Book Excerpt

Order Nr. 99732 REPORT ON THE INDIAN TRIBES OF TEXAS IN 1828. Jose Francisco Ruiz


New Haven, CT: Yale University, 1972. small folio. faux leather. 42 pages. Illustrated. A facsimile of Ruiz's Report on the Indian Tribes of Texas in 1828. Edited and introduction by John C. Ewers, translated by Georgette Dorn. It presents a facsimile of his entire manuscript in which he describes in Spanish the customs and characteristics of the Lipan Apaches, the Comanches, and the Chariticas. READ MORE

Price: $30.00  other currencies  Order nr. 99732


F unique historical and ethnological interest to students

of the American West is a twenty-two page account of

the warlike Comanche, Apache, and Arapaho Indians

who lived on the Texas frontier in 1828. This docu

ment, written in Spanish, is preserved in The Western Americana Collection of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it appears to be the only known description of those Indians penned by the man who probably knew them better and was more highly respected by them than any other white man of his generation. A native Texan of Spanish descent, he was also a rancher, schoolteacher, army officer, statesman, and patriot, who twice within a period of twenty-three years risked his life and fortune for the cause of Texas independence. He was Jose Francisco Rulz.

Jose Francisco RUlz was born in San Fernando de Bexar (San Antonio) on January 29, 1783. His father, Juan Manuel RUlz, was born in Quaretara, Spain, in 1737 and emigrated to San Antonio about the year 1760. His mother, Manuela de la Pena, was a native of Saltillo.

As a youth Jose was sent to Spain for his formal education. He returned to Texas to manage his father's ranches on the Nueces River south and west of San Antonio. On January 20, 1803, even before he reached his majority, he was appointed the first schoolmaster in San Antonio and held his first classes in his own home, which stood on the south side of the Military Plaza. This historic structure has been reconstructed in the courtyard of San Antonio's Witte Museum.

As a young man of thirty, RUlz participated actively in the unsuccessful effort to free Texas from Spanish rule. Although he survived the decisive defeat of the revolutionists by Royalist forces in the Battle of the Medina River on August 18, 1813, he was forced to flee for his life. He found asylum among the Comanche Indians, who had been friendly to the revolutionary cause. During the next eight years he lived among the Comanches and their Indian neighbors, sharing their life and becoming intimately acquainted with these people and their customs.

Ruiz was living in Natchitoches, Louisiana, when Mexico gained her freedom from Spain in 1821. In the fall of that year Gaspar Lopez, Mexico's Commandant General for the Eastern Internal Provinces, who knew of Ruiz's influence among both the Lipan Apache and Comanche Indians, offered him a full pardon if he would act as a commissioner to negotiate peace with those heretofore troublesome tribes. Ruiz accepted. He was particularly successful in his negotiations with the Lipans. They agreed to send two of their principal chiefs to Mexico City, where they signed a treaty of peace with Mexico on August 17, 1822.

Ruiz later became an officer in the Mexican Army and achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He commanded the presidio at Nacogdoches in 1827 and the garrison at the historic Alamo in San Antonio in 1828-29. The following summer he established Fort Tenoxtitlan at the Brazos crossing of the San Antonio-Nacogdoches Road. He was in command of that post until it was discontinued in August 1832.

During the period of his Army service Colonel Ruiz's reputation as a trusted friend of the Indians was recognized by the more civilized tribes of eastern Texas as well as the wilder ones of the western frontier. In 1827 he conducted a delegation of Wichita and Tawakoni leaders to San Antonio, where they made a treaty with Mexico. He may also have been influential in preparing the way for a Comanche treaty negotiated in San Antonio by General Anastacio Bustamante in that year. Thomas McKinney of Nacogdoches, in a letter of September 9, 1829, to Stephen

F. Austin, stated that "the Shawnees have talked of going for some time to see a big man in St. Antonio who they say is a good man no lie and a good friend to the Indians, Ruis."1

On January 17, 1836, James W. Robinson, Lieutenant Governor of the Provisional Government of Texas, appointed Ruiz one of five commissioners to treat with the Comanche at San Antonio.2

Colonel Ruiz and his nephew were the only native Texans to sign the Texas Declaration of Independence at Washington-on-the-Brazos on March 2, 1836. He did not speak English and appears not to have taken an active part in the deliberations at that important meeting. However, his was the second signature to be placed upon that historic document. Colonel Ruiz represented Bexar in the Senate of the first Congress of the new Republic of Texas. Yet he did not live to see Texas become a state.

1. The Austin Papers, ed. Eugene Barker, Annual Report American Historical Association} 2 (1922), 256.

2 2. Texas Indian Papers} 1825-1843} ed. Dorman W. Winfrey, Austin (1959), p. 13.

Jose Francisco Ruiz died in San Antonio on January 19, 1840, and was buried in San Fernando Church in that city.3

The Ruiz document here considered provides population estimates and information on the location, history, and some of the customs of four tribes on the Texas frontier-the Comanches, largest and most feared of those tribes; the Lipans of the South (Lipan Apaches); the Lipans of the Plains (Kiowa-Apaches); and the Chariticas (Arapahoes). Although this manuscript is undated and its specific purpose is not stated, its relative dating as well as its purpose can be determined by comparison with a published report on the Indians of Texas which seems to have made use of information appearing in this document.

In November 1827 the government of Mexico sent northward from Mexico City into Texas a well-organized, official scientific expedition known as the Comision de Limites. The party was led by General Don Manuel de Mier y Teran, a highly qualified and experienced engineer. One of his responsibilities was to obtain information on the customs, dispositions, and habits of the Indian tribes, as well as estimates of their numbers.4

This expedition crossed the Rio Grande into Texas on February 2, 1828. Its members spent eighteen days in Laredo, during which they had an opportunity to meet and to observe a visiting party of Lipan Apaches under their chief, Castro. From Laredo they proceeded northward, reaching San Antonio on March 1. During the succeeding month and a half spent in the vicinity of San Antonio, General Teran must have had ample opportunity to become acquainted with Colonel Ruiz and to learn of his knowledge of the Indian tribes on the frontier.

Traveling eastward from San Antonio, General Teran reached Nacogdoches on June 3. Six days later he completed a condensed report on the Indian tribes of Texas which included sections on the Lipanes del Sur, Lipanes Llaneros, Comanches, and Chariticas. This report, entitled

Noticia de las tribus de salvajes conocidos que habitan en el Departamento de Tejasy y del numero de familias de que consta cada tribuy

3. A biographical sketch of Jose Francisco Ruiz appears in Louis Wiltz Kemp, The Signers ot the Texas Declaration ot Independence, Houston (1944), pp. 297-304. Additional bio· graphical information is in Walter G. Stuck, Jose Francisco Ruiz, Texas Patriot, San Antonio (1943), and Joseph Carl McElhannon, "Imperial Mexico and Texas, 1821-1823," Southwestern Historical Quarterly, 53, 117-50.

4. The organization, staffing, and the complex mission of the Comision de Limites are explained in Ohland Morton, Teran and Texas, Austin (1948), pp. 42-56.

puntas en que habitan y terrenos en que acampan) was not published until 1870.5

Not only are General Teran's population estimates for the four tribes considered in Colonel Ruiz's manuscript exactly the same as those given by Ruiz, but the little information he provides on the two least-known of the four tribes, the Lipanes Llaneros and the Chariticas, appears to have been derived from the Ruiz manuscript. Teran would seem to have been less dependent upon Ruiz in his descriptions of the Lipan Apache, whom he himself had met the preceding February in Laredo, and the better-known Comanches.

It appears most probable that Colonel Ruiz prepared this manuscript for the information of his superior officer, General Teran, while the latter was in San Antonio during the period March 1 to April 14, 1828.

Jean Louis Berlandier, the French-born and Swiss-trained botanist, who served as biologist for the Comisi6n de Limites, wrote much more extensively on the Indians of Texas than did any other member of the expedition. He was also more closely associated with Colonel Ruiz over a longer period of time than was General Teran. During the fall of 1828 Berlandier accompanied Colonel Ruiz and a party of sixty to eighty Comanches under their chiefs Reyuna and El Ronco on a bear and buffalo hunt northwest of San Antonio. He published an account of that adventure in 1844.6

Even though Berlandier had first-hand opportunity to observe the Comanches, his major writings on these and other tribes of Texas reveal his reliance upon Ruiz for many details of Indian history and life. In his book The Indians of Texas in 1830 (1969) Berlandier repeatedly credited Ruiz for specific information on Indian history and customs. It is especially noteworthy that Berlandier's population estimates for the Plains Lipans and the Chariticas are those presented in the Ruiz manuscript, and that Berlandier, despite his wealth of information on other tribes, offers little on those two tribes other than what appears in the Ruiz manuscript. Perhaps the modern student may question whether Jose Francisco Ruiz himself had been well-acquainted with either the distant Plains Lipans or the Chariticas?

There can be no question of Berlandier's access to this Ruiz manu

5. Published in Sociedad de Geografia y Estadistica de La Republica Mexicana Boletin, 2 (1870), 264-69.

6. Jean Louis Berlandier, "Caza del Oso y Cibolo, en el Nor-oeste de Tejas," El Museo Mexicano,3 (1844), 177-87.

script. It was in the very extensive collection of manuscripts, maps, drawings, and scientific specimens purchased from Berlandier's widow in Matamoros, M'exico, by Lieutenant Darius Nash Couch of the United States Army in February 1853. Lieutenant Couch subsequently donated some of the scientific specimens and biological manuscripts and drawings to the Smithsonian Institution. But he felt compelled to sell the great majority of the manuscripts and graphic materials in order to recover his investment in the collection.

Through subsequent sales of portions of the collection the manuscripts, maps, and drawings have become widely scattered. Some are preserved in the British Museum, others in the Library of Congress, the Gray Herbarium at Harvard, and the Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

This RUlz manuscript is part of that large portion of the Berlandier Collection which is now preserved in the Western Americana Collection at Yale, and which was donated to the Yale Library in 1920 by the noted collector and bibliographer Henry R. Wagner, as part of the Wagner Texas and Middle West Collection.7

We are indebted to Mrs. Georgette Dorn of Washington, D.C., for the English translation, which precedes the reproduction of the original Spanish manuscript by Jose Francisco Rulz.

I have provided the footnotes.


Smithsonian Institution

7. An account of this acquisition appears in Thomas W. Streeter, Henry R. Wagner, and the Yale Library, The Yale University Library Gazette) 32 (1957), 71-76. A brief description of the Berlandier Papers at Yale is in Jerry W. Patterson, "Spanish and Spanish American Manuscripts in the Yale University Library:' The Yale University Library Gazette) 31 (1957), 110-33.