Texas Women's History Month: Indian Women in the 1500s to 1800s

Mar 4, 2017

Between the 16th and 18th centuries, Indian women led tribes, acted as intermediaries and more.

In approximately 1500, among the Apache in present day South and West Texas, females known as Painted Woman and Child of Water were revered as creators of the world. Indian women used spiritual means and traditional medicine to heal the sick. They also initiated divorce in agricultural-based tribes.

Throughout history, Indian women have played important roles as professional traders between their tribes and other groups.

In the 17th century, Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca reported that Indian women served as mediators and emissaries, helping establish diplomatic relations with other Indian peoples. Their diplomatic roles continued into the 18th century, when Apache women regularly traveled between their own and Spanish settlements, serving as negotiators for the release of Apache captains.

 

In 1772, a woman led the Comanches into San Antonio, bearing a white flag and a cross as an initial step in peace negotiations between her people and the Spanish. Well into the 19th century, Indian women continued to have important economic roles as professional traders between their tribes and other groups.

 

This month, KUT is partnering with the Ruthe Winegarten Foundation to celebrate Women's History Month. Every day, we'll bring you a short feature spotlighting a historic woman, movement, or group of women in Texas.