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Native American Tribes, 1520s

Native American Tribes, 1520s Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca was the treasurer for a 1527 Spanish expedition. The group survived hostile encounters, disease, and a harrowing sea trip before arriving on the Texas coast. The Karankawa Indians they met were fishermen, while the Lipan Apache on the western coast hunted bison and other game. The Caddo and Atakapa tribes in the east knew how to farm as well as hunt.

More Spanish adventurers followed Cabeza de Vaca to Texas in the 16th century, motivated by legends of gold cities and wealth. Travel hardships, including illness -- and the lack of gold cities -- convinced them to stop their explorations.

Galveston Island
The Relation and Commentaries of the Governor Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, 1555 Cabeza de Vaca's expedition was shipwrecked on a sandy island that he dubbed Isla de Malhado -- "Island of Misfortune." Later, the Spaniard wrote of the unexpected kindness the local Karankawa Indians offered his ragged group.

Historians think Galveston Island is the site of that shipwreck. A two thousand acre wildlife preserve opened on the island in 1975.

"... [the native people] had built a hut for us with many fires in it... there was neither pleasure, feast nor sleep in it for us, since we expected to be sacrificed. In the morning they again gave us fish and roots, and treated us so well that we became reassured, losing somewhat our apprehension of being butchered."
-- from The Journey of Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, 1542

Image Credit:
The Center for American History, UT-Austin

page created on 1.30.2004
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