Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1690 Karankawa warrior
Subject: warrior
Culture: Karankawa
Setting: tribal / colonial warfare, coastal Texas 16-18thc

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Borderlands 1998 p19 (Hubert J Miller & Felix D Almaráz, Jr., "Four centuries of shared experience in the Borderlands" p17-41)
"Warfare among the Coahhuiltecans consisted of hit-and-run tactics.  Common sources of conflict ranged from fighting over women to securing better hunting grounds.  The victors frequently crowned their success with the taking of scalps and captives whom they ate during their victory celebrations.  This cannibalistic practice also included their own fallen warriors.
    ​"Cannibalism, according to Spanish accounts, was common among the Karankawas."  [CONTRA Williams 2013 p52: "De Vaca reflected a fairly benign view of the five Karankawa tribes and did not mention cannibalism except to say that the Coco were horrified when the Spaniards resorted to cannibalizing one another in the winter of 1528."]

* Indian Texans 1989 p9
"In 1528 Álvar Ñúnez Cabeza de Vaca may have been the first European to encounter the Karankawas in the Galveston Bay area.  Karankawa-European contacts were often dramatic ones since both Spanish and French ships landed in their territory.  Early relations were friendly, but eventually the Indians became wary and hostile towrad the foreigners.  In response to French efforts to settle in the area, the Spanish attempted to establish several missions among the Karankawas.  A few Indians responded, but most were contemptuous of such a life.  By the end of the 18th century European diseases and warfare had nearly annihilated the tribe."

* Indian Texans 1989 p10
"The Karankawas were divided into four or five bands of 40 to 50 people each.  Each band was independent, and members recognized an outstanding individual as leader.  There may also have been another man who functioned as a leader in war and raiding."


* Foster 2008 p98
"...Karankawa men were tall and strongly built but with slender hands and feet.  They were not dark, and many had delicate features.  ... The men wore a waistcloth and a blanket of skin thrown over one shoulder."  [reference omitted]

* Borderlands 1998 p48
"Material culture was reduced to essentials -- baskets, gourds, bone and antler tools -- which were easily carried.  Clothing, except in winter, was sparse or absent."

* Burnett 1995 p12
"The men wore little or no clothing during the summer months. They liked to brag of how strong they were and they would stay in the burning hot sun without clothes, always avoiding the shade. Then when winter came and the water in the rivers was solid ice, they would go out in the early morning, break the ice with their bodies, and take a bath. Sometimes during the winter months they would wear robes of fur, but they always went barefoot no matter what the temperature might be."

* Williams 2013 p33
"The men were tall, well muscled and naked or nearly so, with tattooed faces, pierced bodies and an overpowering stench from a dirty coating of alligator fat."

* Himmel 1999 p20
"Physically, the Karankawa men were taller than most American Indians, and they were considered handsome by European standards.  All Karankawas wore little or no clothing.  However , the did wrap themselves in skins and blankets to protect themselves from the winter cold." 

* Paterek 1994 p141
"The breechclout to the knees or longer, of tanned deer or buffalo skin, was usually the only article of dress in this warm climate (although some authorities mention total male nakedness); sometimes a small stuffed animal was thrust into the top of the breechclout, and sometimes the men tied herbs near the genitals.  Later, the Plains leather shirt of simple cut was adopted.  Leggings of tanned skin, when worn, often had many horizontal rows of fringe below the knees."


* Indian Texans 1989 p10
"Europeans were fascinated by the physical appearance of the Karankawas.  The men were tall and muscular and went about naked except for pieces of cane which they wore through perforations in the lower lip and in the nipple of each breast.  Women wore skirts of Spanish moss and deerskin, and both sexes practiced extensive body painting and tattooing.  The people smeared their bodies with alligator grease as a mosquito repellent."

* Burnett 1995 p12
"The Karankawa Indians decorated their faces and bodies with tattoos. They wore bracelets, anklets, necklaces, and put feathers in their hats. They also adorned their bodies with pieces of cane. The cane was pushed through holes they made in their lower lip, and on each side of their chest.
"When they were on the warpath, they would paint half their face black, and the other half red. A breechcloth, or apron, with a long sash was also worn. The sash was trimmed with fringe and tassels, which almost touched the ground in the back."

* Himmel 1999 p20
"They ... adorned themselves with paint and tattoos and wore ornaments made of shells, rattlesnake rattles, beads, buttons, cloth, feathers and hammered metal.  On their heads were often wreaths made of grass or palm."

* Williams 2013 p34
"The Karankawa men (but not the women) wore body adornments of beads, shells and feathers in their hair and ears."


* Jones 2004 p1-2
"Offensive weaponry of the riverine peoples included the club, lance, knife, and bow.  The bow and arrow was, as in most parts of North America, the preeminent weapon.  Two accounts describe the power of the bows of the Texas Karankawa:
He carried a bow as long as he was tall, with arrows of proportional length, with which he could kill game a hundred years distance.  I knew an instance of the terrible force of these arrows which is worthy of note.  Aimed at a bear, three years old, that had taken refuge in the top of a tree, it went through the brute's body and was propelled forty or fifty yards beyond.
​    "A second account describes the flight of an arrow shot by a Karankawa warrior across a river at an enemy:
...impelled nearly two hundred yards ... driven to the feathers in the alluvial bank ... every warrior's bow when strung was precisely as long as his person and as useless in the hands of a man of ordinary strength as was the bow of Ulysses in the hands of a suitor."  [reference omitted]

* Burnett 1995 p13
"One of the most important weapons of the Karankawa Indians was the bow and arrow. The bow was made from cedar and was as long as the man was tall. They made their bowstrings of deer sinew, or tendon. Several pieces of fine sinew were twisted together to make the strings stronger. Then they would attach three feathers to each of their arrows."


* Burnett 1995 p14
"Other weapons used by the Karankawas were lances, clubs, and a small axe called a tomahawk. They used the tomahawk for a tool and a weapon as well. It was used for chopping wood, driving sticks into the ground, and killing animals."