The Karankawa

Known for their height, the Karankawas were hunter-gatherers - people who hunt wild animals and gather plants for food, The Karankawas fished, hunted sea turtles, and collected shellfish. They also gathered eggs and hunted deer and small animals.


The Karankawas lived along the Texas coast. They were nomads, or people who moved from place to place. Different parts of the Karankawa territory were better suited to life at different times of the year. Each season, the Karankawas relocated to a region that supported them at that particular time of the year. A few families traveled as a small band led by a chief. The Karankawa used smoke signals to send messages over a distance. During the fall and winter, they lived along the Gulf Coast, where they used dugout canoes for transportation. During the spring and summer, when the bison and deer were more common, the Karankawas moved inland.


The Karankawa men hunted and fished with bow and arrows. Women collected plants, cooked food, and took care of the camps. The Karankawas built wigwams, or portable huts, from bent poles covered with animal skins and reed mats.


Because of the hot summers and mild winters on the Gulf Coast, the Karankawa men word little, if any, clothing. Women wore skirts made of deerskin or grass and treated their children with kindness. They painted themselves bright colors. They kept insects away by rubbing alligator fat and dirt on their skin.


The Spanish explorer- Cabeza de Vaca, who lived with the Karankawa for a time after being shipwrecked in the area, left records indicating that the Karankawa traded regularly with inland tribes to the north of them, probably the Caddo and Tonkawa. They traded conch shells and other sea shell for pigments like ocher and for buffalo robes. However, Europeans brought diseases with them which caused the Karankawas to die quickly, In addition, they fought with other native groups, the French, the Spanish, and the Americans, By the mid-1800s, the Karankawas were all dead.