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. A “Subject Guide to Native American Holdings at the Texas State Archives, about 1700-2004” is available in full online at: https://txarchives.org/tslac/finding_aids/90021.xml.

  • 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 ref@tsl.texas.gov or 512-463-5455.


Military Rolls Reflect Alliances Between American Indian Tribes and the Republic of Texas

By Caroline Jones, Reference Archivist

Some may be surprised to know that during the Republic of Texas era (1836-1845), American Indians served as Texas Rangers. Here at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC), we have military rolls for three American Indian units: Mounted Rangers 3rd Brigade, Texas Militia, commanded by James H. Durst; Company of Shawnee Indians, 3rd Brigade, Mounted, commanded by Panther; and volunteers (against Comanches) commanded by Lipan Apache Chief Castro. Letters from the Andrew Jackson Houston collection provide background and context for the arrangements.

Under a September 1836 agreement between President Sam Houston and the Cherokee and Shawnee chiefs, the tribes were to provide 25 rangers to patrol the northwest regions of their villages in order to keep members of the Caddo and Wichita tribes away. The Texas government would pay each ranger $10 a month and they would also be allowed to keep any goods they acquired from assaults on tribes that were considered “wild.” For others to distinguish these rangers from the “wild Indians,” they were instructed to wear a white feather on their head. Such arrangements are detailed in the letters of Sam Houston, part of our Andrew Jackson Houston collection at TSLAC. During the Second Congress of the Republic of Texas on June 12, 1837, lawmakers authorized the hiring of members of the Shawnee, Delaware, Cherokee and other tribes as scouts and spies for the Texas government.

Letter from Sam Houston to Captain of the Cherokee Rangers, September 23, 1836, authorizing him to recruit 25 Cherokees to range for $10 a month, Page 1. Document 548, Andrew Jackson Houston collection. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

At the age of 20, James H. Durst led a company of 58 Anglo-European and American Indian Texas Rangers into battle against the Cherokees. Durst’s unit of mounted Texas Rangers was mustered into service December 1, 1838 and mustered out January 25, 1839.  Durst is considered to be among the first official Texas Rangers.

Muster Roll of Capt. James Durst Company of Mounted Rangers. Durst, James H.–Mounted Rangers [3rd Brigade, Texas Militia]: [Indians] December 1, 1838-January 25, 1839, Republic of Texas Militia military rolls, Republic of Texas military rolls, Military rolls, Texas Adjutant General’s Department. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Within our Andrew Jackson Houston Collection, we have several letters between Sam Houston and young James H. Durst, his uncle John Durst, and his father Joseph Durst who was serving as Indian Commissioner at the time.

Letter from James Durst to Sam Houston regarding dealings with members of American Indian tribes. Document 2637, Andrew Jackson Houston collection. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

A leading member of the Shawnees, Captain Panther also led a unit of mounted Texas Rangers. They were mustered into service November 25, 1838 and mustered out January 25, 1839. Panther served alongside Durst and fellow Shawnee interpreter Spy Buck. These Shawnee mounted rangers were paid $25 a month, the same as other Texas Rangers. Panther was paid the same rate as other captains at $60 a month.

Panther–Company of Shawnee Indians [3rd Brigade] [mounted]: November 25, 1838-January 25, 1839, Republic of Texas Militia military rolls, Republic of Texas military rolls, Military rolls, Texas Adjutant General’s Department. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Castro’s volunteer unit of Lipan Apaches served between January 25 and February 25, 1839. The unit was organized specifically to fight against Comanches. Lipan Apaches were often involved in military campaigns of the Spanish, Mexican, Tejano, and Anglo groups. Castro and Lipan Apache Chief Flacco helped Captain James H. Moore destroy a Comanche village in 1840. The Lipan Apache had been pushed out of the Texas prairies by the Comanche and were seeking revenge.

Castro (Captain)–Indians who volunteered (against Comanches): January 25-February 25, 1839, Republic of Texas Militia military rolls, Republic of Texas military rolls, Military rolls, Texas Adjutant General’s Department. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

These are only a few examples of the complex relationship between local tribes and Texans during the Republic era. For more reading on American Indian Rangers and Texas politics, see the following list of resources available through TSLAC:

TITLE AUTHOR CALL NUMBER COLLECTION
The conquest of Texas : ethnic cleansing in the promised land, 1820-1875 Anderson, Gary Clayton 305.8 An235c Main (non-circulating)
The Armstrong chronicle : a ranching history Smith, Diane Solether 929.2 AR57S Main (non-circulating)
Indian exodus: Texas Indian affairs, 1835-1859 Neighbours, Kenneth F. 970.464 N316 Main (circulating)
Texas Indian papers Texas State Library. Archives Division. 970.5 T31 V.1-4 Main (circulating)
Tracking the Texas Rangers : the nineteenth century Glasrud, Bruce A. editor of compilation. Z N745.8 G463tr Texas Documents (circulating)
Savage frontier : rangers, riflemen, and Indian wars in Texas Moore, Stephen L. Z N745.8 M786SA V.1-2 Texas Documents (circulating)
Single star of the West : the Republic of Texas, 1836-1845 Howell, Kenneth Wayne Z N745.8 Si64 Texas Documents (circulating)

Andrew Jackson Houston collection legacy.lib.utexas.edu/taro/tslac/30197/tsl-30197.html

Texas Comptroller’s Office, Republic Claims Index: www.tsl.texas.gov/app/arc/repclaims/

“Native American Relations in Texas”: www.tsl.texas.gov/exhibits/indian/index.html

Outside Sources:

Hispanic and American Indian Texas Rangers: www.texasranger.org/texas-ranger-museum/researching-rangers/hispanic-and-american-indian-texas-rangers/

James H. Durst: tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fdu54

Chief Castro: tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fca92

Shawnee Indians: tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/bms25

Apache Indians: tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/bma33

Indians: tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/bzi04