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Focus on the American Indian

People have lived in the Texas Panhandle for the past 14,000 years. In this lesson, students will become engaged with the people of the past by learning who they were, how they met their most basic needs and what the evidence they left behind tells us about their lives.

Lesson plan developed and written by Windsor Elementary, AISD Teacher, Tim Bryant
Introduction written by Millie Vanover, PPHM Research Assistant.

INTRODUCTION

TEKS ALIGNMENT

BIBLIOGRAPHY
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Introduction
People have lived in the Texas Panhandle for the past 14,000 years. This is based on archeological evidence. Three main stages of prehistoric cultural development is recognized. These stages are called:
  • Paleoindian Stage – 12,000 - 5,000 BC
  • Archaic Stage – 5,000 BC – AD 1
  • Late Prehistoric Stage – AD 1 – AD 1541

Paleoindian Stage:

This was a time when the climate was cool and moist and bands of hunters roamed the plains by foot searching for big game such as mastodon, mammoth, giant bison, camel, and bear. They hunted these giant animals with spears tipped by large, lanceolate dart points called Clovis Points. A few simple stone and bone implements are associated with these early people. During the progression of this stage other objects such as bone needles, bone beads, and grinding stones have been found associated with these early paleo people. This stage ended as the climate began to get warmer and drier and the herds of the big animals dwindled to extinction.

Archaic Stage:

A long dry period caused by Altithermal climate is associated with this stage. The Early Archaic stage has little archeological evidence to be found in the Panhandle. Because of the drought it is believed that many Archaic people moved into more appealing areas. Most of the Archaic people seem to have lived in small open campsites near water sources. Because of the drought, animals appear to have been scarce during this hot, dry time. This is shown by the scarcity of dart points found in Archaic sites. The people who stayed around the water sources such as the Canadian River during this stage probably survived on desert-like plants and animals. Overall, the archeological evidence suggests that people largely abandoned the High Plains uplands in early Archaic times.

During the latter half of the Archaic there was a cooling period and people returned to the area. Many small and large campsites can be found throughout the Panhandle region. The bison became more numerous. Several late Archaic bison kill sites have been recorded in the Texas Panhandle. Numerous stone and bone tools such as dart points, knives, scrapers, and grinding slabs are associated with late Archaic sites. There is evidence these people hunted bison and other animals and gathered foodstuffs such as fruit, beans, and seeds.

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Late Prehistoric Stage:

This stage started about AD 1, and ended in 1541 when the Spanish expedition led by Vasquez de Coronado explored the Panhandle region. These late Prehistoric Indians were hunters and gatherers, and they also developed into farmers who grew crops such as corn, beans, and squash to supplement their diet. As horticultural activities increased, the groups became more sedentary, their populations expanded, and the open camps of earlier days were replaced by large permanent villages.

During the first 1,000 years the Late Prehistoric stage is characterized by the presence of pottery and small arrow points. During this stage Indians hunted bison and other smaller animals, many of which require a moister climate than the Archaic stage.

The best known culture is the Antelope Creek people who lived in the Texas Panhandle during the latter years of the Late Prehistoric Stage. The homesteads, hamlets, and villages of the complex are especially numerous in the middle part of the Canadian River Breaks. Carbon dating shows these people lived in the area between the years AD 1200-1500. The Antelope Creek people were farmers, hunters, and miners. They raised crops, hunted bison and other game, and mined Alibates flint. They were prolific tool makers, probably using the flint and tools as trade items. Since the flint was traded far and wide, this culture was enriched by social contact with many other cultures. Many trade items such as turquoise, obsidian, pottery, and shells can be found in these archeological sites.

What happened to the Antelope Creek people is unknown, but their villages had been abandoned by the time Coronado reached the area in 1541. Possibilities are drought, change in subsistence strategy, or pressure from the encroaching Apaches.

Historic Stage:

In 1541 when Coronado’s expedition arrived in the Texas Panhandle, he described people living in what is now the south plains area. He called these people Querechos who have been identified as Apaches. These Indians were described as nomadic “cow” hunters (the Spanish had never seen bison), people who lived in skin tents, and used dogs to pull their possessions as they followed the herds. Apaches dominated the Southern Plains by the end of the 1500s.

The Comanches are a Shoshonean people who migrated from the northwest onto the Southern Plains. The word Comanche is believed to come from a Ute word meaning “someone who wants to fight with me all the time.” By the mid-1700s the Comanches had driven the Apache tribes south out of the Texas Panhandle and the Llano Estacado. Soon the entire area was called “Comancheria.” Soon after the Comanches moved into the area, the Kiowa tribe migrated into the region. The Comanche and Kiowa fought over the bison range until they decided to become friends instead of enemies. This friendship would last for over 100 years.

The Comanche and Kiowa tribes ruled the Panhandle area until the mid-1870s when white bison hide hunters invaded the land killing thousands of bison, removing their hides, and leaving the rest of the bison to rot on the plains. This hide-tanning business was the beginning of the end for the Indian tribes in the Texas Panhandle. By 1876 the Comanche and Kiowa tribes were placed by the US military on reservations in Indian Territory, what is now Oklahoma.

TEKS Alignment

  • SS 4.1A (Describe the region in which Native Americans lived.)
  • SS 4.7B (Describe regions in Texas … that result from physical characteristics.)
  • SS 4.8 D (Explain the geographic factors ... that influence settlement)
  • SS 4.9A (Describe ways people have adapted to and modified their environment.)
  • SS 4.9B (Identify reasons people have adapted to and modified their environment)
  • SS 4.10 A (Explain the economic patterns of … Native Americans.)
  • SS 4.22 A (Differentiate and use primary sources.)
  • SS 4.22 B (Analyze information by categorizing, relationships, comparing, and contrasting.)
  • SS4.23 A (Use social Studies terminology correctly.)
  • SS 4.23C (Express ideas orally based on research and experiences.)
  • SS 4.23 D (Create visual material.)
  • ELA 4.1 C (understand the major ideas and supporting evidence in spoken messages.)
  • ELA 4.2D (Monitor his/her own understanding of the spoken message and seek clarification as needed.)
  • ELA 4.5B (demonstrate effective communications skills that reflect such demands as reporting and providing information.)
  • ELA 4.21A (Frame questions to direct research.)
Bibliography
Lewis, Willie Newbury, Between Sun and Sod, Texas A&M University Press, College Station, 1976.

Rathjen, Frederick W., The Texas Panhandle Frontier, Texas Tech University Press, 1973.

Speer, Roberta D., Culture History of Prehistoric Indians of the Texas Panhandle Region, unpublished paper.
www.texasbeyondhistory.net


Sources for word definitions:

1. artifact. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved July 03, 2009, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/artifact


Sources for photos:

Clovis Point - Courtesy of PPHM Archeology Department

Bison Hide Hunters - Courtesy of Kansas State Historical Society

Sources from the art collection at Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Canyon, Texas:

Ben Carlton Mead, Coronado's Coming, oil on canvas glued to wall (mural), 1934.

Ben Carlton Mead, Antelope Creek Focus, oil on canvas glued to wall (mural), ca. 1940.

H.D. Bugbee, Kiowas Hunting Buffalo, oil on canvas glued to wall (mural), 1957.

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