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The Karankawa Indians of Texas

The Karankawa Indians of Texas
An Ecological Study of Cultural Tradition and Change

The first modern, well-researched history of the Karankawa from prehistoric times until their extinction in the nineteenth century.

Series: Texas Archaeology and Ethnohistory Series, Texas Archaeology and Ethnohistory Series , Thomas R. Hester, Editor

January 1996
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236 pages | 6 x 9 | 4 halftones, 30 line drawings, 4 maps, 14 tables |

Popular lore has long depicted the Karankawa Indians as primitive scavengers (perhaps even cannibals) who eked out a meager subsistence from fishing, hunting and gathering on the Texas coastal plains. That caricature, according to Robert Ricklis, hides the reality of a people who were well-adapted to their environment, skillful in using its resources, and successful in maintaining their culture until the arrival of Anglo-American settlers.

The Karankawa Indians of Texas is the first modern, well-researched history of the Karankawa from prehistoric times until their extinction in the nineteenth century. Blending archaeological and ethnohistorical data into a lively narrative history, Ricklis reveals the basic lifeway of the Karankawa, a seasonal pattern that took them from large coastal fishing camps in winter to small, dispersed hunting and gathering parties in summer. In a most important finding, he shows how, after initial hostilities, the Karankawa incorporated the Spanish missions into their subsistence pattern during the colonial period and coexisted peacefully with Euroamericans until the arrival of Anglo settlers in the 1820s and 1830s. These findings will be of wide interest to everyone studying the interactions of Native American and European peoples.

  • Foreword by Thomas R. Hester
  • Preface
  • 1. Who Were the Karankawas?
  • 2. The Karankawan Environment
  • 3. The Archaeological Exploration of Karankawan Adaptation
  • 4. Archaeological Evidence for Prehistoric Occupation of Shoreline Fishing Camps
  • 5. Karankawan Occupation of the Coastal Prairie Environment
  • 6. Reconstructing Prehistoric Karankawan Adaptive Patterns
  • 7. Karankawan Adaptive Patterns during the Colonial Era
  • 8. The Impacts of European Colonization: Continuity and Change in Karankawan Lifeways
  • 9. The Karankawas on the Spanish Colonial Frontier: Seven Decades of Hostilities and the Resolution of Conflict
  • 10. The Mission as an Ecological Resource
  • 11. The Long-Term Ecological Roots of Adaptive Change
  • Appendix A: Defining the Geographical and Chronological Parameters of the Rockport Phase through Ceramic Analysis
  • Appendix B: Methods of Seasonality Analysis
  • References Cited
  • Index

Robert A. Ricklis is a Research Fellow with the University of Texas at Austin and president of a private archaeological consulting firm in Corpus Christi.