Neches-Angelina Confederacy

Since Indian political organization was at best but loose and shifting and was strongly dominated by ideas of independence, and since writers were frequently indefinite in their use of terms, it would not be easy to determine with strict accuracy the constituent elements of this Neches-Angelina confederacy at different times. However, a few of the leading tribes those of greatest historical interest stand out with distinctness and can be followed for considerable periods of time.

De Leon learned in 1689 from the chief of the Nabedache tribe, the westernmost of the group, that his people had nine settlements. 1 Francisco de Jesus Maria Casañas, writing in 1691 near the Nabedache village after fifteen months’ residence there, reported that the “province of Aseney” comprised nine tribes (Naciones) living in the Neches-Angelina valleys within a district about thirty-five leagues long. It would seem altogether probable that these reports referred to the same nine tribes. Those named by Jesus Maria, giving his different spellings, were:

  1. Nabadacho or Yneci (Nabaydacho)
  2. Necha (Neita)
  3. Nechaui
  4. Nacono
  5. Nacachau
  6. Nazadachotzi
  7. Cachaé (Cataye)
  8. Nabiti
  9. Nasayaya (Nasayaha)

The location of these tribes Jesus Maria points out with some definiteness, and six of them at least we are able to identify in later times without question. Moreover, his description of their governmental organization is so minute that one feels that he must have had pretty accurate information. The testimony of a number of other witnesses who wrote between 1687 and 1692 in the main corroborates that of Jesus Maria, particularly in the important matter of not including the Nasoni tribe within the Hasinai. 2

It so happens that after 1692 we get little intimate knowledge of the Hasinai until 1715. When light again dawns there appear in common usage one or two additions to Jesus Maria’s list. Whether they represent an oversight on his part or subsequent accretions to the group we can not certainly say. Of those in his list six, the Nabadacho, Neche, Nacogdoche, Nacachau, Nacono, and Nabiti are mentioned under the same names by other writers. Cachaé is evidently Jesus Maria’s name for the well known Hainai, as will appear later, while the Nabiti seem to be San Denis’s Nabiri and may be Joutel’s Noadiche (Nahordike). For the Nechaui we can well afford to accept Jesus Maria’s explicit statement. Besides these nine, the Spaniards after 1716 always treated as within the Hasinai group the Nasoni, Nadaco, and the Nacao. Judging from the localities occupied and some other circumstances, it is not altogether improbable that two of these may be old tribes under new names, as seems to be clearly the case with the Hainai. The Nasayaya, named by Jesus Maria, may answer to the Nasoni, well known after 1716, 3 and the Nabiti may possibly be the Nadaco, also well known after that date. If both of these surmises be true, we must add to Jesus María’s list at least the Nacao, making ten tribes in all; if not, there were at least eleven or twelve. Putting first the best known and the most important, they were: the Hainai, Nabedache, Nacogdoche, Nasoni, Nadaco, Neche, Nacono, Nechaui, Nacao, and, perhaps, the Nabiti and the Nasayaya. This is not intended as a definitive list of the Hasinai at any one time, but it does include those known to have been within the compact area about the Querétaran missions and commonly treated as within the Hasinai group. By following the footnotes below it will be seen that “Nacoches,” “Noaches,” and “Asinay,” which have been given, with resulting confusion, as names of tribes where early missions were established, are simply corruptions of “Neche,” “Nasoni,” and “Ainai,” as the forms appear in the original manuscripts, whose whereabouts are now known.

The Ais, or Eyeish, a neighbor tribe living belong the Arroyo Attoyac, at whose village a Zacatecan mission was founded in 1717, seem to have fallen outside the Hasinai confederacy. Only recently have they been included by ethnologists in the Caddoan stock, and, although they are now regarded as Caddoan, there are indications that their dialect was quite different from that of their western neighbors, while their manners and customs were always regarded as inferior to those of these other tribes. 4 Moreover, there is some evidence that they were generally regarded as aliens, and that they were sometimes even positively hostile to the Hasinai. Thus Jesus María includes them in his list of the enemies of the Hasinai; Espinosa, a quarter of a century after Jesus Maria wrote, speaks of them as friendly toward the “Assinay,” from which by implication he excludes them, but says that the Hasinai medicine men “make all the tribes believe that disease originates in the bewitchment which the neighboring Indians, the Bidnis, Ays, and Yacdocas, cause them,” a belief that clearly implies hostility between the tribes concerned, 5 while Mezières wrote in 1779 that the Ais were hated alike by their Spanish and their Indian neighbors. 6

The Adaes, or Adai, in whose midst the mission of Nuestra Senora de los Dolores was founded in 1717, lived beyond the Sabine, and belonged to the Red River group of Caddoan, or the Caddo. They, therefore, do not fall within the scope of this paper.

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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  1. “Poblaciones.” Letter of May 18, 1689, printed in Buckingham Smith’s Documentos para, la Historia de la Florida; evidently that cited by Velasco, in Memorias de Nueva España, XXVII, 179. Concerning the Memorias, see note 3, p. 256.[]
  2. See Joutel, in Margry, Découvertes, III, 341, 344, et seq. (French’s version of Joutel’s Journal, printed in the Historical Collections of Louisiana, is very corrupt, and must be used with the greatest care); Terán, Descripción, in Mem. de Nucva España, XXVII, 48, et seq.[]
  3. The Nasayaya are placed by Jesus Maria in a location corresponding very closely to that later occupied by the Nasoni. Yet, the facts that though Jesus Maria named the Nasoni he did not include them in the Hasinai group while he did include the Nasayaya, and that Terán explicitly excludes the Nasoni from the Hasinai, make it seem probable that the Nasoni and the Nasayaya were distinct. The strongest ground for rejecting this conclusion is the fact that the latter tribe never appears again under a recognizable name, unless they are the Nacaxe, who later appear on the Sabine. The Nabiti might possibly be the Nadaco, but this does not seem likely, for the locations do not correspond very closely, while as late as 1715 San Denis gave the Nabiri and Nadoco as two separate tribes.[]
  4. On the subjects of their languages see the Handbook of the American Indians, under “Eyeish.”[]
  5. Crónica Apostólica, 428.[]
  6. Expedición, in Mem. de Nueva España, XXVIII, 240.[]

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