Twentieth-Century Texas: A Social and Cultural History

Twentieth-Century Texas: A Social and Cultural History



Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781574412451
Publisher: University of North Texas Press
Publication date: 02/15/2008
Pages: 488
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

John W. Storey is a regents professor of history at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. He is the author of Texas Baptist Leadership and Social Christianity and coauthor of Southern Baptists of Southeast Texas, The Religious Right, and Religion and Politics.

Mary L. Kelley is an associate professor of history at Lamar University and a Fulbright Scholar. She has published The Foundations of Texan Philanthropy and numerous scholarly articles. She is currently working on a volume about Texas women in the twentieth century.

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Twentieth-Century Texas

A Social and Cultural History

By John W. Storey, Mary L. Kelley

University of North Texas Press

Copyright © 2008 University of North Texas Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-57441-246-8


Manifestations of the Lone Star

The Search for Indian Sovereignty

Gerald Betty

In many ways the history of American Indians in the twentieth century is a departure from the narrative chronicling frontier trade relations, official government relations, physical competition for resources, military conquest, and enforced assimilation. Yet the history of American Indians during the twentieth century is also a continuation of the various themes that have always characterized their intense interaction with Euro-Americans. Tribes continue to have an economic relationship with outsiders and tribal sovereignty has been preserved, serving as the basis of self-government and tribal decisions. Although tribal peoples no longer face military conquest, numerous conflicts flare up from time-to-time with national and state governments, as well as with non-Indians living in their midst. Likewise, enforced assimilation ceased to be an official policy of the government over the course of the century. Nevertheless, assimilation has characterized American Indian history from the beginning and continues unabated to this day. This essay—focusing on the history of the three official Texas reservation tribes of the Alabama-Coushatta in the Big Thicket of Polk County, the Tiguas of Ysleta in El Paso, and the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe near Eagle Pass, as well as the so-called "urban Indians" from metropolitan areas throughout the state—shows how the experience of Indians in Texas during the twentieth century is at the same time a departure from and a continuation of the basic themes associated with American Indian history in general.

The dynamic course of Texas Indian history should be seen as a process of persistence and preservation rather than one of destructive change. Consider the case of the Alabama-Coushattas. Historians have noted the perseverance of these people in the face of processes that tend to erode the cohesiveness of tribal consanguinity. Today roughly 500 Alabama-Coushattas live on a reservation just to the east of Livingston in a wooded wilderness known as the Big Thicket. Another 500 or so live off the reservation. The isolated nature of the east Texas woods attracted the Alabama Indians and their Coushatta kinsmen from the Southeast sometime prior to 1805. The tribes are essentially branches of Creek Indians who speak a mutually intelligible Muskhogean dialect.

The Alabama-Coushattas were not the first Indians to have lived in the region that became Texas. The Tiwa-speaking Tigua Pueblo Indians of El Paso preceded the Alabama-Coushattas by over a hundred years. The Pueblo Indian ancestors of the 1,300 Tigua Indians presently living in El Paso originally lived near modern-day Albuquerque. After the outbreak of the Pueblo Indian Revolt in 1680, they joined fleeing Spanish refugees and settled at present-day Ysleta, Texas, named for their ancestral settlement of Isleta, New Mexico. Like the meanderings of the Rio Grande, the twentieth-century history of the Tiguas is characterized by many twists and turns, taking the tribe from the brink of extinction to an energetic expression of tribal sovereignty.

Many contemporary Texans have assumed that the Alabama-Coushattas and the Tiguas were the only Indians in Texas, but another tribe existed in the state by the turn of the twenty-first century. The least familiar of the state's three officially recognized tribes is the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas. The name "Kickapoo" is derived from the Algonquian ki-wika-pa-wa, meaning "he moves about, standing now here, now there." Kickapoos never stayed in one place too long. Since the 1600s various tribal factions made their way from the upper Great Lakes region to Kansas, Oklahoma, Mexico, and ultimately into Texas. Moving about is as much an expression of their ancestral tradition as their Algonquian language, and twentieth-century Kickapoos continue the search for sanctuary and sovereignty that began with the arrival of Europeans.

Numerous individuals representing tribes other than Alabama-Coushattas, Tiguas, and Kickapoos also began living in various metropolitan areas of Texas during the twentieth century. These "urban Indians" claimed official membership in various tribes from across the United States, and they appeared in Texas after World War II as a result of a federal program to move Indians from reservations to designated cities across the country. The Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex attracted many of them because of its designation as an official relocation site. By the end of the century, however, individuals of American Indian descent could be found living in almost all Texas cities. By founding intertribal organizations and holding powwow festivities across the state, these urban Indians gave rise to a new expression of American Indian identity in Texas.

All Indians have made some accommodation with the dominant culture. The Alabama- Coushattas, for instance, converted to Presbyterianism during the 1880s due to the tribe's increased interaction and intermarriage with local whites in southeast Texas and the efforts of Presbyterian missionaries, who founded a mission church and school among the tribe. By the turn of the century, all tribal members had embraced the Protestant religious and educational practices of southeast Texas.

The Tiguas experienced a similar transformation by the 1880s. Their pueblo of Ysleta had been incorporated as a town in 1880, and the tribe had intermarried with the local population. Although the Tiguas maintained their traditional tribal and clan structure, they had long ago abandoned their ancestral faith in favor of the Roman Catholicism of the early Spanish colonists of New Mexico. In 1895 the tribe adopted a constitution that preserved its Catholic traditions and tribal form of self-government. The Tiguas had become intimately integrated into the greater El Paso community by 1900, but they continued to express a traditional concern with various issues regarding their tribal sovereignty in relation to municipal organization.

The twentieth century began sorrowfully for the Tiguas when their ancient Spanish-mission church burned down in May 1907. By July 1908 a beautiful new church with a hand-carved altar had been built at the old location. The following year the El Paso Herald reported that the Indians conducted the tribe's annual Saint Anthony's Day celebration on June 13 with processions, tribal dances, "fire water," and war whoops. Tribal festivities resumed that autumn as the Indians held their annual celebration of the harvest. The Tiguas also participated in another series of elaborate tribal celebrations around Christmas time, and they held other dances associated with national holidays such as Independence Day. Despite the destruction of their church, the Tiguas persevered, determined to remain loyal to their ancestral traditions. This demonstrated the ongoing vibrancy of the tribe.

For the Alabama-Coushattas, school attendance and missionary activity introduced non-Indian behavior and activities that became closely associated with Alabama-Coushatta tradition. Basketball, for instance, became a favorite sport, Anglo-style clothing became common, the boys and men cut their hair short, and European surnames either acquired through intermarriage or based on the names of employers became widely accepted. As the early twentieth century progressed, the homes built on the reservation increasingly departed from the traditional log design in favor of frame houses. This all underscored not only the assimilation of the Alabama-Coushattas, but also the emergence of European-American practices as defining aspects of the tribe's subsequent culture.

The continued existence of the Alabama-Coushattas' tribal organization and reservation homeland owed a great deal to the efforts of community leaders in east Texas. James C. Feagin, a Livingston attorney, who feared that the tribe was in danger of extinction, campaigned tirelessly at the local, state, and national levels on behalf of the Alabama-Coushattas from 1896 until 1927. Feagin ultimately persuaded Congressman Samuel Bronson Cooper to sponsor bills in the U.S. House of Representatives granting the Indians 25,000 acres of land in east Texas, and he influenced the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to conduct a study exploring the status of the Indians. While the initial efforts of Feagin and Cooper failed in their immediate goal of providing the tribes with federal assistance, they nevertheless brought significant local, state, and national attention to the plight of the Alabama-Coushattas.

The campaign to secure official recognition and assistance from state and national governments finally succeeded after another Livingston attorney, Clem Fain, Jr., took up the cause. In 1927 Fain headed to Austin in search of direct aid and support for the Indians. The legislature created the new position of state Indian agent and appointed Fain to the post. He teamed up with the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs and conducted a statewide consciousness-raising campaign that culminated in an appearance by tribal representatives before the U.S. Congress. The delegation made a passionate appeal to the "Great White Chiefs" and the "Great White Father" to relieve their poverty and undernourishment. The Assistant Commissioner of Indian Affairs reported that it was his "opinion that if the American government owes anything to any Indians it is to the Alabama-Coushatti [sic] of Texas." Before returning to Texas the delegation had brief meetings with President Calvin Coolidge and other government officials, who all expressed sympathy for the Indians' case.

Based on the tribal testimony, Congress authorized a $102,000 appropriation for the Alabamas and Coushattas. Among other things, the money was to be used to purchase land and livestock, fund educational facilities, and supply medical aid. The bill also stipulated that the State of Texas assist in providing relief to the Indians. Thus, the state legislature earmarked an extra $40,000 for the tribe, providing funds for the building of homes, dental and medical services, and fencing material. The following year the state appropriated an additional $47,000 for the construction of a gymnasium, a hospital, a home for the tribe's agent, and the building of more modern homes for tribe members. By these measures the national and state governments effectively created a reservation of 4,315 acres for the Indians in Polk County and established an official trusteeship with both governments.

The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 restructured the Alabamas and Coushattas. This "Indian New Deal" transformed U.S. Indian policy and restored tribal sovereignty by permitting tribes to draft constitutions and bylaws, which made the tribes self-governing municipalities able to negotiate with local, state, and national governments. Essentially the act allowed the Alabama-Coushattas to establish a tribal constitution and thereby incorporate under a federal charter. The constitution limited tribe membership to individuals born of two Alabama-Coushatta parents, established a seven-member tribal council elected at large by tribe members, and preserved the traditional elected offices of principal chief and a second chief.

Although the state and federal governments did not extend the same official recognition to the Tiguas, the El Paso Indians sought to preserve their tribal status and autonomy as it related to the local and county governments. In 1934 the El Paso county attorney recommended that the Indians be allowed to vote without having to pay the poll tax, and individual Tiguas freely participated in that year's state primary election. But four years later a district court reversed this decision, concluding that the Indians were in fact subject to the poll taxes. The tribe ceremoniously expressed its autonomy in official fashion in June 1936 during "El Paso Day" at the Texas Centennial celebration in Dallas. On this occasion Tigua Chief Damasio Clomenero presented President Franklin Roosevelt with a traditional Tigua headdress and conferred the titles of "Honorary Cacique of the Tiguas" upon him and "Honorary Squaw" upon First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Expressing his gratitude, the president affixed the traditional headwear over his fedora.

The greatest threat to tribal sovereignty came in 1955 with the annexation of Ysleta by the city of El Paso. This development meant that individual tribal members would be subject to greater taxation. Since Spanish colonial times, the Ysleta Indians had been hostile towards outside taxes, claiming that a grant conferred by the Spanish king in 1751 exempted them from such collections. Nevertheless, Tigua families now not only owed city taxes, but also faced foreclosure on their property because of inability to pay. Despite this erosion of Tigua sovereignty at the local level, the Indians maintained their tribal organization and independent operation under their tribal constitution.

The Alabama-Coushatta tribe exercised its autonomy during this time by working towards the establishment of a tribal education system. The tribe organized a school district in 1932 and received $15,000 in appropriations for educational purposes. Tribal leaders served as the district school board, and they developed a curriculum that focused on English language skills, proficiency in elementary mathematics, vocational training for boys, and home economics for the girls. By 1940 the school offered nine grades of instruction, after which students could transfer to either Livingston High School or Indian schools in Oklahoma. During World War II, however, favorable economic conditions associated with wartime mobilization prompted many Indians to leave school for employment in the lumber and other local industries. Consequently, after the war the tribe merged its reservation school with the Big Sandy school district, a move that offered Indian students greater opportunities. Tribal enthusiasm for the Big Sandy school remained high throughout the late 1940s, as represented by the 94 percent attendance rate among Indians from 1945 to 1949. After 1950 more Alabama-Coushatta students began to attend schools in Livingston and Woodville to take advantage of a wider variety of courses and programs.

World War II had considerable impact on Indians all across the country. Military service helped many Texas Indians develop greater proficiency in English and become more acculturated to American society in general. The Alabama-Coushattas had demonstrated their loyalty before, during the Texas Revolution, the Civil War, and World War I, when half the male population of the tribe volunteered for duty. The United States did not accept reservation Indians for military service during World War I, but actively encouraged their enlistment during World War II. Many Alabama-Coushattas responded to the call, and 47 tribe members ultimately served in the armed forces with distinction in every theater of battle around the world. Other Alabama-Coushatta men left the reservation to search for war-related work in the surrounding communities, or in Houston and Dallas. And yet others contributed to the effort by buying war bonds in excess of the average American citizen.

The wartime experience profoundly affected many Alabama-Coushattas. Many returning veterans now found life on the reservation routine, dull, and unfulfilling. As a result, many Indian men sought opportunities elsewhere, either moving to the city, making a career of the military, or attending college. Unfortunately, there was also a negative aspect to the postwar era. Families broke apart as individuals left the reservation, and alcoholism and substance abuse became more widespread among tribe members.


Excerpted from Twentieth-Century Texas by John W. Storey, Mary L. Kelley. Copyright © 2008 University of North Texas Press. Excerpted by permission of University of North Texas Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     v
Introduction     1
Manifestations of the Lone Star: The Search for Indian Sovereignty   Gerald Betty     9
The Quest for Identity and Citizenship: Mexican Americans in Twentieth-Century Texas   Anthony Quiroz     41
The Struggle for Dignity: African Americans in Twentieth-Century Texas   Cary D. Wintz     69
From Farm to Future: Women's Journey through Twentieth-Century Texas   Angela Boswell     105
Pagodas amid the Steeples: The Changing Religious Landscape   John W. Storey     135
Over Here: Texans on the Home Front   Ralph A. Wooster     164
From Yellow Roses to Dixie Chicks: Women and Gender in Texas Music History   Gary Hartman     196
Goodbye Ol' Paint, Hello Rapid Transit: Texas Literature in the Twentieth Century   Mark Busby     220
Lone Star Cinema: A Century of Texas in the Movies   Don Graham     245
"Wider Than the Limits of Our State": Texas Art in the Twentieth Century   Michael R. Grauer     267
The Games Texans Play   Bill O'Neal     300
Private Wealth, Public Good: Texans and Philanthropy   Mary L. Kelley     324
Public Schools Come of Age   Gene B. Preuss     358
Lone Star Landscape: Texans and Their Environment   Tai Kreidler     387
The Second Texas Revolution: From Cotton to Genetics and the Information Age   Kenneth E. Hendrickson   Glenn M. Sanford     417
Contributors     443

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