The account of the Black Seminoles in Texas begins in Florida. Slavery had been abolished in Spanish Florida since the late 1600s and the area became a refuge for freed as well as fugitive slaves. Though some were taken as slaves by the Native tribes that resided there, those of African descent are generally believed to have interacted peacefully with the native tribes, with some amount of intermarriage and more significantly, the adoption of the tribal ways and customs. The people known as Seminoles are sometimes referred to as being a conglomeration of a number of tribes living in the area, including the Creek Tribe, although the Creek Tribe is also usually referred to separately. Tribes included the Lower Creeks, Mikusukis and Apalachicola, among others and they are believed to have migrated there from the areas now represented by the states of Georgia and Alabama.
By Tim Seiter
In 1767, Fray Gaspar José de Solís toured the faltering missions of Texas. When he visited the mission of Nuestra Señora del Rosario, which the Spanish built to convert the Karankawa Indians to Christianity, he wrote a lengthy report on their cannibalism in his journal: “Dancing and leaping and with sharp knives in their hands, they draw near to the victim, cut off a piece of their flesh, come to the fire and half roast it, and, within sight of the victim himself devour it most ravenously.” Despite captivating readers for generations, Padre Solís’s account of the Karankawas’ cannibalism has a major problem—it is almost certainly fictitious. Although the Karankawas did, in fact, practice a rare exo-cannibalism, this disgruntled priest likely fabricated an exaggerated version of the custom. He has tarnished the image of the Karankawas for the past two-hundred and fifty years. This article explains why Fray Solis’s account, a source utilized by numerous scholars, should be used selectively and with caution.
Fort Davis was one of the group of Texas frontier forts. Also located on the short-lived Overland Trail, it provided protection for the travelers and settlers as well as the U. S. Mail in this contested area. It was situated roughly equidistant between Fort Clark to the southeast and Fort Bliss to the northwest in what is now known as the Davis Mountains. We would think of it today as being the northern point of a triangle with the points of the southern base being Marfa to the west and Alpine to the east.
Buffalo Hump was a formidable Comanche war chief, thought to have been born around 1790. He lived until around 1870 and was one of the most influential Comanche leaders during his lifetime. His native name was Pachanaquarship and he was a respected leader among the Comanche tribe almost his entire adult life. His band were called the Penetekas which is roughly translated “honey eaters” and though they ranged widely in Texas, they spent a considerable amount of time in the general area that is now Abilene.
(Image credit: TexasCherokeeNation.org)
On July 16, 1839, the last major battle between Texas forces and the Cherokee tribe along with other tribal bands took place. The Cherokee had first come to Texas shortly after the turn of the century, long before the Texas Revolution, and had settled near the Red River. Much of the time thereafter, their leader was Chief John Bowles, pictured in the image above, also known as Diwal’li. There are other variations of his name, but we will refer to him as Chief Bowles. The Chief was thought to have been born around 1756 to a Cherokee mother and a Scotch-Irish father. He is said to have had the features of both parents including reddish hair, Cherokee features and freckled skin.