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The Jumano Indians

Patarabuay Indians, Otomoacas,

By R. E. Moore


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Thank you for Dr. Hickerson. You helped me when I had the stroke. It meant a lot to call me. Thanks, R E Moore

   "The Jumanos", by Hickerson, the best book available on the Jumano. Hickerson brings many sources together and updates them. The book to have on the Jumano.

There are many opinions and much conflicting information out there about the Jumano. Because of this any article on the Jumano should pay attention source material used. Here is why. Although many of the older sources are pretty good, many of the OLDER sources contain erroneous and outdated material. These older sources were doing the best they could with the information they had to work with and much of what is in them is still valuable. The only comprehensive up to date source on the Jumano I know of is the book, "The Jumanos", by Nancy Hickerson, University of Texas Press. Hickerson does a good job of putting the older information in a new perspective and sorting out and eliminating conflicting data. Serious students would do better to read Hickerson first, then read the older sources with Hickerson’s new material in mind.

The Jumanos themselves are another source of confusion. There were at least three distinct groups of Jumanos each living in a different region. One core area was along the Rio Grande and Rio Concho rivers in West Texas, in Old Mexico and in New Mexico. Another core region was on the Southern Plains. The third area is less know and was between these Rio Grande and the plains. All three of these groups seemed to travel around a lot and cover long distances. The Spanish would find visiting west Texas Jumanos in central Texas and write about them as though they lived in central Texas. Lastly, the Jumano wore tattoos. So any tattooed Indians the Spanish came across might be called a Jumano, even if they were not Jumanos. Many other Texas Indian tribes tattooed themselves. Trying to sort out who was where, doing what and when from old Spanish records is hard.

The only eye witness sources of information on the Jumano we have comes from old Spanish accounts. Many of these accounts are incomplete. Others have only just recently been discovered and used. Many of the older translations had flaws in them. It has taken several generations of scholars studying these materials to finally reconstruct the history of the Jumanos we have now. But there is still a great deal that needs to be done so expect more changes as more scholars do more work on this subject.

Puebloan Jumanos

The Rio Grande branch of the Jumanos were Puebloan Indians and they lived in Puebloan style villages. The Pueblos along the Rio Grande north and south of modern El Paso from the Tompiro Pueblo down to La Junta and smaller villages along the Rio Concho in Old Mexico formed the core area of historic Jumano culture. These are the Puebloan Jumanos.

They are called Puebloan because the houses and buildings they lived in are called Pueblos. A Pueblo is like a big apartment building. Most have two or more stories. The walls are usually made from large mud bricks called adobe bricks. If the right kind of rock is available, many Pueblos would build rock walls. The rooms are small by our modern standards. A whole family would live in one room. All the people in a Pueblo are like one big family. They share most everything. All of the farming and building is done by the community as a whole. See the Tigua page for more about Jumano Pueblos and Puebloan Indians.

One of the first contacts between the Jumano and the Spanish was with the explorer Espejo in 1582. He found a large village at the mouth of the Concho River where it ends at the Rio Grande River. He called this village La Junta. La Junta is not one village. La Junta is actually a group of several villages close to one another.

The Spanish called these Indians at La Junta the Patarabuays. This name was first used by Spanish slave raiders. Patarabueys seems to refer to all the Indians of this region including the Jumanos. There were two or more languages spoken at La Junta indicating two separate cultures.

The Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca was the first European to reach the La Junta villages some time around 1530, but he did not record what he saw there very well. The Spanish slave raiders came next, but did not leave any records of their trips. The next official Spanish expedition was Espejo in 1582. The Indians of La Junta were afraid of Espejo at first thinking he was a slave raider. They told Espejo about Cabeza de Vaca and Estiban whom they still remembered.

Espejo says there were two groups of Indians living in several villages at La Junta. He found two languages, maybe three. One group was the Otomoacas and the other was the Abriaches. The Otomoacas were the Indians we now call Jumanos. The Abriaches were close friends of the Otomoacas, but spoke a different language. The Abriaches may have been Concho Indians.

The Concho Indians and the Jumano were close friends and neighbors. The last of the Conchos probably joined the Jumanos around 1700.

The now extinct Pueblos of the Piro and Tompiro Pueblos (see the map) on the Rio Grande north of El Paso were probably Jumano as well. Spanish colonial records identify several Pueblos near Gran Quivera as Jumano Pueblos. Their names were Pataotzei, Genobey, and Cueloce. Cueloce is probably Gran Quivera. The Spanish called Gran Quivera Las Humanas or The Humans. Gran Quivera is where the Tigua Indians of El Paso say their ancestors lived. Any student of the Jumanos should read the Tigua page too.

Tigua Map

These Puebloan Jumano were descendants of the older Mogollon culture of southern New Mexico.

All of these Jumano and Tigua Pueblos spoke a form of the Tiwa language. Tigua is pronounced Tiwa in Spanish. Tiwa is in the Tanoan language group. There are three other Tanoan languages that are important to us. Tewa and Towa and Kiowa-Tanoan. Tewa and Towa are/ were Spoken by other Pueblos. Kiowa -Tanoan is spoken by the Kiowa Indians in the Texas Panhandle. Nancy Hickerson says the Kiowa Indians may be a remnant of the Plain's Jumano and I agree.

These are a lot of different Pueblos and villages spread over such a large area. What this means is that the Jumano were probably a number of independent Pueblos and villages who shared a common culture and language.

Think of the Americans, Canadians and English who all speak English and share a similar culture. American, Canada and the England are separate countries with each having its own government. They all speak the same language and share the same basic culture, and they are close friends, but each is different. The Jumano Pueblos were the same culture, but with separate governments.

These Puebloan Jumanos were farmers who grew corn, beans and squash for food. They made pottery to store food and seeds in. WWW.Texas They also had cotton and they wove cotton cloth for clothes and blankets.

Espijo says they went naked most of the time, but wore blankets when it got colder. They were tattooed over most of their bodies. The men shaved their heads except for one place right at the top of their head. Here the hair grew long and the men would tie a feather to this long hair.

They would travel long distances to trade. The Spanish explorer de Leon found Jumanos from west Texas in San Marcos Texas, at a trade camp there in 1697.

As their success as farmers grew so did the population. At some time around the year 1000, some of the Jumanos left this old homeland and moved east and north. More followed over the years. Eventually they settled over a large area. This area includes the Texas panhandle and goes over to near Dallas, south to Waco and maybe even to near Austin. These Jumanos are called the Plains Jumanos to distinguish them from the Pueblo Jumanos who lived along the Rio Grande.

Plains Jumanos

The next important group of Jumanos were the Plains Jumano. The plains Jumano did not live in Pueblo style houses. They may have been semi sedentary. Semi sedentary people live for a while in one place and may farm there. But they move on to a new place after the growing season is over. When they move they become hunter gatherers. The Plains Jumano certainly hunted buffalo and moved to follow the herds. The Plains Jumano probably lived in tee -pees like the other nomadic Southern Plains tribes did. Look on the Jumano map for the villages symbol to see a couple of places where Plains Jumano had villages.

The Plains Jumano were in a central crossroads territory between two highly developed cultures. To the east were the Caddo tribes in East Texas and Oklahoma. These Caddo tribes were part of the larger Southeastern Indian culture and traded with the Mississippian tribes north and east of them. To the west of the plains Jumano were the Puebloan tribes living in New Mexico and in northern Old Mexico. Living between such rich and well developed tribes put them in a position to act as middle men in trading goods between these areas. Because of this the Jumano were known as traders. Jumano traders would carry goods in large baskets on their backs and on dogs with packs and travois from one side of the plains to the other. This trade area covered a large part of central Texas and the Pan Handle of Texas. This trade must have been pretty substantial because old Caddo Indians still remembered it a hundred years later. French traders say that old Caddo Indians in eastern Oklahoma would talk about how their grandfathers once traded with the people who lived far to the west in New Mexico and about the friendly tribe of traders who once lived between them and the people to the west. They then told about the hostile people who had moved into that area and drove the friendly tribe out, stopping the trade. The friendly tribe was probably the Jumano and the hostile tribe was certainly the Apaches.

When the Spanish explorers first came they found well used trails that were probably made and used by these Jumano traders. These trails were used by the Jumano and other Indian tribes for trade. The old Camino Real road in central Texas is an old Indian trade route later used by the Spanish. "Camino Real" is Spanish for "The King’s Highway" It goes from northern Mexico up to San Antonio to New Braunfels, and San Marcos. It then turns east to Bastrop and goes to Nacogdoches in East Texas.

Finding these old Indian/Spanish trails would be a good project for older kids if one is near you. Ask the local historical society for help. If you come up with anything let us know and we may publish it here.

The Jumano were probably taking Bois de Arc wood bows made by the Caddo from eastern Oklahoma and Texas to the Pueblos in New Mexico. Buffalo skins and meat would also have been a good trade item. The New Mexico Pueblos had valuable trade goods to send east. They had obsidian for making very sharp tools and maybe some turquoise. They also had salt to trade.

Painted Pueblo pottery from New Mexico is found across the plains over to Arkansas and up into Kansas. The Jumano would take these Puebloan goods east to trade with the Caddo. The Plains Jumano were probably the go betweens between the Caddo on the East and the Puebloan Jumano on the west.

The arrival of the Apache about 1525 put an end to much of this trade. The Apache conquered the plains Jumano and drove them farther and farther south out of the Pan Handle and out of the northern part of central Texas.

We have to guess about the Plains Jumano’s political organization. The way they are described makes them sound like they had a band level of organization, not a tribe. This would mean they had no chiefs. They may have been true tribes, but we do not know. If you do not know what I am talking about see the "Read Me First" page about tribes and bands. .If you want to find out for sure then become and archeologist when you grow up and find out. Be sure to tell the rest of us when you do.

There are also Plains Jumanos living in the area of west Texas east of the Pecos river in the region near and in southeastern New Mexico. We know little about them. They were probably more like the Plains Jumanos than the Pueblo Jumanos. About all we know is that various Spanish expeditions found them here.

The Jumanos were a complex group of cultures. They are all gone now. Why they disappeared is one of the great unanswered questions in Texas history. All that we know about them indicates they were quite adaptable. Why did they disappear? They were certainly hurt badly by the Spanish occupation and take over of their lands. Many died of European diseases. Others were killed fighting off the Spanish invaders. The Plains Jumano were pushed south and west out of their territory by the Apache. But none of this explains why such a large group of Native Americans vanished so quickly. The last records of them are from the mid 1700s in west Texas.

NEWS FLASH!!! I just got an e-mail from a Jumano Indian!!! They are still here! Check this out.

"Jose A. Acosta"

From: "Jose A. Acosta"

Subject: re: Jumano descendants

Date: Thu, 10 Dec 1998 14:16:13 -0600

Greetings from West Texas; My name is Jose A Acosta, or Temach-tiani. I am a descendant of the Pueblo Jumanos that lived in the region of Presidio/Redford Tx, and Ojinaga Chih. Mexico, not the El Paso region where Suma (enemies and sometimes friends) of the Jumanos lived. It was a great pleasure reading your article. And as you stated, much work is still left to be done. Currently another relative of ours in the region is helping on archaeological work in Redford at one of the oldest missions in the USA. The Jumano descendants filed for federal recognition and Native American status in 1996 and is still pending at the BIA. We are proud of our heritage, however to say we simply vanished is not true. The late Dr Charles Kelley always stated that to see Jumanos, "go to West Texas and Big Bend and look up names like Acosta, Lujan, Carrasco, Levario, Bustamante, Zubiate, Hernandez, Mendoza, etc. to see the descendants" We are still here. A good page with limited info is but a good pic is there of Jumanos. My page has many good Native Links and is to be found at Currently the Jumano Tribe as it is known today and the Jumano descendants are putting our home page together. Watch for it real soon. Also we are staying in contact with the Cohuiltecan group that also filed for recognition status. Some say they are extinct also, but one need only look at the people of South Texas and see the descendants of this group. On file we have records from Spanish, Texas, and American accounts to prove our ancestory. In one 1750's census, many of the above mentioned names are already showing up at the missions. Anyway Thanks; Please stay in contact and keep up the great job....Anything I may help with let me know.

Jose A Acosta

Jumano Tribe

2707 Redwood

Odessa TX 79762


Check out some Indian rock art from the homeland of the Jumano.  Here is a link to the Rock Art Foundation web site.

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Copyright by R Edward. Moore and Texarch Associates, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2012 all rights reserved. Graphics may not be used or reproduced without prior permission. Short parts of text may be quoted in school reports. Longer quotes require prior written permission.






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