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These accounts differ greatly in perspective: Cabeza de Vaca and his shipwrecked companions lived as captives among a succession of native groups in south Texas and along the coast.As a condition of his existence, he “became” a native, performing grueling labors alongside native women: grubbing for roots “from morning to night,” gathering plants and fruits, and scrounging for firewood.Metal points made of iron scrap found near the site of the circa 1820s Spanish post, Fort Lipantitlan.The site is near a crossing of the Nueces River historically known as campgrounds of Lipan Apache.Whether the points were made by the Indians, or by the Spanish to trade with the Indians, is not known. Native weapons, tools, and ornaments made of glass and metal provide tangible evidence of traditional technologies in transition, as Europeans began spreading their influence and goods across the coastal region.The Lipans were pushed southward by Europeans and other native groups; they, in turn, preyed on local coastal Indians. At left is a chipped-glass arrow point made from a Spanish wine bottle.
In more recent times, remnant groups of these longstanding cultures—the Atakapa, Akokisa, Karankawa, Mariames, Comecrudos, and others unnamed—were encountered by European explorers, soldiers, and missionaries.
Found in a Historic-period native campsite at Linn Lake in Victoria County, the artifact has been heavily weathered, causing the iridescent gold coloration known as patination. Shown in center is a necklace of European glass trade beads strung together with native shell ornaments, found in an early Historic native burial at the Mitchell Ridge Cemetery on Galveston Island. At right is a projectile point made from an iron keyhole escutcheon. When the waters of the Rio Grande reach their destination at the Gulf of Mexico, they have traveled over 1,800 miles from the snow melt high in the Rocky Mountains.
It was found at the Shanklin site in Wharton County, along with a silver Spanish piece of eight coin and a quantity of chipped-stone tools and native pottery. Throughout their journey, these waters provided a rich environment for the native peoples who occupied the river’s banks.
In the Mitchell Ridge cemetery site on Galveston Island, for example, we see not only early Historic period European objects, such as glass trade beads and mirrors, intermixed with traditional native objects, but also provocative bioarcheologcial evidence suggesting interbreeding among native and European populations. Louis near Victoria, there is evidence that the Karankawa killed the French colonists in 1689 but subsequently lived and traded among the Spanish at the presidio built over the same site a few decades later.
A number of archeologists and historians have specialized in the cultutural groups of the coastal region, and references to their work are provided below for further information.