Tonkawas photographed by Rhinehart in 1898. Standing L-R, Winnie
Richards, John Rush Buffalo, William Stevens, John Allen, and Mary Richards.
Seated L-R John Williams, Grant Richards, and Sherman Miles.
The Tonkawa belong to the Tonkawan
linguistic family, that was once composed of a number of small sub-tribes that
lived in a region that extended west from south central Texas and western Oklahoma
to eastern New Mexico. The Tonkawa had a distinct language, and their
name, as that of the leading tribe, was applied to their linguistic
family. They were one of the most warlike tribes during nearly two
centuries of conflict with their enemy tribes on the Western plains and
with the Spanish and, later, American settlers in the Southwest. Their men
were famous warriors, and their chiefs bore many scars of battle. The
Tonkawa women were also strong physically and vindictive in disposition.
The people of
this tribe were nomadic in their habits in the early historic period,
moving their tipi villages according to the wishes of the chiefs of the
bands. They planted a few crops, but were well known as great hunters of
buffalo and deer, using bows and arrows and spears for weapons, as well as
some firearms secured from early Spanish traders. They became skilled
riders and owned many good horses in the eighteenth century. From about
1800, the Tonkawa were allied with the Lipan Apache and were friendly to
the Texans and other southern divisions. By 1837, they had for the most
part drifted toward the southwestern frontier of Texas and were among the
tribes identified in Mexican territory.
The Tonkawa were
removed from Fort Griffin, Texas in October 1884 . . . they were transported
by railroad from a station in Cisco, Texas (A child born on the way was named
"Railroad Cisco"), to a temporary stop at the Sac-Fox Agency near Stroud,
Oklahoma. The entire Tribe wintered at the Sac-Fox Agency until spring, then
traveled the last 100 miles by wagon fording many rain swelled rivers and axle
deep mud caused by severe spring rains. They reached the Ponca Agency on June
29th, and then finally to "Oakland" on June 30th, 1885. This was the Tonkawa
"Trail of Tears"... a time in our history that should always be commemorated
lest we forget. The Tribe has changed the date of its annual Pow-Wow to
coincide with this historic date, therefore, the annual Tonkawa Pow-Wow will
hereafter be scheduled on the last weekend in June.