Ethnological Relations: Historical Importance

The Hasinai belonged to the Caddoan linguistic stock. This family, which was a large one, was divided into three principal geographic groups of tribes: the northern, represented by the Arikara in North Dakota; the middle, comprising the Pawnee confederacy, formerly living on the Platte River, Nebraska, and to the west and southwest thereof; and the southern, including most of the tribes of eastern Texas, together with many of those of western Louisiana and of southern Oklahoma. 1 Of this southern group the tribes about the Querétaran missions were one of the most important subdivisions. They, together with the related Caddo tribes to the north, represented the highest form of native society between the Red and the upper Rio Grande rivers, a stretch of nearly a thousand miles. This fact gave them from the outset a relatively large political importance. While it has been clearly shown by writers that the immediate motive to planting the first Spanish establishment within this area was French encroachment, little note has been made of the fame and the relative advancement of the Hasinai Indians as factors in deter-mining the choice of the location. LaSalle’s colony, which first brought the Spaniards to Texas to settle, was established on the Gulf coast; and had the natives of this region been as well organized and as influential among the tribes as the Hasinai, and, therefore, as likely to become the theater of another French intrusion, the logical procedure for the Spaniards would have been to establish themselves on the ground where the first intrusion had occurred, and within relatively easy reach from Mexico both by water and by land. But the Karankawan tribes of the coast proved hostile to the French and Spaniards alike, and, while their savage life and inhospitable country offered little to attract the missionary, their small influence over the other groups of natives rendered them relatively useless as a basis for extending Spanish political authority. These considerations entered prominently into the Spaniards’ decision to establish their first Texas missions far in the interior, at a point difficult to reach from Mexico by land and wholly inaccessible by water. Events justified their estimate of the importance of the Hasinai as a base of political operations. But, while the control of these tribes and their Caddo neighbors remained for a century or more a cardinal point in the politics of the Texas-Louisiana frontier, it was soon learned that the less advanced and weaker tribes of the San Antonio region, nearer Mexico and farther removed from the contrary influence of the French, afforded a better field for missionary labors.Citations:

  1. Powell, “Indian Linguistic Families,” in the Seventh Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, with map; Handbook of American Indians (Bureau of American Ethnology, Bui. No. 30), 182.[]

Bolton, Herbert E. The Native Tribes About The East Texas Mission's, Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association, April 1908.

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