A Quick Primer on Texas Native American Tribes

Happy Native American heritage month! How well do you know the tribes indigenous to the Houston area? Here’s a quick primer!

Tribes Indigenous to the Houston Area

Unfortunately, the tribe that was indigenous to the Houston area is considered extinct. They were known as the Akokisa; by 1850, what members had not died of European diseases of which they had no immunity, are believed to have merged with the Atakapa, who migrated into Louisiana. There are very little records of the Akokisa, though it is believed that the indigenous people that early explorer and Texas historian, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca encountered were the Akokisa. They lived along Galveston Bay, and even had a major settlement near Spring Creek. While their language is also considered extinct, two words survive from Spanish records: Yegsa, which means "Spaniard" and Quiselpoo, which is a female name.

Tribes in Texas

Beyond Houston, the state of Texas has three federally recognized tribes: Alabama-Coushatta in Polk County, Kickapoo Traditional in Maverick County, and Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo in El Paso County. They are federally recognized because Texas does not have any governmental mechanism to recognize states. In 2021, the bid in the Texas Senate to recognize the Liban-Apache tribe died in committee.

Federal recognition means it has a government-to-government relationship with the United States. Federally recognized also means that they have the right to self-govern. There are currently 574 federally recognized tribes throughout the United States, and four tribes total currently reside in Texas, including the three that are federally recognized. The Lipan-Apache tribe is in McAllen, but they are not federally recognized. This does not include the many Native American peoples who live and have ties throughout the state, only those tribes that have their headquarters here.

There have been multiple tribes throughout Texas history that are no longer in Texas because of the treatment they received. Forcible removal to Oklahoma, and some to New Mexico, played a huge part in tribes no longer residing in Texas. Some simply migrated for various reasons. This list is particularly expansive, but the Texas Historical Commission has a list of tribes with current interests in the state.

Tribes Influence in Houston

The Tunica-Biloxi of Louisiana were the tribe who created the American Indian Center of Houston. They opened in 2020 with the mission statement, The American Indian Center of Houston is devoted to enhancing the Native American community in the Greater Houston area through personal, social, health and cultural development.”

We even feature a storytime with them on their website and our YouTube (among other videos)!

Here are some other great titles for further reading about Native American peoples in Texas:

Land of the Tejas

Native Americans in Texas

Truly Texas Mexican

Native American Heritage Month @ HCPL

Apollo Chamber Players

Native American History Month Performances

Baldwin Boettcher Branch Library @ Mercer Park - Monday, November 13, 7 - 8:00 PM

Crosby Edith Fae Cook Cole Branch Library - Thursday, November 16, 5:30 - 6:30 PM