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TAWAKONI

The name Tawakoni is interpreted to mean "river bend among red sand hills," undoubtedly referring to the location of a tribal village near a stream. The earliest records referred to the tribe as the Touacara, with other variations including Tahwaccaro, Tahuacaro, or Towoccaro. Linguistically, the Tawakoni spoke the Wichita dialect of the Caddoan language family. Historical records describe their villages near a river in present Oklahoma and Texas.

In 1719 French explorer Jean Baptiste Bénard de La Harpe made an expedition into present-day Oklahoma. Traveling north from the Red River, he reached the Arkansas River, where a Tawakoni village was situated near the present site of Haskell in Muskogee County. The French reported that the tribe raised large quantities of corn and tobacco. While visiting, La Harpe held a meeting with the Tawakoni and eight other tribes to create an alliance on behalf of the king of France. This gathering became the first peace council between a European nation and any of the Oklahoma Indian tribes.

The Tawakoni and the closely allied tribe, the Waco, came into conflict with Anglo-American settlers in the 1820s. This situation arose as a result of Stephen F. Austin's colonization attempts in Texas. Driven from central Texas, the Tawakoni were instrumental in bringing the Comanche and the Wichita together to sign a peace treaty with the United States. This treaty, signed in 1835 at Camp Holmes on the Canadian River, established the usage of the term Wichita as the collective name of the Caddo-speaking tribes of the Wichita, Tawakoni, and Waco. It also represented the first treaty between Plains Indians and the United States.

The federal government entered into additional treaties with the Tawakoni in 1837 and 1846. In 1853 Indian reserves were established on vacant Texas land, where the Tawakoni and other Texas-area tribes settled on the upper Brazos River. Hostile settlers forced the migration of the tribes from Texas. Approximately 258 Tawakoni were removed to the Leased District in Indian Territory in August 1859. In 1872 the federal government created a reservation totaling 743,610 acres between the Canadian and Washita rivers, where the Tawakoni, Wichita, Waco, Caddo, Anadarko, Kichai, and Hainai tribes settled. Although living on the same reservation, the tribes retained their identities by moving into separate neighborhoods, with each group retaining a local chief. Soon, the position of local chief disappeared, and only the position as head chief of the tribe remained.

Only delaying the inevitable, the Wichita resisted the ideas espoused in the Dawes Severalty Act of 1887. In December 1900 a U.S. Supreme Court decision provided for the allotment of the reservation. On August 6, 1901, the Wichita-Caddo reserve in addition to the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache (Plains Apache) Reservation were opened to non-Indian settlers. In 1894 a census of the Tawakoni reported their number as 126. At the turn of the twenty-first century the descendants of the Tawakoni belong to the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes.

SEE ALSO: AMERICAN INDIANS, INDIAN TERRITORY, LAND RUNS AND OPENINGS.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Angie Debo, A History of the Indians of the United States (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970). William C. Sturtevant, Handbook of North American Indians: Plains, Vol. 13, Pt. 1 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1978). Carl Waldman, Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes (New York: Facts on File Publications, 1988). Muriel H. Wright, A Guide to the Indian Tribes of Oklahoma (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1983).

Julie Bennett-Jones

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