Today's American Indians in Texas In Texas, just three federally recognized tribes remain: the Alabama-Coushatta, Tigua, and Kickapoo.
The first Americans came to what is now Texas about 12,000 years ago. The state was part of a large land mass called Beringia that included most of North America. About 7,000 years ago, a series of ice ages caused sea levels to drop, forming large lakes in what is now Texas. People built boats from wood and animal skin that they used to travel across the water.
About 5,500 years ago, people began to move back into the area that would become Texas. They built new villages near the lakes and traded with other groups for tools, clothes, and weapons. This is when the first Europeans arrived in Texas. The colonists made their way down the Atlantic Coast from Europe, using the boats created by the first Americans to get them here.
In 1540, Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto led an expedition into what is now Texas looking for gold. Although he never found any gold, de Soto wrote about many Indian villages along the rivers in the area. After de Soto's visit, no one visited these places again until 1838. That's when American settlers moved into the area.
McAllen is home to the state-recognized Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas.
The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas is based in Robeline, Louisiana, but they were once a powerful tribe that lived along the banks of both branches of the Alabama River in southeastern Texas. They are now only one of several small groups of Indians who call themselves Alabama-Coushatta Indians today. The tribe has never been large, and estimated numbers range from 150 to 350 people. The Alabama-Coushatta were among the first Native Americans to receive federal recognition after Oklahoma became a state in 1907.
The Tigua Indians of Texas are descendants of refugees who escaped slavery in North Carolina and Virginia and traveled through Texas to reach their current homeland in South Texas. There are only about 100 Tiguas left in South Texas, most living on a reservation set up by the federal government near Pharr, south of Corpus Christi. The Tiguas were one of the first tribes to receive federal recognition after Texas became a state in 1846.
As a result, despite the state's vast size, just three reserves exist in Texas today. The Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation is located immediately east of Houston, while the two other tribes, the Tiguas and the Kickapoo, dwell in the Rio Grande Valley.
Both the Alabama-Coushatta and the Kickapoo Reservations were created by executive order from the president of the time. The Tigua Reservation was established by treaty with the United States government.
All three reservations have jurisdiction over oil and gas leases on their lands, which generate revenue for the tribes. They also receive federal assistance funds to help them run their governments and administer their affairs.
The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe has 1,500 members, while the Kickapoo Tribe has about 1,000 people. The Tigua population is estimated at 6,000.
Many Texans know the story of the Alabaman who lived among a tribe of Indians near Houston. In fact, the first white man to see the Alabama River was a Spanish explorer. But it wasn't until 1848 that any Indian settlements were found there. At that time, American settlers arrived and began buying land from the Indians. By 1850, most of the Indians had been moved off their lands and given small parcels elsewhere. Some went to Oklahoma, while others stayed in Texas.
Texas, on the other hand, has only three surviving small reservations, two of which, the Alabama-Coushatta in East Texas and the Kickapoo on the Rio Grande, were established for immigrant Native Americans, i.e. tribes that were forced into Texas from their original homelands in the eastern United States. The third reservation is the tiny Laredo Indian Community, which was created in 1951 for Hispanic Indians who had been displaced by war or poverty.
In addition to these three reservations, there are several smaller areas where Native Americans live near major cities without securing legal rights to do so. Some are homeless encampments; others are run down trailer parks. But one such group lives on a large estate in Houston's River Oaks neighborhood with clear title to the land they occupy.
In August 2010, the New York Times reported that some Native Americans in Texas believe they should be given tribal status if they want it, so they can obtain better health care and education opportunities for their families. But no official action has yet been taken toward this end.
For millennia, many indigenous peoples, including the Apache, Caddo, Comanche, Kiowa, and Wichita tribes, have lived in what is now known as the state of Texas in the United States. There are now three federally recognized and two state-recognized Native American tribes in Texas.
The first Europeans to arrive in what is now Texas were Spanish explorers on their way to Mexico. They came by sea and landed at several locations including present-day Houston. In 1687, France claimed ownership of Louisiana including what is now Texas. The following year, Spain agreed that Louisiana was part of a trading route called la ruta de los españoles (the road of the Spaniards). In 1766, Britain acquired French Louisiana, including Texas. In 1803, America's independence from Britain enabled its citizens to claim any land they could see from their shores. The Republic of Texas became the first country to assert its claim to what is now Texas when it signed a treaty with the United States in 1836. After wars with Mexico and the United States, Texas joined the latter country in 1845.
You may have heard that there were buffalo in Texas long before there were cars in California. This isn't true. California had more than 1 million buffalo grazing lands in 1849, when Texas didn't even exist yet! But Texas did have native people who used the buffalo for food, clothing, and shelter.