Welcome to Go Inside: Exploring Texas Culture! Brought to you by First Choice Power, this series will explore the legends and history that make up the meat and bones of the Lone Star State. Specifically, we’ll share our favorite indoor attractions to visit, which includes the great museums and quirky cultural outposts that fill the Texas landscape.
Over 11,000 years ago, long before Europeans arrived on North American soil, Texas was home to hundreds of groups of Native Americans, grouped as alliances, tribes, clans, confederations and families, who all held their own customs, beliefs, and languages.
From the Gulf Coast to the Panhandle to the eastern Piney Woods forests, these people had established their lives as artisans, food-collectors, hunters, healers and traders. Groups included the Caddo, Apache, Comanche, Wichita, Neches, Karankawa, Coahuiltecan and Tonkawa, among others.
In fact, in the Caddo language, the word taysha means “ally” or “friend,” which the Spanish spelled as “tejas.” This of course became the name of the state as we know it, now Texas.
With a history so rich, where can we learn about the Native Americans in Texas today? We take you around the state to places where you can learn and experience more about their fascinating, holistic culture, and traditions that fall in harmony with the landscape of our state.
The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, Livingston
A Federally recognized tribe of Alabama and Koasati in Polk County, the Alabama-Coushatta tribe has called Texas home since the 1700s, long before it became a state. It is said that Sam Houston, the first President of the Republic of Texas, and Texas’ first Governor, protected them from other warring Native Americans in the area.
Located just 17 miles east of Livingston, and roughly 85 miles northeast of Houston, the reservation sits located on more than 4,500 acres, where half of their 1,100 person tribe lives.
Each year in early June, the tribe hosts an annual powwow, where the public is invited to experience traditional dance and learn more about the tribes cultural traditions. Camping, either in a tent or teepee, is available at their TomBigBee Campground located on Lake TomBigBee, where folks can also fish. Or rent a cabin to spend the weekend on this sacred and wild land, if tent camping isn’t your thing!
Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo, El Paso
Located 12 miles east of downtown El Paso, the Tigua of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo are Pueblo Indians, and this is the oldest community in the state of Texas. The Ysleta Mission, founded by the Tigua Indians in 1682, is the oldest parish in the State of Texas.
The Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo holds events and open houses to the public and tourists throughout the year. In the month of February, they are offering multiple pottery classes, where visitors can stop by for $6, and make their own traditional pot. Check their events page for upcoming events and celebrations.
The Austin Powwow, Austin
Hosted by the Great Promise for American Indians, which seeks to preserve the traditions, heritage, and culture of American Indians, while also supporting the health and education of it’s children and families, this groups holds an annual powwow in Austin at the Travis County Expo Center. This year they celebrate their 26th Annual Powwow.
It includes one of the countries largest Indian Markets with over 100 booths of authentic Indian arts and crafts, a Heritage Stage, and Traditional Native American Dances and Contests. Everyone is welcome to this enriching, family friendly celebration.
The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, Austin
The crown jewel of Texas’ diverse and rich history, The Bob Bullock State History Museum showcases every dimension of our states story. Here you can find areas dedicated to the history of Native Americans including photographs, paintings and etchings that document their ways of living and survival.
The American Indian Heritage Day is often celebrated here at the museum, and free to the public, with traditional and contemporary arts of Texas’ American Indian groups. September 29, 2017 is the date of this years event so mark your calendar now! This celebration honors American Indians of yesterday and today and includes art displays along with dancing and drumming performances.
The Wittliff Collections, San Marcos
Located on the top floor of the Alkek Library on the campus of Texas State University, The Wittliff Collections is a treasure trove of literary and photographic archives, noted for their Southwestern Writers Collection, and their Southwestern and Mexican Photography Collection. Here you will find a rich collection of photographs that illuminate the myths of the Native American people, in beautiful black and white photographs.
They recently acquired a majority of The North American Indian, a landmark publication, by photographer Edward S. Curtis, produced between 1907 and 1930. The drive behind Curtis’ project was to document this “vanishing race.” It is one of the largest visual and ethnographic records of Native Americans in existence. The exhibition is currently on view through December 3, 2017. Entry is free.