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Indians and the Texas Revolution

Chief Bowl of the CherokeesIndian relations were crucial to the Texans who wanted independence from Mexico. If the Indians joined the Mexican cause, the result for the Texas revolt could be disastrous. To try to ensure Indian neutrality, the provisional government of Texas promised to respect the land rights of the Indians in East Texas and establish clear boundaries with the tribes. The government also appointed three commissioners to deal with the Indians, including Sam Houston, an adopted member of the Cherokee nation.

In February 1836, Houston negotiated a treaty (see Texas Treasures for more) with the Cherokees and other East Texas bands. This treaty reserved the land between the Angelina, Neches, and Sabine rivers and the Old San Antonio Road for Indian use. However, the Convention of 1836 failed to ratify the treaty. Not surprisingly, the Indians viewed the failure of the treaty as a betrayal, and the threat of war between Indians and Texans hung over Texas through most of 1836.



Burnet to Menard, 1836

President David G. Burnet on securing Indian neutrality without promising land, 1836

David G. Burnet served as interim president of the Republic of Texas from March to October 1836. Just two days after he took office, Burnet wrote this letter to Michel B. Menard, a trader and adopted member of the Shawnee nation. Burnet appointed Menard to negotiate a peace treaty with the Shawnees, Delawares, and Kickapoos in northeastern Texas.


Texas Indian Papers Volume 1, #9. Letter from David G. Burnet to M.B. Menard, March 19, 1836.

Big Mush Defends the Cherokees Against Charges of Treason, 1836

Big Mush, known to his own people as Gatunwali, was a principal diplomat or "war chief" of the Cherokee Indians. In 1836 and 1837, Big Mush found himself caught between the majority of Cherokees who wanted to negotiate a permanent home for the tribe and militants who wanted to form an alliance with Mexico to overthrow the Republic of Texas.

Andrew Jackson Houston Papers #368. Big Mush, chief of the Cherokees, to the Committee of Safety, April 13, 1836.

Big Mush to Committee of Safety, 1836
Chief Bowles to Sam Houston, 1836

"We Have Heard We Must All Be Killed"

Chief Bowl (also known as Duwali and Bold Hunter) was the principal chief of the Cherokees. He led the tribe through a series of moves, finally settling north of Nacogdoches in 1819. Bowl considered Sam Houston a friend, but would later break with him in desperation after the peace treaty he signed with Houston was rejected by the Texas Senate.


Andrew Jackson Houston Papers #507. Bowl to Sam Houston, August 16, 1836.

Sam Houston asks for American help in preventing uprising in Nacogdoches, 1836

General Edmund Pendleton Gaines commanded the southwest military division of the United States in 1836. Though officially forbidden to help the Texas revolutionaries, his sympathies were with Texas. At several key points in the revolution, Gaines sent U.S. troops to the Louisiana-Texas frontier to guard against supposed threats from the Cherokees, Caddos, and other East Texas tribes. Gaines believed that the presence of his troops would free up the Texans to fight the Mexicans if they did not have to worry about Indian attacks.

Andrew Jackson Houston Papers #520. Sam Houston to General Edmund Pendleton Gaines, August 29, 1836.

Sam Houston to General Gaines, 1836

Houston to Lenee, 1836

Houston authorizes Shawnee Rangers, 1836

The Shawnees were allies of the Cherokees and enjoyed a generally peaceful relationship with the Anglo Texans. Houston tried to recruit other Indian tribes to act in the policing of the territory.

Andrew Jackson Houston Papers #546. Sam Houston to John Linney, chief of one Shawnee village, September 18, 1836.

In This Section: Indians and the Texas Revolution - "The Raven" -
Indian Depredations - Foreign Influences
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Page last modified: September 20, 2011