The Conquest of the Karankawas and the Tonkawas: 1821-1859

Front Cover
Texas A&M University Press, 1999 - History - 192 pages
3 Reviews
In 1821, although Spain claimed what is now Texas, American Indian groups occupied it. Less than forty years later, they had been largely displaced, and their subsistence economy, supplemented by raiding and trade, had been replaced by an Anglo-Texan agricultural economy linked to a rapidly expanding and industrializing capitalist system.

For the Karankawas and the Tonkawas, the period from 1821 to 1859 was particularly devastating. Once thriving communities, the Karankawas survived only as scattered individuals after a small remnant on the banks of the Rio Grande was massacred, and the few remaining Tonkawas had been pushed across the Red River into Indian Territory.

Kelly Himmel has written an account of this conquest that gives new understanding of the processes. He explores geopolitical and economic factors, as well as the role of individual and collective human actors and the effects of cultural orientations of the conquered and conquering groups toward each other.

Among his findings is the importance of geopolitical location. During the early Spanish period, the coastal Karankawas offered a buffer against French, English, and Anglo-American intrusion into Texas. Later, during the early days of Anglo-American settlement, the Tonkawas provided a barrier against the Wichitas and Comanches. For both groups, when the threat to their European-origin allies ended, so did the alliances. In considering the social construction of the “other,” he describes how early trade patterns predisposed Anglo-Texans to characterize Karankawas as cannibals, while viewing the Tonkawas, for whom much stronger evidence of cannibalism exists, as harmless beggars and petty thieves.

Through the detailed analysis of factors such as these, Himmel not only portrays a period in the history of these two peoples that has been largely unstudied, but also offers lucid explanations of the framework of Anglo-Texan conquest. Historians, sociologists, and anthropologists will find new insight and information in this valuable addition to the literature on Texas Indians and Texas history.


What people are saying - Write a review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

a valuable read. Grateful to researcher, Kelly Himmel and google for making accessible

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

Important text- because it's essentially all that exists or is seemingly readily available that's this thorough and factual and has Karankawa studies all in one place- i.e. the historicity and tribal specificity is what makes this book about the extinct Karankawa people four-stars. Not perfect of course, and not up to date in the latest NAIS ethonographical approaches which may be preferred by many.
Excellent historical text, and the "pretentious jargon"/"noble savage approach" referenced by another reviewer has been mistaken for nothing less than academese, which use these devices by default given the nature of the subject and the fact the tribe has been 'extinct' since 1860- an ethnic studies approach here may not have been the most pragmatic. No particular agenda/infusion of anthropology, an above average and more than adequate historical starting point for the many students who are in need of more texts that explore the indigenous peoples of Texas and the Gulf Coast. Recommended. Read about indigenous peoples and knowledge!


Texas in 1821 Prelude to Conquest
The Political Economy of Mexican Texas 182135 Initiation of Conquest
The Political Economy of the Republic of Texas 183645 Negotiation of Conquest
The Incorporation of Texas into the United States 184659 Consolidation of Conquest
Sociology and Conquest
Methodological Issues

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page v - People know what they do; they frequently know why they do what they do; but what they don't know is what what they do does (Foucault, quoted in Dreyfus and Rabinow 1982, p.
Page xvii - My father's columns and papers are now held at the Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin. In the present volume, his articles appear as originally published, with no substantive changes. Since his editors sometimes were inconsistent in spelling a word such as "programming," I have reconciled these discrepancies.

References to this book

The Texas Indians
David La Vere
Limited preview - 2004
All Book Search results »

About the author (1999)

Kelly F. Himmel is an assistant professor and the graduate advisor in the Department of Sociology, University of Texas–Pan American. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin.

Bibliographic information