The Tonkawa are a Native American tribe indigenous to present-day Oklahoma and Texas. They once spoke the now-extinct Tonkawa language, a language isolate. Today, many descendants are enrolled in the federally recognized tribe Tonkawa Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma.
Seal of the Tonkawa Tribe of Oklahoma
|Regions with significant populations|
|United States ( Oklahoma)|
|English, Tonkawa language|
|Christianity, Native American Church, traditional tribal religions|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Wichita, Waco, Tawakoni, Kichai, Guichita|
In the 15th century, the Tonkawa tribe probably numbered around 5,000, with their numbers diminishing to around 1,600 by the late 17th century due to fatalities from new infectious diseases and warring with other tribes, most notably the Apache. By 1921, only 34 tribal members remained. Their numbers have since recovered to close to 700 in the early 21st century. Most live in Oklahoma.
The Tonkawa tribe operates a number of businesses which have an annual economic impact of over $10,860,657. Along with several smoke shops, the tribe runs 3 different casinos: Tonkawa Indian Casino and Tonkawa Gasino located in Tonkawa, Oklahoma, and the Native Lights Casino in Newkirk, Oklahoma.
The annual Tonkawa Powwow is held on the last weekend in June to commemorate the end of the tribe's own Trail of Tears when the tribe was forcefully removed and relocated from its traditional lands to present-day Oklahoma.
Scholars once thought the Tonkawa originated in Central Texas. Recent research, however, has shown that the tribe inhabited northeastern Oklahoma in 1601. By 1700, the stronger and more aggressive Apache had pushed the Tonkawa south to the Red River which forms the border between current-day Oklahoma and Texas. The Tonkawa had a penchant for cannibalism, which made them unpopular with other Native American groups and the new Texans.
In 1824, the Tonkawa entered into a treaty with Stephen F. Austin to protect Anglo-American immigrants against the Comanche. At the time, Austin was an agent recruiting immigrants to settle in the Mexican state of Coahuila y Texas. In 1840 at the Battle of Plum Creek and again in 1858 at the Battle of Little Robe Creek, the Tonkawa fought alongside the Texas Rangers against the Comanche.
In 1859, the United States escorted the Tonkawa and a number of other Texas Indian tribes to a new home at the Wichita Agency in Indian Territory, and placed them under the protection of nearby Fort Cobb. When the war started, the troops at the fort received orders to march to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, leaving the Indians at the Wichita Agency unprotected. In response to years of animosity, a number of tribes, including the Delawares, Wichitas, and Penateka Comanches, attacked the Tonkawas as they tried to escape. The fight, known as the "Tonkawa Massacre," killed nearly half of the remaining Tonkawas, leaving them with little more than 100 people. The tribe returned to Texas where they remained for the rest of the Civil War. In the 1880s, the United States removed them, once again, to the new Oakland Agency in northern Indian Territory, where they remain to this day.
The Tonkawa were actually made up of various groups, many of which are no longer known by name. These groups are generally counted as Tonkawa:
- 2011 Oklahoma Indian Nations Pocket Pictorial Directory. Archived 2012-05-12 at the Wayback Machine. Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission. 2011: 36. Retrieved 8 Feb 2012.
- International encyclopedia of linguistics. Frawley, William, 1953- (2nd ed ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 2003. ISBN 9780195307450. OCLC 66910002.
- Hoijer, Harry (1933). Tonkawa, an Indian language of Texas. University of Pittsburgh Library System. New York : Columbia University Press.
- May, Jon D. Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. "Tonkawa." Retrieved May 30, 2013.
- Oklahoma Indian Casinos: Kay County. 50 Nations. (retrieved 8 Feb 2009)
- Tonkawa Tribal History. The Tonkawa Tribe. (retrieved 7 Feb 2009)
- May, Jon D. "Tonkawa", Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture, Tulsa: Oklahoma Historical Society (retrieved 8 Feb 2009)
- Jones, William K. 1969. “Notes on the History and Material Culture of the Tonkawa Indians.” Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology. Vol. 2, No. 5.
- Gary Clayton Anderson, The Indian Southwest, 1580-1830: Ethnogenesis and Reinvention (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999) p. 85
- Anderson, The Indian Southwest, p. 89
- Walker, Jeff (2007-11-16). "Chief returns » Local News » San Marcos Record, San Marcos, TX". Sanmarcosrecord.com. Archived from the original on 2011-09-27. Retrieved 2011-11-11.
- "The Tonkawa Story". Manataka.org. Retrieved 2011-11-11.
- Gwynne, S. C. (2011). Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History. Scribner. pp. 7, 211. ISBN 1-4165-9106-0.
- Deloria Jr., Vine J; DeMaille, Raymond J (1999). Documents of American Indian Diplomacy Treaties, Agreements, and Conventions, 1775-1979. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 346–348. ISBN 978-0-8061-3118-4.
- Himmel, Kelly F. (1999). The conquest of the Karankawas and the Tonkawas, 1821-1859. College Station, Texas: Texas A&M University Press. ISBN 978-0-89096-867-3.