Karankawa

The Karankawa people were a nomadic Indigenous tribe that inhabited the Texas Gulf Coast from Galveston Bay to Corpus Christi Bay. The following guide contains resources about this tribe and other Gulf Coast American Indian tribes.

To search for manuscript collections, go to www.galvestonhistorycenter.org and click on the orange "Search Archives Catalog" link. To search for books, go to www.rosenberg-library.org and enter a title/call number in the "Search the Library Catalog" field located on the left side of the page.

Manuscript Collections

These collections principally contain secondary source material about the Karankawa such as scrapbooks of newspaper clippings and writings by noted Galveston authors such as Joseph O. Dyer and Ben C. Stuart. One notable primary source is a notice by Jean Laffite regarding the Karankawa Indian trade.

Legal case files concerning a lawsuit, Fritiofson, et al. vs. Alexander, et al., filed by Galveston attorney Robert M. Moore on behalf of environmentalists in order to preserve Pirates Cove, Section 6 (Eckert's Bayou) on Galveston Island, which contained several Karankawa burial sites.

Scrapbook of photocopied newspaper clippings and photographs compiled by Alan R. Duke, concerning excavation of the Jamaica Beach Site (41GV5) on Galveston Island. The site was the location of a Karankawa camp and burial ground.

Scrapbooks containing information about various landmarks in Galveston County which were presented historical markers. Scrapbook No. 1 includes information regarding the Jamaica Beach Karankawa Indian campsite.

Notice issued by Jean Laffite, then-President of the Commune of Campeche on Galveston Island, appointing Jao de la Porta supercargo for the Karankawa Indian trade.

A copy of The Lake Charles Atakapas (Cannibals), Period of 1817 to 1820, written by Dr. J. O. Dyer, concerning the history of the Atakapa tribe that lived along the Gulf Coast between Texas and Louisiana.

Three scrapbooks from Joseph Osterman Dyer containing newspaper clippings on Galveston and Texas history, including the history of the Karankawa and other indigenous tribes.

Writings on various topics of Texas history by Galveston journalist and editor Ben C. Stuart. Box 1, Files 30-31 and Box 2, Files 4-6 contain his writings about the Karankawa.

Research and correspondence files from Galveston newspaper columnist and teacher William Maury Darst. Box 23, File 13 contains a subject file on Karankawa Indians.

Books

These books provide histories, archaeological data, and an ecological study of the presence of Karankawa and other Gulf Coast tribes in Texas.

Rosenberg Library Museum (http://rosenberg-library-museum.org/)

The Rosenberg Library Museum maintains and exhibits artifacts that document the history of Galveston and the Republic of Texas, as well as the Library’s fine art collection throughout the Library. Below are links to catalog records of the Museum’s artifacts documenting the Karankawa and other Gulf Coast tribes:

  • Karankawa Arrowheads: Native American arrowheads made of flint, stemmed shape with beveled edges and forked stems. A Texas type, sometimes called "Comanche or Perdernales" points, originated in Central Texas. Dug up on Galveston Island at Karankawa Indian camp site (Museum Object 67.200.1-15).
  • Native American Small Arrowheads, Flake Flints, and Flint Chips: Small arrowheads, used for birds, flake flints, and flint chips. (Museum Object 83.027.1-4).
  • Karankawa Pottery Fragments: Three Fragments of Karankawa Indian pottery, made of black clay with red sandstone layer on both sides; crude designs scratched on one piece (Museum Object 67.200.16.a-c).
  • Karankawa Pottery Fragments: 35 pottery fragments of Karankawa Indian pottery, made of black clay with red sandstone layer on both sides; accompanied by seven color photos identifying the location of the find (Museum Object 78.027.1-35).
  • Karankawa Pottery Shards: Karankawa Indian pottery shards, date unknown (Museum Object 80.054.1-5).
  • Karankawa Pottery Shard: Pottery shard made of black clay possibly coated with asphaltum (Museum Object 83.024.6).
  • Karankawa Pottery Shards: Pottery shards placed in individual envelopes with written descriptions by the donor (Museum Object 83.025.1-32).
  • Karankawa Picture Writing: Two pieces of Karankawa Picture Writing on white soapstone (Museum Object 80.033.1-2).
  • Native American Stone Hammers: Known as “pecking stones,” fragments of hard tough rocks with suitable edges used for flaking or pecking implements into the desired shape; found at central Texas Indian shaping sites (Museum Object 68.8.24-38).
  • Native American Pottery Shards: Pottery shards made of red/gray clay; found in Indian Battle Mound in Wharton County, Texas (Museum Object 77.008.1-7).
  • Badge of the Improved Order of Red Men: Badge of the Improved Order of Red Men, made of silk ribbon with gold decorative fringe. Made by Whitehead and Hoag Co. (Museum Object 76.154.2).

Other Resources

Vertical Files: Files containing writings, newspaper clippings, and other printed materials relating to the Karankawa. Subject index online at https://www.galvestonhistorycenter.org/collections/vertical-files. See under headings “Karankawa Indians,” “Kickapoo Indians,” “Alabama-Coushatta Indians,” “American Indian History Society,” “Comanche Indians,” “History-Texas-Indians,” and “Indians in Texas.”

The Portal to Texas History (https://texashistory.unt.edu/)

The Portal to Texas History is a digital library that provides access to rare, historical, and primary source materials from or about Texas, including materials about the Karankawa and other Gulf Coast tribes.

Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/bmk05)

Digital encyclopedia containing entries regarding Texas history, including this entry by Carol A. Lipscomb on the Karankawa.

Updated 04/14/2020 KK