons, and war tactics.  They contributed to the history and culture of Texas that helped shape the Texas Frontier.  The Texas Native American history and culture has been preserved throughout Texas in museums and Native American events.  The people in Bandera County are proud and thankful for the rich culture and history of their Native Americans.

Written by: Elenora Dugosh Goodley

Information from:

Texas State Library and Archives Commission,

“Indian Relations in Texas”.

The Handbook of Texas Online

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,

“Battle of Bandera Pass”.

History of Bandera County - 1986

Ethnolinguistic Distribution of Indians in Texas in 1776,

and Texas Beyond History, the University of Texas of Austin, 1976.