Manataka American Indian Council

 

 

 

 

The Tonkawa Story

 

 

 

 

The Tonkawa Name for themselves is, "TickanwaĽtic", meaning: 'Real People'. 

The Waco Name for the Tonkawa, "Tonkaweya", meaning: 'They all stay together'.

 

 

 

Summary

In 1601, the O˝ate expedition were the first Europeans to make contact with the Tonkawa, north of present day Texas.

From 1746 to 1755, the Spanish operated three missions on the San Gabriel (then called San Xavier) river for the Tonkawa. About 1755, the Tonkawa were removed to a mission on the Guadalupe River. In 1758, the Tonkawa joined with the Comanche, Wichita, Caddo and others in a raid on the Lipan Apaches at the San Saba Mission (near present day Llano), killing thirty-five people and burning the mission. Relations between the Spanish and the Tonkawa improved following his death. By 1847, the official estimate of the Tonkawa population was only fifty warriors.  

Dawn of the Republic of Texas

Stephen F. Austin entered into a treaty with the Tonkawa in 1824. With the help of Chief Placido (or Placadore) and thirteen of his Tonkawa scouts, Texas militia from Bastrop and Gonzales ambushed the main body at Plum Creek (near present day Lockhart, Texas). Abandoning most of their spoils, the surviving Comanche escaped north.  

 

Council of 1844 - Walking the white path.

With the help of Chief Placido (or Placadore) and thirteen of his Tonkawa scouts, Texas militia from Bastrop and Gonzales ambushed the main body at Plum Creek (near present day Lockhart, Texas). Due to fighting among the tribes, the Indian Bureau of the Republic of Texas convened a council of the chiefs of the tribes. At this Council, Chief Campo, a great Tonkawa leader, made one of the only recorded speeches of a Tonkawa. In January of 1849, the Lipan Chief Chiquito defended allegations that his people had killed a white man by bringing two witnesses forward who claimed the killers were Tonkawa.  

 

Indian Scouts - Reservation, conflict and exile.

In 1854, the United States and the State of Texas established a reservation for the Tonkawa, Caddo, Lipan, Wichita/Waco, Shawnee, Delaware and others on the Clear Fork of the Brazos River below Fort Belknap (near present day Graham, Texas). This was referred to as either the Brazos Reserve or Brazos Reservation. Each reservation contained four leagues of land.

In May 1858, Ford's Texas Rangers, ignoring minor legalities like a state-line, attacked a Comanche village on Little Robe Creek in the Indian Territory. Joining his force of 101 rangers were 113 Brazos Reserve Indians, including many Tonkawa, commanded by Captain Shapley Ross, the Indian agent for their reservation. The gang killed seven Indians, including 3 women. Some Anglo settlers claimed that the reservation Indians were constantly stealing from them. Other settlers may have coveted the reservation lands. On August 1, 1859, under military escort, all reservation Indians including the Tonkawa were forced to leave Texas. Upon hearing of his death, the Tonkawa mourned for four days.

During the Civil War (25 October, 1862), a group of Comanche, Delaware, Shawnee, Caddo, Wichita, Kiowa and other tribes attacked the Tonkawa reservation near the Whasita River, killing 137 of a total of 270 to 305 Tonkawans including Chief Placido. The Comanche were also said to detest the Tonkawa for the killing and eating of a brother of one of their chiefs. Some Tonkawa served as scouts for the Confederate regulars and Texas militia who suffered "the most disastrous Indian fight in Texas..." following an ill-conceived attack on a large band of Kickapoo (Confederate allies, no less) at Dove Creek in January, 1865.

Buffalo War - The end of Texas Native American resistance.

In the early days of the Buffalo War of 1874-5 (also called the Staked Plains War and the Red River Campaign), Tonkawa scouts killed Comanche warriors in the eastern Panhandle region of north Texas. In June of 1874, a large Comanche and Cheyenne war party, most of them having left the reservations in Oklahoma, attacked a party of buffalo hunters at Adobe Walls. On July 20, 1874, Lieutenant Colonel George Buell, with 11 soldiers and 9 Tonkawa scouts, attack a band of "hostile" Indians in Palo Pinto County, Texas. Following the battle at Palo Duro Canyon in September 1874, Tonkawa scouts were awarded 100 Comanche horses by Colonel Ronald MacKenzie for their assistance. In 1884, the Tonkawa, numbering only about 90 to 150 people, were again relocated, along with some Lipan Apaches, to the former Nez Perce reservation in the Indian Territory. This reservation, the Fort Oakland Reserve, is the present day home of the Tonkawa Tribe. About 1300 Tonkawa live in Northern Oklahoma today, with about 15 families living on the reservation. The Tonkawa Tribe of Oklahoma Tribal Museum (Route 2, Box 346, Tonkawa 74653 -- 405-682-5301) contains artifacts of the Tonkawa people.  



The Tonkawa Story

In 1601, the O˝ate expedition were the first Europeans to make contact with the Tonkawa, north of present day Texas. An early Spanish letter lists the Tonkawans (a tribal group or confederacy of several different tribes including the Mayeyes, Yojuane, Ervipiame and others) as being west of the Karankawas, who dwelt between the mouths of the Neches and Nueces rivers on the Gulf Coast. There may have been about 2000 members of this early group. They called themselves the Titska Waticsh, Titskan-watich, Tickanwaticor, Titskanwatich, meaning approximately "natives" or "most human of people." The Tonkawa, also spelled "Toncahuas" and "Tonkaway" in some accounts, may be interrelated to some Lipan, Karankawa, Wichita and other bands which may have joined together in the early eighteenth century. The name Tonkawa comes from the Waco word "Tonkaweya" meaning "they all stay together." The Tonkawa of this period were also reported as fighting with the Caddo tribes in East Texas over hunting grounds and living as far east as present day Centerville (about halfway between Houston and Dallas on I45).  

Missions

From 1746 to 1755, the Spanish operated three missions on the San Gabriel (then called San Xavier) river for the Tonkawa. About 1755, the Tonkawa were removed to a mission on the Guadalupe River. In 1758, the Tonkawa joined with the Comanches, Wichita, Caddo and others in a raid on the Lipan Apaches at the San Saba Mission (near present day Llano), killing thirty-five people and burning the mission. Following this raid, the Spanish treated the Tonkawa as enemies, even conspiring to assassinate their chief; an Apache captive named El Mocho. In 1782, he traded guns to the Lipans for Spanish horses. El Mocho hoped to lead a united Apache and Tonkawa Nation, but was murdered in 1784. Relations between the Spanish and the Tonkawa improved following his death. During this same time, in 1778, the Tonkawa were estimated to number about 300 warriors for a total of between 1000 to 1200 people. About half of them may have died in another smallpox epidemic in 1779, since the number of warriors was then reported as only 150. The Spanish mission system was dismantled during the 1790's and the occupants either remained near the former sites on land they were given or resumed their lives as nomads. By 1847, the official estimate of the Tonkawa population was only fifty warriors

 

Dawn of the Republic of Texas

By the early nineteenth century, the Tonkawa had allied themselves with the Lipan Apaches and the new Anglo settlers against the Comanches. Stephen F. Austin entered into a treaty with the Tonkawa in 1824. In 1827, Mary Rabb, a settler near Egypt, Texas, records that

 

"The Indians was a trouble again. They killed our cattle and hogs, and I was so afraid of them...One morning...I saw seven Indians coming to the children. I hollered...to run in the house...by the time [they] got in, the Indians was in the house...the big dog stripped the old chief of his buffalo robe and left him nearly naked. Then them Indians begged everything they could see that was fit to eat and that was not fit. It was winter then. There was one rode up...on a nice American horse. He had on an American vest and had nothing else on him. He saw a turkey...I had cut the breast off to fry...That Indian asked for it. He took it on his horse before him and struck out at a gallop. Those was the Tonkawa Indians. After begging all they could, they went off, but was not too good to kill a man if they could get him off by hisself."

 

One visitor to Texas in 1830 described the Tonkawa as:

 

"...ill-clad people, dirty and disgusting. Forced to live far from where the buffalo roam, they make due with deerskin, though most often...go naked, and they suffer greatly from hunger." 

 

 

In the 1830's and 1840's, the Tonkawa and Lipan were said to have resided between the Colorado and San Antonio rivers, with camps along the "St. Marks" (San Marcos) River. They assisted the Texas Rangers against the Comanche, Caddo and Wichita/Waco. The Republic of Texas concluded agreements with them in 1837 and 1838, even though they were officially considered to be natives of Mexico, not Texas. The Indian Bureau of the Republic of Texas gave them hoes, corn seed, knives, gunpowder, lead for bullets and guns so they could hunt and grow corn for a living.

 

In August of 1840, following the Texian treachery of the Council House Fight in San Antonio, 500 Comanches led by Buffalo Hump went on a raid straight into the heart of Anglo Texas. Homes were burned, hundreds killed, and before they stopped, the Comanches had reached the Gulf of Mexico near Victoria. Then, loaded with loot, the war party began an unusual slow retreat to the north. Perhaps because of their numbers, the Comanches were overconfident, but this gave the Texans time to organize. With the help of Chief Placido (or Placadore) and thirteen of his Tonkawa scouts, Texas militia from Bastrop and Gonzales ambushed the main body at Plum Creek (near present day Lockhart, Texas). John Jenkins, in "Recollections of Early Texas", tells us that after Jonathan Burleson recruited the Tonkawas, Chief Placido placed his hand on Burleson's horse's rump and trotted with his scouts the entire thirty miles to Plum Creek without rest. According to Noah Smithwick, the militia killed about eighty Comanche warriors and suffered no casualties. Other accounts tell us of one dead and seven wounded among the militia. Abandoning most of their spoils, the surviving Comanches escaped north.

 

Council of 1844 - Walking the white path.

In August of 1840, following the Texian treachery of the Council House Fight in San Antonio, 500 Comanches led by Buffalo Hump went on a raid straight into the heart of Anglo Texas. Homes were burned, hundreds killed, and before they stopped, the Comanches had reached the Gulf of Mexico near Victoria. Then, loaded with loot, the war party began an unusual slow retreat to the north. Perhaps because of their numbers, the Comanches were overconfident, but this gave the Texans time to organize. With the help of Chief Placido (or Placadore) and thirteen of his Tonkawa scouts, Texas militia from Bastrop and Gonzales ambushed the main body at Plum Creek (near present day Lockhart, Texas). John Jenkins, in "Recollections of Early Texas", tells us that after Jonathan Burleson recruited the Tonkawas, Chief Placido placed his hand on Burleson's horse's rump and trotted with his scouts the entire thirty miles to Plum Creek without rest. According to Noah Smithwick, the militia killed about eighty Comanche warriors and suffered no casualties. Other accounts tell us of one dead and seven wounded among the militia. Abandoning most of their spoils, the surviving Comanches escaped north.

 

Due to fighting among the tribes, the Indian Bureau of the Republic of Texas convened a council of the chiefs of the tribes. At this Council, Chief Campo, a great Tonkawa leader, made one of the only recorded speeches of a Tonkawa. He said, in part:  

 

"I have heard nothing today but what I am pleased with, for it is all good talk. It is not worth while for me to promise anything more than I have already promised, I have always been friendly with the whites, and have fought for them, and I shall continue to do so, and I want now to be friendly with all my Red brothers, and walk with them the white path of peace..."  

 

He also says that the Waco had stolen all of their horses and he would be glad to fight alongside his white brothers to punish the Waco and get back the horses. In January of 1849, the Lipan Chief Chiquito defended allegations that his people had killed a white man by bringing two witnesses forward who claimed the killers were Tonkawa. When Chiefs Placido and Campo were confronted with this testimony, Placido asked his people if any of them had killed the man. Two came forward and admitted the act, but claimed that it was not against treaty, since he had been a "moshitivo"-- a bearded man or German, not a "pavotivo"--white man. The chiefs were willing to turn the men over to Captain Ross, the Indian agent, but instead were told to keep them safe until called for. The two men fled, leading to a flight of several months for the chiefs, who were afraid they would be hanged in the killers' places. Five years later, the Tonkawa and other friendly tribes were moved to reservations on the Brazos River, losing the last of their traditional hunting grounds in the face of white hostility and encroachment from other Native American tribes.

 

Indian Scouts - Reservation, conflict and exile.

In 1854, the United States and the State of Texas established a reservation for the Tonkawa, Caddo, Lipan, Wichita/Waco, Shawnee, Delaware and others on the Clear Fork of the Brazos River below Fort Belknap (near present day Graham, Texas). This was referred to as either the Brazos Reserve or Brazos Reservation. On the North Fork of the Brazos, another reservation and agency were established for the Comanche. Each reservation contained four leagues of land. (commanded in 1856 by Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee) was built nearby. Many accusations were made that Agency Indians were participating in attacks upon settlers. In April of 1858, Colonel John "Rip" Ford defended them in a letter to Governor Runnels:

 

"They have cut loose from the wild Indians for good, and have, so far as they can, identified themselves with the whites, in every way. They say they wish to become Americans. The strides they are making in the way of becoming civilized are great, and, I might even say, astonishing. They are trying to imitate the whites in manners, in dress, in agriculture, and in all essential particulars. They have large fields of wheat and corn, which they have planted themselves, and are now cultivating. Wagons drawn by oxen and driven by Indians; women and children dropping corn; all give the scenes at the different villages quite an American appearance. There is no disorder, no discontent, and no disposition to give trouble to the Agent or the Government. They are endeavoring to fulfill the treaty stipulations and to give satisfaction to the Americans. I speak of what I have seen and heard, and believe it is true. I should view any combinations of circumstances which tended towards the breaking up of this Reserve, as a serious misfortune to the State of Texas, and a calamity over which the philanthropist might mourn."  

 

In May 1858, Ford's Texas Rangers, ignoring minor legalities like a state-line, attacked a Comanche village on Little Robe Creek in the Indian Territory. Joining his force of 101 rangers were 113 Brazos Reserve Indians, including many Tonkawa, commanded by Captain Shapley Ross, the Indian agent for their reservation. Without the aid of the Native Americans, it is unlikely that Ford's attack would have been successful. In September of 1858, Captain "Sul" Ross, Shapley Ross' son, with a force of 125 Brazos Reserve Native Americans, joined a regular army force under the command of Major Van Dorn in a successful attack on the Comanche in Indian Territory. On December 27, 1858, Peter Garland, a known gunman leading a group of rowdies, ambushed a hunting party of Brazos Reserve Indians on Keechi Creek. The gang killed seven Indians, including 3 women. They were never brought to justice, despite the efforts of many to do so. In 1859, Tonkawas scouted with the U.S. Army.

 

However, relations between the reservation and surrounding settlers were very poor. Some Anglo settlers claimed that the reservation Indians were constantly stealing from them. Other settlers may have coveted the reservation lands. Fueling the fire for their removal was an effort by the Indian agent for the Comanche Reserve, John R. Baylor, to replace Major Robert Neighbors, the Supervising Indian Agent responsible for both reserves, with Lieutenant Allison Nelson. Despite Baylor's and Nelson's many allegations of wrongdoing, a special investigator from Washington cleared Neighbors and deemed the charges of his enemies to be "nothing less than false and malicious intimidation." Following attacks by settlers on the reservation, the Tonkawas were relocated to the Wichita Reservation at Fort Cobb in the Indian Territory (near present day Anadarko, OK).

 

On August 1, 1859, under military escort, all reservation Indians including the Tonkawa were forced to leave Texas. They were not allowed to take any of their cattle. Major Neighbors, who was friendly to the Tonkawa and protested the manner of their removal to Oklahoma, was assassinated at Fort Belknap on his way back from the new reservation. Upon hearing of his death, the Tonkawa mourned for four days.

 

Death and Return - How were Native Americans involved in the Civil War?

During the Civil War (25 October, 1862), a group of Comanche, Delaware, Shawnee, Caddo, Wichita, Kiowa and other tribes attacked the Tonkawa reservation near the Whasita River, killing 137 of a total of 270 to 305 Tonkawans including Chief Placido. The attack may have been a retaliation for the scouting done by the Tonkawa against these tribes, or more specifically in response to a warning the Tonkawa gave the Texans about a pending attack by those tribes. It may have also reflected a more general Unionist antagonism against the Confederate Tonkawa, since the supporters of the South continued to receive supplies while northern sympathizers barely survived. The Comanche were also said to detest the Tonkawa for the killing and eating of a brother of one of their chiefs. The survivors returned to Texas, where the Governor and the Legislature provided temporary monetary support and some land to the "Tonkaway."

 

Some Tonkawa served as scouts for the Confederate regulars and Texas militia who suffered "the most disastrous Indian fight in Texas..." following an ill-conceived attack on a large band of Kickapoo (Confederate allies, no less) at Dove Creek in January, 1865. In late June or early July, 1865, Amelia Barr, a resident of Austin living "just back of the Capitol...in the center of the camp of the [U.S.] Sixth Cavalry" records that "A little behind them were the wigwams of the Tonkaway and Lipan guides." In November of 1866, the Legislature passed an Act giving the Tonkawa a league of land to be used "as a home, as long as they shall live on same." The Tonkawas have never resided on any land as provided for under the 1866 Act. On their return from Oklahoma, they were settled first near Austin, then at Jacksboro in April 1867.

 

Later in that year, they were moved to land on the Clear Fork of the Brazos River near Fort Griffin and scouted for the U.S. Army, again. In June of 1872, a Tonkawan scout known as Texas Tonk rode out from Fort Griffin with part of the 10th Cavalry. She was apparently captured by the Comanche and killed on the way back to the fort. Little land and few provisions were supplied by the government. Many Tonkawans became destitute and were forced to beg and steal for survival. Combined with problems from alcohol, the life span of a Tonkawa at this time was typically between 35 and 40 years.

 

Buffalo War - The end of Texas Native American resistance.

In the early days of the Buffalo War of 1874-5 (also called the Staked Plains War and the Red River Campaign), Tonkawa scouts killed Comanche warriors in the eastern Panhandle region of north Texas. In June of 1874, a large Comanche and Cheyenne war party, most of them having left the reservations in Oklahoma, attacked a party of buffalo hunters at Adobe Walls. Known as the Second Battle of Adobe Walls, this was the first major battle of the war. On July 20, 1874, Lieutenant Colonel George Buell, with 11 soldiers and 9 Tonkawa scouts, attack a band of "hostile" Indians in Palo Pinto County, Texas. No injuries are reported, but the soldiers capture one horse. Following the battle at Palo Duro Canyon in September 1874, Tonkawa scouts were awarded 100 Comanche horses by Colonel Ronald MacKenzie for their assistance. This was the last major battle of the war. After many months of pursuit by MacKenzie and his "Buffalo Soldiers",  most of the Comanche, Kiowa, or Cheyenne tribes slowly returned to the reservations in Oklahoma. In June 1875, even Quanah Parker's Kwahadi Comanche, who had never been on a reservation, settled at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, marking the end of the war. Tonkawan scouting for the army ceased when the end of the Indian Wars caused Fort Griffin to be abandoned in 1881.

 

Tonkawas photographed by Rhinehart in 1898. Standing L-R, Winnie Richards, John Rush Buffalo, William Stevens, John Allen, and Mary Richards. Seated L-R John Williams, Grant Richards, and Sherman Miles.

 

 

 

In 1884, the Tonkawa, numbering only about 90 to 150 people, were again relocated, along with some Lipan Apaches, to the former Nez Perce reservation in the Indian Territory. They were supposed to be residing on thousands of acres "of natural, hunting land for all times." The actual size had been decreased by 1995 to 160 acres. This reservation, the Fort Oakland Reserve, is the present day home of the Tonkawa Tribe. It is in northern Oklahoma, near the towns of Tonkawa and Ponca City east of Interstate Highway 35. White settlers moved into the area during the land race which opened the Cherokee Outlet (or Cherokee Strip) on 16 September 1893. 

 

Under the Dawes Act, Tonkawa families now own their own land in the area and are U.S. citizens. About 1300 Tonkawa live in Northern Oklahoma today, with about 15 families living on the reservation. Tribal members attend the Austin Powwow and American Indian Heritage Festival the first Saturday of each November at Burger Center. On the Fort Oakland Reserve, a powwow is held each year in July. 

 

The Tonkawa Tribe of Oklahoma Tribal Museum (Route 2, Box 346, Tonkawa 74653 -- 405-682-5301) contains artifacts of the Tonkawa people. Members of the Pawnee, Ponca, Kaw, Otoe (Otto/Missouria), and Seneca/Cayuga tribes are immediate neighbors of the Tonkawa and also receive services through the Bureau of Indian Affairs office located in Pawnee, OK. http://users.aol.com/Donh523/navapage/tonk.htm

http://users.aol.com/Donh523/navapage/tonk.htm  

 

The Tonkawa Tribal Committee is headed by a President (currently Richard Cornell) and may be reached at P.O. Box 70, Tonkawa, OK 74654 or by phone at (405) 628-2561. Most of the Tonkawa in the area today live well below the poverty line due to the lack of industry and high unemployment.

 

Credits:

http://www.tonkawatribe.com/history.htm

 

 

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