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A frontier is a transition zone between two regions, between two areas with different cultures. For the European invaders in North America, the frontier represented the transition between civilization—defined by European languages, governments, and religion—and barbarism—defined by the pagan and incomprehensible Native American cultures. For the English colonists in North America, the frontier was a broad line running north-south and for the English the frontier was always to the west. In New Spain, however, the frontier was to the north. For the colonial Spanish, one of the frontier zones was the area that is today known as Texas.

For the Spanish, the northern frontier of Texas was an area that had to be civilized through the conversion of Native peoples to Catholicism either by persuasion or by force of arms. From 1673 until 1728 Catholic missionaries worked in Texas, establishing missions and seeking converts.

In 1673, in response to what was viewed as a request for Christian missionaries by the Coahuiltecan, the Franciscans sent Fray San Buenaventura and a force of ten soldiers north from Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe in Coahuila north across the Rio Grande. When the expedition returned, Fray San Buenaventura recommended that the Spanish establish three missions among the Coahuiltecan and that each mission be protected by a presidio (fort) of not less than 70 soldiers.

In 1675, Spanish explorers, including a group of Franciscans, traveled northward from Eagle Pass to present-day Edwards County. They encountered three tribes and noted that smallpox had already decimated tribal numbers. Some of the tribes were hunting buffalo and making jerky.

In 1683, Jumano chief Juan Sabeata led a multi-tribal delegation to El Paso to speak with Spanish state and church officials. Sabeata was appointed to the position of gobernador by the Spanish. Juan Sabeata told the Spanish about the thirty-some tribes to the east, including the “Great Kingdom of the Texas” (the Caddo).  

In response to the request by Jumano leader Juan Sabeata the Spanish sent out an expedition to explore the Nueces River country, to learn about the Jumano and other Indian nations in the territory, and to bring back specimens of the pearls which were reported to be there. The Franciscan missionaries Nicolás López and Juan Zavaleta were in charge of the religious aspects of the expedition. The expedition turned back after reaching the Colorado River of Texas and having been attacked several times by the Apache.

In 1690, Fray Francisco Casañas de Jesus María founded a mission on the banks of the Neches River. The mission was named Santísimo Nombre de María and was intended to convert the Hasinai (Caddo).

Three years later, the Spanish missions and presidios in east Texas were abandoned because of lack of cooperation among the Caddo tribes in the area. One Hasinai medicine man convinced the people that baptism waters could be fatal. The Spanish priests found that the Caddo refused to believe in one god, but insisted that there were two: one who gave clothing, knives, hatchets, and other things to the Spanish; and one who gave corn, beans, acorns, nuts, and rain to the Indians.

At San Francisco de los Tejas the Spanish buried heavy objects, such as canons and bells, and then burned the mission. For several days, the Caddo followed the retreating Spanish at a distance to make sure they were really leaving. Four soldiers, however, deserted the Spanish to join the Caddo. Back at the mission, the soldiers showed the Indians where the heavier objects were buried.  

In 1715, the Spanish decided to re-occupy east Texas and established four missions among the Indians.

The following year, a Spanish missionary party of 75 people, including six Querétan missionaries, reached the site of the abandoned Mission of San Francisco de los Texas. Four leagues inland from this site they established the Mission of San Francisco de los Neches. This mission was intended to serve the Neches, Nabedache, Nacogdoches, and Nacono.

Eight or nine leagues northeast of the new mission, they established another mission for the Hainai which was called the Mission of Nuestra Señora de la Purisima Concepción.

A third mission, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, was established for the Nacogdoche and Nacao. A fourth mission, San José de los Nazones, was established for the Nasoni and Nadaco.

In 1718, the Franciscans moved their mission from Eagle Pass to San Antonio where it became known as San Antonio de Valero.

In 1722, the Spanish established a fort, La Bahía, and the mission of Espíritu Santo de Zuñiga in Karankawa territory.

Four years later, the Spanish moved the Franciscan mission of Espíritu Santo de Zuñiga to the lower San Antonio River in Aranama territory.

In 1728, the Spanish sent General Pedro de Rivera to inspect the Indian missions. He reported:

“there was not a single Indian at San Miguel de los Adaes; at Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Nocagdoches, although there were many Indians, industrious and well-disposed, they were all still heathens; at three missions, Nuestra Señora de la Concepción, San Francisco de los Neches, and San José de los Nazones, there were no Indians at all, with little hope of ever getting any.”
In other words, the Spanish missionary efforts to convert the Indians accomplished very little.  
Cross Posted from
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Originally posted to Native American Netroots on Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 08:43 AM PST.

Also republished by History for Kossacks, Street Prophets , and Invisible People.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Well I don't know about Texas per se, (11+ / 0-)

    but I can tell you that the missionaries won out in NM. Every pueblo has a catholic church and the residents practice catholicism with touches of their native beliefs leftover under the oversight of the priests.  Some pueblos still have kivas where native rituals are practiced, but everyone still goes to Mass too.

    On one pueblo we visited, the tour guide told how the catholic church was built in the 1500's (est).  Natives were told to either carry the logs to build it over many many miles or have their arms chopped off.

    The massive destruction of the native cultures not only in the American Southwest, but all over the world is just another notch in the belt of the RCC that makes the Crusades pale in comparison.  It breaks my heart to see my native american friends practicing catholicism because I know the history of how they got there.

  •  Very informative diary (6+ / 0-)

    It is sad but informative. I have lived most of my adult life in southern and central Utah. The encounter for indigenous cultures there was pretty typical.Having lived there I got a little different take on things.
    There are hardly any people there. A lot of places you can get a few miles off the highway and you would think people never existed, until you look closer.
    There are signs of pre-Columbian culture everywhere. If you look enough you begin to develop an understanding of that culture. I am not talking about Discovery channel understanding here. Intuitive understanding.
    The signs of habitation date back to the late Pleistocene, I personally think earlier than that. It is absolutely amazing and a true gift.
    What I came to realize is that these were the true human beings. Their priorities were very simple. Warmth, food,  water, shelter and protecting your family was all that mattered, period.  
    I could not put a date on when it all went wrong for our species but I can put a date on when it all was right for our species.
    My advice to anyone who is faced with the troubles of this world and in distress is to find places like i described and look around you. Those people who lived a true existence are still there and we can learn alot from them.
    One day this world will return to that. It won't be Jesus leading the way.

    “He talks a lot and he's not very bright. And that's a combination I like in Republicans.” James Carville

    by Mokislab on Thu Feb 20, 2014 at 10:29:26 AM PST

    •  This world will return... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest

      Sadly, I somewhat disagree in the details at the end. The world has been too westernized, too calvinized and too capitalized to do that unless there is a major event that leads a major cultural loss of memory. Even "Riddley Walker" by Russell Hoban suggests that the western paradigm has poisoned humanity and forgetting everything does not remove the poison (male authoritarianism). In a USA destroyed, the western paradigm reemerges, as in David Brin's "The Postman". Sorry to disagree. I want what you want, really.

      But I wanted to suggest something. The problem is not "Jesus" but how Paul re-invented him as the "Christ", which is where Christianity came from, Paul, not Jesus.

      If you (I ain't preaching here) look at the wikipedia listings for the Beatitudes, Parables, the Lord's Prayer (up to but not incl. the "doxology"), related passages, and the letters of Jesus's brothers, James and Jude, you see a completely different outlook on life than Paul inspired the Gospel writers to shape, including the other letter writers and the writer of Revelation.

      So, IT WENT WRONG for our species when Jesus was pushed aside and Paul's new religion took over, and all others similar to Jesus (Buddha, Rumi, Francis, Lucretius...) were labeled as "The Devil" and their works burned or purposely lost. It went wrong when male authoritarianism was institutionalized in a religion that scared people to death or simply killed them in the name of "Christ". It went wrong when the Library of Alexandria, secular libraries and indigenous libraries (library = written history, book cache...) were destroyed by the Paulists and their descendants. It went wrong when power, money, control, weapons, and ethnic cleansing became "blessed" by the RCC and its conspirator breakaway religions.

      References:

      The Dark Side of Christian History, by Helen Ellerbe
      When Jesus Became God, by Richard E. Rubenstein
      The Jesus Dynasty, by James D. Tabor
      Why Christianity Must Change or Die, by John Shelby Spong
      A Theology of Liberation, by Gustavo Gutierrez
      Open Veins of Latin America, by Eduardo Galeano
      ...

      If you skim those references, you will get an idea of my point of view when I say that, IF THINGS FINALLY GO RIGHT, the REAL Jesus WILL be leading the way, not some re-manufactured Hercules/Demigod version of Jesus, like Machine Gun Jesus or some such.

      Even if we agree to disagree on the "details", I want what you want, regardless of the name. Okay? :)

      --UB.

      "Daddy, every time a bell rings, a Randian Libertaria­n picks up his Pan Am tickets for the Libertaria­n Paradise of West Dakota!"

      by unclebucky on Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 05:51:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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