|Texas Historical Marker|
Among the first indians encountered in Texas by 16th and 17th century European explorers were the nomadic Karankawas, who lived along the coast from Galveston Bay to the Corpus Christi area. A primitive tribe, the Karankawas fished and gathered roots and cactus fruit for food. The men were usually tall and wore their hair long or braided with colorful bits of flannel and rattlesnake rattles. The women were shorter and stouter. The indians often smeared their bodies with alligator grease and dirt to repel mosquitoes.
At first friendly to Europeans, they later gained a reputation for savagery. Persistent reports that the Karankawas were cannibals may be traced to occasional ritualistic practices. Attempts by Spanish Franciscans to found missions for this coastal tribe were not successful. Never large in numbers, the Karankawa population dwindled as a result of diseases contracted from europeans.
During the 19th century, many of the indians were killed in warfare with Jean Lafitte's pirates and with Anglo-American colonists. Remaining members of the tribe fled to Mexico about 1843. Annihilation of that remnant about 1858 marked the disappearance of the Karankawa indians.
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