The Names “Texas” and “Hasinai”

The tribes in question commonly have been called the Texas, but more properly the Hasinai. Concerning the meaning and usage of these terms I shall only present here somewhat dogmatically part of the results of a rather extended study which I have made of these points and which I hope soon to publish. 1

The testimony of the sources warrants the conclusion that before the coming of the Spaniards the word Texas, variously spelled by the early writers, had wide currency among the tribes of eastern Texas and perhaps over a larger area; that its usual meaning was “friends,” or more technically, “allies”; and that it was used by the tribes about the early missions, at least, to whom especially it later became attached as a group name, to designate a large number of tribes who were customarily allied against the Apaches. In this sense, the Texas included tribes who spoke different languages and who were as widely separated as the Red River and the Rio Grande. It seems that the Neches-Angelina tribes designated did not apply the term restrictively to themselves as a name, but that they did use it in a very unethical way as a form of greeting, like “hello, friend,” with which they even saluted Spaniards after their advent. I may say, in this connection, that the meanings “land of flowers,” “tiled roofs,” “paradise,” etc., sometimes given for the name Texas, I have never seen even suggested by early observers, or by anyone on the basis of trustworthy evidence.

The name Texas has been variously applied by writers, but it was most commonly used by the Spaniards, from whom the French and the English borrowed it, to designate those tribes of the upper Neches and the Angelina valleys, and this in spite of their knowing full well that among the natives the word had the wider application that has been indicated. There are many variations from this usage in Spanish writings, it is true, but this, nevertheless, is the ordinary one. As a tribal name the term was sometimes still further narrowed to apply to a single tribe. When this occurred, it was most commonly used to designate the Hainai, the head tribe of the group in question, but sometimes it was applied to the Nabedache tribe. As a geographical term, the name Texas was first ex-tended from these Neches-Angelina tribes to their immediate country. Thus for the first quarter of a century of Spanish occupation, the phrase “the Province of Texas” referred only to the country east of the Trinity River; but with the founding of the San Antonio settlements the term was extended westward, more in harmony with its native meaning, to the Medina River, and then gradually to all of the territory included within the present State of Texas.

While the name Texas, as used by the tribes in the eastern portion of the State, was thus evidently a broad and indefinite term applied to many and unrelated tribes occupying a wide area, it is clear that the native group name for most of the tribes about the missions in the Neches and Angelina valleys was Hasinai, or Asinai. 2 Today the term Hasinai is used by the Caddoan on the reservations to include not only the survivors of these Neches-Angelina tribes, but also the survivors of the tribes of the Sabine and Red River country. It seems from the sources, however, that in the early days the term was more properly limited to the former group. In strictest usage, indeed, the earliest writers did not include all of these. A study of contemporary evidence shows that at the first contact of Europeans with these tribes and for a long time thereafter writers quite generally made a distinction between the Hasinai (Asinai, Cenis, etc.) and the Kadohadacho 3 (Caddodacho) group; these confederacies, for such they were in the Indian sense of the term, were separated by a wide stretch of uninhabited territory extending between the upper Angelina and the Red River in the neighborhood of Texarkana; their separateness of organization was positively affirmed, and the details of the inner constitution of both groups were more or less fully described; while in their relations with the Europeans they were for nearly a century dealt with as separate units. Nevertheless, because of the present native use of the term and some early testimony that can not be disregarded, I would not at present assert unreservedly that the term formerly was applied by the natives only to the Neches-Angelina group. If, as seems highly probable, this was the case, in order to preserve the native usage we should call these tribes the Hasinai; if not, then the Southern Hasinai.

The name Hasinai, like Texas, was sometimes narrowed in its application to one tribe, usually the Hainai. But occasionally the notion appears that there was an Hasinai tribe distinct from the Hainai. This, however, does not seem to have been the case. As now used by the surviving Hasinai and Caddo, Hasinai means “our own folk,” or, in another sense, “Indians.” 4Citations:

  1. The present paper embodies some of the results of an investigation of the history of the Texas tribes, which the writer is making for the Bureau of American Ethnology.[]
  2. The Spaniards ordinarily spelled this name Asinai or Asinay, and the French writers Cenis. Mooney, the ethnologist, who knows intimately the survivors of these people living on the reservations, writes the name by which they now call themselves Hasinai., or Hasini, preferably the former. His spelling has been adopted as the standard one by the Bureau of American Ethnology. See the Fourteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1092 (1896).[]
  3. I use here also the spelling adopted by the Bureau of American Ethnology.[]
  4. See Mooney, op. cit.[]

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 thought on “The Names “Texas” and “Hasinai””

  1. Did you find any proof that the word Taysha wich means Allies, is related in any way with the name of the state? Proof like an original document I mean. I´d love to see it.

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