No Need to Solve for X
by Megan Willome
In the picture book “Turtle Island ABC: A Gathering of Native American Symbols” by Gerald Hausman and illustrated by Cara and Barry Moser, X marks the crossing place — where trails intersect, where rivers meet, where travelers choose. We’re at a crossroads in our relationship with Texas’ Native American population. For a long time we drew an X across their existence, but they were always here.
We just don’t teach it. Even with requirements for students to take Texas history in fourth and seventh grades, much of the information is inaccurate.
“In one fourth-grade textbook they were told that the Karankawa were dead and no longer in Texas and that they were cannibals,” said Dr. Circe Sturm, professor of anthropology and Native American and Indigenous Studies at UT-Austin. “I went in and offered a corrective lesson because I was so saddened by what was happening.”
And yet names of Indigenous tribes are dotted across the state: Caddo Lake, Nacogdoches, Waco, Waxahachie. There are pictographs near El Paso and in Palo Duro Canyon. Near Seminole Canyon State Park is the White Shaman Mural.
“It’s stunning. One of the greatest pieces of rock art in North America, and it’s in Texas,” said Sturm. “The central figure is over 30 feet tall. The mural is 60 feet wide.”
Texas has the fifth-largest Indigenous population in the lower 48 — the sixth-largest, counting Alaska. But we don’t think of ourselves that way.
“No one thinks of Texas as American Indian country, like New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Oklahoma, with their vibrant Native American communities,” Sturm said. “There’s this perception of Texas as not being a place where there are Indians, no Indians left. It’s really, really wrong.”
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