Shelter, Transportation, Food & Weaponry
Tonkawa, pronounced "tong-kuh-wah." is believed to have come from a Wichita Indian word Tonkaweya meaning "they all stay together" The Tonkawas name for themselves is Tickanwatic, meaning "real people'. The Tonkawas are some of the original native Texans. The Tonkawa Indian tribe was forced northward into Oklahoma in the 1800s along with many other tribes.
The Tonkawa Indians lived in large buffalo-hide tents called ti-pis or tee-pees. Ti-pis were designed with portability in mind.
Being a coastal plains tribe, the Tonkawa Indians didn't need to make canoes. When they needed to cross a river, they simply made a raft on the spot. For land transportation, they actually made a type of dogsled. Horses arrived with the colonists coming over from Europe.
The Tonkawa men hunted buffalo and deer and sometimes fished in the rivers. The Tonkawas also collected nuts, berries, fruit and roots to eat. They were not a farming tribe. The corn they got was from trading with other tribes who did farm.
Tonkawa hunters used bows and arrows. In war, Tonkawa warriors used bows and arrows or fought with war clubs and hide shields. They were one of the most warlike tribes during nearly two centuries of conflict with their enemy tribes, the Spanish and later the American settlers. The Tonkawa women were known to be very physically strong and vindictive.
Clothing, Headdress & Adornments
Tonkawa women wore wraparound deerskin skirts, while the Tonkawa men wore breech-cloths. Even though shirts were not a normal part of the male attire, some Tonkawa warriors wore elaborately decorated war shirts like those used by northern Plains tribes. In cooler weather, Tonkawa women wore shawls made of rabbit fur and the men wore painted buffalo robes. Beautifully decorated moccasins were reserved for special occasions. The Tonkawas traditionally went barefooted.
Tonkawa Indian men did not utilize elaborate feather headdresses. Occasionally, they would tie a few feathers to a lock of their long braided hair. Oddly enough, sometimes the warriors would cut their hair short on the left side.
Tonkawa women wore their hair either loose or in one long braid.
The Tonkawas wore tribal tattoos, but they also painted their faces for special occasions. They used different patterns for war paint, religious ceremonies, and festive decoration.
The Tonkawa Nation has its own government, laws, police, and services, similar to a small country.
However, since the Tonkawas are also US citizens and must also obey American law.
In the past, each Tonkawa band was led by its own chief. Today, the Tonkawa tribe is governed by council members who are elected by all the tribal members.
The Tonkawas have their own language, but it has virtually disappeared since the 1930s, as they have adopted English as their language.
There is still a desire by some of today's youth to resurrect their native tongue.
An easy Tonkawa word is "ta'en" (pronounced similar to "tah-ayn") which means "friend."
Friends and Foes of the Tonkawa Indians
The Tonkawas traded regularly with other tribes of the southern Plains and the Southwest. Tonkawas regulary traded their buffalo products to farming tribes like the Caddo Pueblo Indians in exchange for corn. They shared land with the Karankawa and the Spanish often found them camped together. They also shared land with the Coahuiltecan tribes to the south of them.
The Tonkawas also fought wars with other tribes. Plains Indian tribes didn't fight over territory though, they fought to prove their courage. They had a custom called "counting coup" which was where they would touch an opponent in battle without harming him, steal an enemy's weapon or horse, or forced the other tribe's warriors to retreat. The Tonkawas biggest enemies were the Apaches and Comanches.
The Tonkawas are known for their hide paintings and copper jewelry.
Tonkawa Indians Today
According to Wikipedia:
The Tonkawa Tribe is headquartered in Tonkawa, Oklahoma and their tribal jurisdictional area is in Kay County.
They have 571 enrolled tribal members. The tribe operates one gasoline station and two casinos, Tonkawa Indian Casino in Tonkawa and Native Lights Casino in Newkirk.
The annual Tonkawa Powwow is scheduled on the last weekend in June, to commemorate when the tribe ended its "Trail of Tears."
- The Official Website of The Tonkawa Tribe of Oklahoma
- Tonkawa, Oklahoma - The Wheatheart of Oklahoma
- The Tonkawa Indians of Texas
- Handbook of Texas Online - TONKAWA INDIANS
- Tonkawa Indians, Texas Indians
- Tonkawa Language and the Tonkawa Indian Tribe (Tichkan-Watich, Tonkaway)
Tonkawa language information and introduction to the culture of the Tonkawa Indians.
- Native American Homes: Wigwams, Longhouses, Tepees, Lodges, and other American Indian houses
Pictures and descriptions of different types of Native American Indian homes including wigwams, longhouses, tipis, and adobe houses.
- Tonkawa - Wikipedia
More by this Author
After visiting Lynmouth in England I was drawn to the tragedy of the 1952 flood there and the lives it impacted. This my research on that topic and my memoriam to those who died there.
The last survivor of the Titanic passed away in 2009.
A fascinating look at Beatrice Wood, the woman James Cameron modeled Rose Dewitt Bukater Calvert after in the movie "Titanic".