Published on November 8, 2012 by Amy
Juan Benito Mancias is Tribal Chairman of the Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe of Texas. Born in Dimmitt, Texas, Mancias attended and graduated from Texas Tech University with degrees in political science and sociology. His hobbies include the correct depiction of Texas Indigenous history, where his people are involved. Juan, along with support and help from his elders and relatives, has successfully maintained and perserved the Carrizo/Comecrudo identity, where no hope of perservation was otherwise capable.
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I call my many rants “Juanisms,” because they seem to be unique to my style of expression. They aren’t political or directed to some political ideal, rather you’ll find my approach is to challenge the spirit of human nature—a spirit that becomes stagnant if kept confined to borders.
In order to understand the history of people who were raised indigenous, and not out to satisfy a colonial or oppressive mentality, let me explain my personal history. My paternal grandparents were born in 1884 somewhere along the Rio Grande. On which side of the river really does not matter, since they only knew the life of nomads and gatherers; they were indigenous people of the land. The notion of borders was introduced as a means of oppression and was forced upon them because of their color, language and way of life.
My grandparents later came to settle around Penitas and Rio Grande City, where both of my parents were born. Even though my grandparents practiced the nomadic/gathering practices of our ancestors, they too, just as my parents, were subjected to the self-fulfilling prophecy of rich and poor, and NDNs (indians) that had no place in Texas history or society.
They became migrants. That is, until my father and grandfather decided to maintain their cultural ways and headed up north to the Plainview area. Mine, and a few other families who have maintained tribal connection and traditions, work for the revitalization of our people.
Many of us have been indoctrinated to believe that the border was made by God, only white folk died at the Alamo, English is the language of America, and that there are no NDNs in Texas. Those who believe this support that colonial, oppressive mentality and are poorly informed with less-than-correct facts of Texas history.
I subscribe to the Spanish saying from my grandmother, dime con quién andas, y te digo quién eres, or “tell me who you hang around with, and I’ll tell you who you are.”
You may even believe that there are no more Atakapas and Karankawas left in the state of Texas. But if you were to do research, you would find that in 1859 many of the remaining Karankawas came to live with the Carrizo/Comecrudo in Mission, Texas.
The Atakapas have maintained their bayou lifestyle around the Beaumont area for years as well. The reason I know is because I hang around with Texas NDNs, those who have maintained their languages (like the Carrizo/Comecrudo), those that practice their Texas indigenous ancestor’s way of life, and those who are trying to recover from massive subjugation of colonial oppression.
For historical reasons, let me explain that Carrizo means “reed” in Spanish. It is what the Spaniards called us; Comecrudo is what the Mexican people called us, meaning “eats raw” in Spanish.
But if you really want to know our name for ourselves it is Esto’k, ehshtoo’k, guttural “K”, meaning “the humans,” or “people.” These facts are written down and documented for all of you well-educated doctoral people. My grandfather used to have a saying about college-educated people, “tu que sabes todo, y entiendes menos,” (you, who knows everything, and understands little).
The Carrizo/Comecrudo have been historical misidentified as being part of the Coahuilteco people in South Texas. When someone tells me that we should accept the fact that historically, we are all Coahuiltecos, I cringe for they know nothing of themselves. Identity is important, and identity based on incorrect historical data can only create more confusion.
A true Texas indigenous identity comes with ancestral teachings and ability to decipher our written word; our written word that is etched into the cave walls of Seminole Canyon, Painted Rock, Hueco Tanks, Lake Alan Henry, and all the way to Palo Duro Canyon.
The language of the Carrizo/Comecrudo is Comecrudan. Comecrudan happens to be a Uto-Taoan language, and the dialect is Hokom. We are not Coahuilteco, no matter how many times you find some poorly-informed historian of any field of study say otherwise. A third of the Comecrudan language was recorded by A.S. Gatschett in 1886 in Camargo, two years after the birth of my grandparents. Our dialect is similar to Yuma of Southern Arizona, and Hokom speakers in Taos, Pueblo and California.
If anyone would have done their research correctly, you would have heard of “Kuis Benive” in the writings of Chamuscado and other so-called Spanish explorers into Texas. Then, maybe then, they would have said “Let’s ask the Carrizo/Comecrudo if they know what ‘Kuis Benive’ means.” But they probably thought the same as many others–that we became exinct long ago. So, let me say to those researching anthropologist, archaeologist, and other -ologists, kuis, or cuis means “red” in our language. Benive was a derivative of word veniv’le meaning elk. Believe or not, there were elks at first contact in Texas.
It is time to correct history. Rather than just believing what has been printed in books, ask us and we will help you find your path.