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Exploring Texas and the West (W15:D3)

In 1519, Captain

was given a commission to map out the Gulf Coast. He may have also received a secret commission to take on Cortez and bring him back for trial, before he could attack the largest indigenous civilization in Mexico, but this part is not well documented. If this is true, his cover was a mission to map the entire Gulf Coast, from Florida to Mexico. While mapping the coast, he would conduct a few expeditions inland, being the first European to set eyes on Texas. After failing to capture Cortez, he returned, to try and establish the first fort in Texas, but the Huastec Indians attacked and killed everyone, all their horses, and burned everything to the ground.

In 1528, Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, along with three Conquistadors (one being from Africa, named Estevanico), was commissioned to explore the lower portion of North America. In 1530, their ship was wrecked on the coast of Texas. Those that survived were forced to walk, making it as far as Mexico, by 1536. Vaca was rescued by the Karankawa tribe and lived with them for many years. After he left, the tribe had no contact with Europeans, until 1685, when the French built Fort Saint Louis. In 1540, Francisco Vázquez de Coronado was ordered to explore, from the west, more of Southwest North America and made it as far as New Mexico, among the Pueblo Indian tribe. The tribe had heard from others how to deal with European explorers and sent them on a wild goose chase in search of gold, across northern Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. At the same time, Luis de Moscoso Alvarado explored from the east, coming west from the Mississippi River, and made it as far as central Texas, before returning home. Though there were many explorers who traveled across Texas, there was no supply route, until Juan de Oñate was commissioned to develop the Pueblo Indians’ land, and create a supply route into that land. From there, missionary and trade activities began to flourish. Fray Juan de Salas was called upon by the Jumano Indians, for religious instruction, and lived there, among the people, with his other friars. In 1681, the indigenous of the area rebelled against the Spanish and drove them southward, to the El Paso area. They returned and built fortified missions, including Corpus Christi de la Isleta and Nuestra Señora del Socorro, the first Spanish settlements in Texas. The French, commanded by René Robert Cavelier (Sieur de La Salle), tried to claim the Mississippi area in 1682. Being that they already came from the north, by land, into the Louisiana region, this time, they wanted to claim it by sea. The first expedition explored the Mississippi River, while the second expedition overshot the River and ended up 400 miles further west, in Texas. They were short on supplies because two ships were lost at sea, but they made landfall and established Fort Saint Louis, several miles inland. In 1687, during an expedition away from the fort, La Salle was murdered by his men. In 1689, the Spanish sent a group, including Captain Alonso de Leon, the Governor of parts of Texas, to confront the French. All they found were the ruins of what was Fort Saint Louis. Indians had attacked the fort, driving survivors east, further into Texas; they were never found. Father Damián Massanet accompanied Leon on an expedition to find survivors. He was fascinated with the Tejas (meaning “Friendly”) Tribe. The Tejas were part of the Caddo Confederacy of tribes that lived in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. The Caddos believed in one God and when the friar introduced Christianity to them, the tribe asked him to stay and set up a mission to instruct them. The Spanish government lost interest when they heard the French were no longer a threat in the area, and withdrew support. The Tejas were also struck by an epidemic, because their immune systems were not used to European diseases. The tribe blamed the new religion and felt they were being cursed; they began to resist. In 1693, the mission was closed and they withdrew from east Texas. In the end of the 1600s, the Spanish introduced horses to the area. The Apache used them to expand their territory to the lower Texas Plains, taking over the traditional hunting grounds of the Jumanos (nomadic settling area of the Coahuiltecan), and territory of other tribes. Texas would never be the same, as the Spanish and Indian relationships entered the 1700s. During the 1600s, the Spanish interacted with over seventeen different tribes, throughout Texas, who were hospitable and friendly. Most of these tribes no longer exist today, due to either European disease or territorial tribes attacking and destroying the less aggressive tribes. A driving goal of the Spanish exploration in Texas was to find gold and other precious treasures. Yet, they never found them, which is why the Spanish government didn’t see Texas as a viable use of their funds. Activity: Traveling in the Unknown – Today is the day to face your fears, and go where no student has gone before. Today, you are to find a large room in your school, house, or other location, and black out the windows with large shades or construction paper (ask permission, first, of course). You want this room to be able to be near pitch black. Your next task is to set up obstacles throughout the room or, for more fun, have someone else set up these obstacles for you. Your task is to make it from one point in the room to another location in the room, with all the lights off. You want to experience the fears and excitement of the Spanish as they explored this new territory of Texas. They had no idea what to expect; they just knew what their goal was, and hoped for the best. Now, it’s your turn. After your expedition into the dark How did you feel walking into the dark? _____________________________________________ Did you walk through perfectly, or make mistakes? _____________________________________________ How do you think the Spanish felt exploring? _____________________________________________ _____________________________________________


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