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.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/texasstatearchives/35734347111/in/album-72157683441901183/
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.

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

A “Subject Guide to Native American Holdings at the Texas State Archives, about 1700-2004” is available in full online at: https://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/taro/tslac/90021/tsl-90021.html#series1. For more information about the holdings at the State Archives and conducting research in our collections, contact the Reference Desk at ref@tsl.texas.gov or 512-463-5455.


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