Research Topics at the State Archives: Subject Guide to Native American Resources

Unidentified American Indian women. Richard Niles Graham Collection, 1964/306-301. Prints and Photographs Collection, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

The Texas State Archives maintains a wealth of material relating to the Native American peoples of Texas. The holdings, which range from the colonial era of Spanish rule during the eighteenth century through the years of the Republic and to the present day, depict the cultures and histories of those tribes which once resided, and in some instances still live, in Texas.

Rich collections such as the Nacogdoches Archives and the Texas Indian Papers provide narrative and statistical evidence concerning the encounters and varied relationships that colonists, settlers, and well-known historical figures had with the indigenous peoples of Texas. Other collections from the nineteenth century such as the Mirabeau B. Lamar Papers and the Andrew Jackson Houston Papers contain plentiful correspondence that details the differing perspectives of Mirabeau Lamar, Sam Houston, and other leaders concerning the status of Indians during and after the Republic.

Letter from Sam Houston to Captain of the Cherokee Rangers, September 23, 1836, authorizing him to recruit 25 Cherokees to range upon the Brazos, Page 1. Document 548, Andrew Jackson Houston collection, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Records produced by state agencies that provided economic and material aid to those tribes remaining in Texas following the nineteenth century are especially informative. The assistance provided by the State Board of Control and its successor, the Board for Texas State Hospitals and Special Schools, to help the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation gain economic sustenance and political control of their affairs from the early through the middle of the twentieth century is well documented, with correspondence and reports providing daily snapshots of the challenges and achievements stemming from this era.

Management of Native American reservations and other affairs in Texas during the later twentieth century can be found in the administrative, financial, and legal records of the Texas Indian Commission. The political emergence of the Tigua and Kickapoo Indians in Texas after decades of political neglect and administrative oversight, as well as the timely assistance provided to these tribes by the Commission, are just two of the compelling events recorded within the agency’s history.

Other collections in the State Archives provide records and materials that give glimpses into the cultures of the state’s tribes. One of the goals of the Texas Tourist Development Agency was to make various tourist attractions and facilities more widely known to the general population in and out of Texas; its visual records of Alabama-Coushatta and Tigua villages are instances of such an effort.
Tigua 0123, 1991/077-6, Audiovisual material, Texas Tourist Development Agency, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Another collection, the James L.D. Sylestine papers, contains considerable amounts of stories, legends, and songs from the Alabama and Coushatta tribes in both textual and audio form. Lastly, the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, a branch of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in Liberty, Texas, has a large collection of arrowheads and spear-points from tribes that once lived in southeastern Texas; there are also collections of handcrafts and baskets made by the nearby Alabama-Coushatta tribe.

These collections and others with entries in this guide are just some of the larger and well-known holdings in the State Archives pertaining to Native American tribes in Texas. Additional collections are available at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC), most available through this website, for those interested in accessing material not mentioned in this guide. A “Subject Guide to Native American Holdings at the Texas State Archives, about 1700-2004” is available in full online at

  • Artifacts at the Texas State Archives, pre-1900
  • Nacogdoches Archives, 1736-1838, bulk 1820-1836
  • The Indian Papers of Texas and the Southwest, 1825-1916, bulk 1838-1870
  • Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar papers, 1733-1859, bulk 1835-1841, 1857-1859
  • Andrew Jackson Houston papers, 1812-1941, bulk 1835-1859
  • Texas Secretary of State executive record books, 1835-1917
  • Texas Adjutant General’s Department biennial reports, 1870s-1880s
  • Captain John J. Dix papers, 1860-1928
  • Texas Department of Criminal Justice records, 1849-2004
  • James Ludwell Davis Sylestine papers, [17–]-1989, bulk 1900-1980s
  • Texas State Board of Control board members files, 1885-1890, 1917-1953, bulk 1920-1953
  • Texas State Board of Control building records and contracts, 1854, 1885, 1909-1949, 1967, undated, bulk 1920-1928
  • Texas Board for Texas State Hospitals and Special Schools records regarding Alabama-Coushatta Indians, 1938-1939, 1948-1965, bulk 1956-1964
  • Texas Indian Commission records, 1957-1989
  • Texas Department of Corrections photographs, about 1911-about 1985, undated, bulk about 1965-about 1980
  • Texas Secretary of State, Statutory Documents, deed files, 1848-1994, bulk 1928-1963
  • Texas Tourist Development Agency audiovisual material, about 1963-1987
  • Texas Historical Commission, Marketing Communications Division records, 1955-1998, 2002, undated
  • Texas Governor George W. Bush General Counsel’s legal opinions and advice, 1995-2000
  • Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center (SHRLRC) holdings related to Native Americans, about 10,000 BCE – 2000 CE, bulk about 10,000 BCE – 1800 CE

For more information about the holdings at the State Archives and conducting research in our collections, contact the Reference Desk at or 512-463-5455.

“Wish You Were Here!” Exhibit Opens at Sam Houston Center

The Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center presents the exhibit, “Wish You Were Here!” now on display in the Center’s museum. “Wish You Were Here!” highlights historic Southeast Texas vacation spots, industry, culture and recreational opportunities through a selection of postcards, tourism publications and historic documents curated from the research collections.

Among other sources, the exhibit pulls from the substantial Don Kelly Southeast Texas Postcard Collection, which covers almost the entirety of the 20th century and features visual documentation of the Southeast Texas oil refineries, architecture, rivers, railroads and much more.

An illustration of the front of the Pleasure Pier amusement complex in Port Arthur, located on Lake Sabine. The pier is pictured as completed, even though it was unfinished at the time of publication. 1991.183-964, Don Kelly Southeast Texas postcard collection. Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Postcards promoted tourist attractions in the region and tell us about what appealed to those seeking leisurely adventure at a particular moment in time. Pleasure Pier in Port Arthur entertained visitors to the Gulf Coast and became a hot-spot for the local young people after the Pleasure Pier bridge was constructed in 1931. The amusements included a roller coaster, midway games and a dance hall with live music.

A color-added photograph of the Jefferson Theatre in Beaumont. 1991.183-236, Don Kelly Southeast Texas postcard collection. Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Built in 1927, Beaumont’s historic Jefferson Theater was the site of a world premier of the film “It’s a Wonderful Life” twenty years later. The lovely theater is still in operation and stands as an impressive reminder of the glamorous era of film in the United States.

Sour Lake’s springs and hotel were a draw because of the purported health benefits of the sulphur in the water. The sulphur was also an indicator of oil in the area and the petroleum industry transformed the community into a boomtown in the early 1900s.

A photograph of Springs Hotel in Sour Lake. 1991.183-1384, Don Kelly Southeast Texas postcard collection. Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Postcards and promotional materials contribute to our material culture and reveal how people interacted with their environment and each other. Visit “Wish You Were Here!” for a fascinating view of the past.

A component of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC), the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center houses local government records, rare books, manuscripts, archival materials, photographs and other media formats covering a wide range of Southeast Texas history. In addition to the archives and museum, four historic buildings and the Jean Price Daniel Home and Archives are located on the Center’s grounds. Museum hours are Tuesday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit for more information.

Margaret Lea Houston’s Summer Spread

Summer spread, by Margaret Lea Houston, ca. mid-19th century [Cotton textile, 98 x 80 1/4. 1983.125.0007, Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center, TSLAC].

Margaret Lea Houston, the wife of famed Texas politician and war hero Sam Houston, is thought to have sewn this lightweight “summer spread” decorated with imagery from the   Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Similar to a quilt but without the batting, the spread consists of 45 hexagonal blocks and measures 80 1/4 x 98 inches long. Art historian Lynne Adele analyzed the imagery and determined that, since some of the symbols were removed from the Fraternal Order in 1880, the spread was made before that year.

Imagery included on the spread are a lamb, symbolizing innocence; three links of chain, indicating friendship, love, and truth; and the sun, representing God and the soul. The heart on the palm of the hand symbolizes sincerity and the cornucopia, abundance.

Close-up of  imagery used on the summer spread. Here we see the lamb, the chain links of truth, love, and friendship, and a bow and quiver. Edges of the hexagonal blocks are visible.

The interest in the Odd Fellows symbolism is unclear, as Sam Houston was a member of another fraternal organization, the Freemasons. The provenance of the spread has been attributed to Margaret through family history and now belongs to TSLAC’s Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center in Liberty, TX. Visitors to the Center may view the spread on display as part of a new museum exhibit through December 2018.

For more information on fraternal symbols in art, see the book As Above, So Below: Art of the American Fraternal Society 1850/1930 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2015) by Lynn Adele.

Sam Houston Center Grand Reopening

The grand reopening of our museum at the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center was June 9, and we were so happy to celebrate this wonderful new space and its exhibit showcasing the history of Southeast Texas with so many members of the community. Here are some photos of the event, and some before and after shots to show the amazing transformation of the museum. Thank you to everyone who came out! And if you haven’t made the trip to Liberty to see the new exhibit, we hope you’ll visit soon!

For more information on the SHC click here.

Texas State Library and Archives Commissioner Sharon Carr welcomes the crowd to the grand reopening of the SHC museum.

Continue reading

Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center Museum Renovation Celebration

A component of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center in Liberty, Texas will hold a ribbon-cutting to celebrate the opening of its renovated museum on June 9, 2018. The new exhibit, Atascosito: The History of Southeast Texas traces the development of the 10-county area from prehistoric times to the modern age and is the centerpiece of the celebration. The exhibition chronicles the history of the region through dynamic displays of artifacts, photographs, and historical documents that are part of the Center’s collections. Find out more and let us know you are coming by clicking on the link below!

Celebration Invitation