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The Tonkawa Indians of Texas


Tonkawa Indians
Tonkawa Indians of Texas
Tonkawa Tales
Handbook of Texas Online - Tonkawa
Tonkawa Tribe History
Tonkawa Indians
Tonkawa Culture and History
The Tonkawa Story
Tonkawan Tribes
Tonkawa Dances
Tonkawa of Texas

Outline of Class Discussion
  • The traits of plains culture seen in Wichita even more pronounced in Tonkawa
  • Another confederacy in North Central Texas
  • From Edwards Platueau to Victoria and Lavaca Counties near coast
  • Tonkawa is Waco word for "they all stay together"
  • Called themselves Tickaanwatic, "the most human people"
  • Many autonomous bands including Tonkawa, Mayeye or Meghey, Yojaune, Ervipiame, Cavas, Emet, Sana, Toho, and Tohaha
  • Language subject of debate but not Caddoan; some believe Coahuiltecan
  • Did trade with Caddo
  • Also lived in Caddo-like houses but covered with skins rather than thatch; cross between tipi & caddo house
  • Also similar to Caddo, lots of tattoos and paint; man's facial paint considered private property and could not be copied; women painted black stripes on mouth, nose, back and around nipples
  • But in general, lifestyle of the plains
  • Clan most important unit of society
  • Limited, if any, agriculture
  • Hunted, fished, gathering, nomadic
  • Known as fast runners although small in stature
  • Little clothing beyond breechclout; women short skirt
  • Hair long, loose or braided with lots of ornaments, earrings, feathers, necklaces of shell, bone
  • Dog important
  • Food - bison, deer, rattlesnake a delicacy, fish, oysters
  • Made pemmican, sausage-like, and jerk
  • Taboo on eating/killing wolves and coyotes
  • Used bow and arrow, lances, poison arrows (mistletoe juice which they continued to use on guns)
  • Matrilineal; isolation during menstruation, childbirth similar to Caddo; before child born, father not supposed to touch any bird, nor break bones of animals for marrow or child would have weak legs
  • No knowledge of marriage rituals
  • Information on spiritual lives also sparse
  • Death: immediate burial of dead unless important person; gifts in grave; three day mourning with prolonged wailing but no singing; a mother might slash her breasts; taboo on using name of deceased - spirit would be disturbed; on fourth day, smoking ceremony
  • Then spirits journey home; believed was west; corpse placed with head west
  • Believed women went directly west, singing as they went
  • Men might hang around watching, calling to relatives
  • Believed haunting if improper burial by owls and wolves
  • Wore medicine bag to war off illness
  • Ritual consumption of enemy flesh
  • Very social; settlers complained that they showed up at social affairs uninvited; invited missions to settle near for protection
  • But, actually unsure when arrived in Texas
  • Similar with most famous Plains peoples of Texas - Comanche and Kiowa as well as the Apache
  • The classic Plains Culture did not develop until the horse and gun arrived - a topic we will return to later
    To Our Next Class Discussion: The Peoples of the Rio Grande Region of Texas