The Karankawa were tall and athletic with a special affinity for living on the islands and lower waterways along the Texas coast. The heavily tattooed, pierced, and painted nomadic Karankawa tribe were superb hunters, fisherman, warriors and longbow archery experts, they were a powerful enemy to anyone wishing to take their prime hunting grounds away. They were said to cover themselves with alligator grease to repel mosquitoes, which made them smell very bad.
They traveled between the various islands and bays in dugout canoes made from large trees. These canoes often extended 20 feet with a crude appearance, remaining bark covered and hewn flat on one side and blunted on each end. From these vessels, the Karankawa traveled the river bottoms and shallow lagoons in search of food.
Evidence suggests that the Karankawa practiced ceremonial cannibalism. They would lash a captive to a stake and, dancing around the stake, they would dart in, slice off a piece of flesh with a sharp blade, then roast it in front of the victim, in an already prepared campfire. Then they would devour it, as the victim watched.
By the year 1850, the Karankawas had all disappeared. Spanish slave traders, disease, harsh treatment, and war with the French all contributed to the total destruction of their culture.
More information on the Karankawa
Karankawa Tribe near Goliad
Ennis Joslin Indian Burial Ground
Indian Burial Ground (Dietz Archeological Site)