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part_o5.jpg (1261 bytes)hese hunter-gatherers had flint-tipped spears, fire, and stories. With these resources, some twelve thousand years ago, the first Texans became the wellspring of Plains Indian culture.On the basis of archaeological evicence human habitation at Enchanted Rock can be traced back at least 10,000 years. Paleo-Indian projectile points, or arrowheads, 11-12,000 years old have been found in the area upstream and downstream from The Rock. The oldest authenticated projectile point found within the present day park is a Plainview type, dating back 10,000 years.

The names of the original tribes in the area are not known. The first written records, dating from the sixteenth century, are of the Tonkawa. An interesting commentary on Enchanted Rock and its inhabitants is found in The Scouting Expedition of McCulloch’s Texas Rangers, by Samuel C. Reid, Jr., published in 1848: "We are unable to give to the reader the traditionary cause why this place was so named," Reid wrote about Enchanted Rock, "but nevertheless, the Indians had a great awe, amounting almost to a reverence for it, and would tell many legendary tales connected with it and the fate of a few brave warriors, the last of a tribe now extinct, who defended themselves there for any years as in a strong castle, against the attacks of their hostile brethren. But they were finally over come and totally annihilated, and ever since the ‘Enchanted Rock’ has been looked upon as the exclusive property of these phantom warriors. This is one of the many tales which the Indians tell concerning it."

It is very likely that Reid’s informants were the Tonkawa, who frequently served as guides to the Rangers, and who, more than any other tribe, would have had any knowledge of "a tribe now extinct" that inhabited Enchanted Rock.

Due to the lack of published research, the religious beliefs of the Tonkawa are very sketchy, but seem to have been shaped in large measure by Tonkawa myths regarding the spirits of the dead. In The Indians of Texas, published in 1961, the author W. W. Newcomb Jr., notes: "Souls of women were thought to go directly to the home in the west singing as they went; souls of men, however, were apt to hang around watching their living relatives and calling to them. If the dead were not properly buried, their spirits would remain to haunt the miscreants…Certain places were avoided, particularly at night, because strange sounds attributed to the souls of the dead were heard there." Possibly, some of the more ghostly legends and reports of the Indian’s fearful reactions regarding Enchanted Rock and the mysterious noises said to emit from it can be traced to the Tonkawa.

In the early 1700’s the Apache displaced the Tonkawa at Enchanted Rock. It is with the Apache myths, which have been the subject of greater study, that we get a more complete picture of Plains Indian beliefs as they relate to the sacred nature of Enchanted Rock.

According to the Apache, the Giver of Life sent the Gan, or mountain spirits, to teach the people a better way to live, govern, hunt, and cure illness. Accordingly to the myth, these benevolent but powerful mountain spirits live forever in the mountain’s caves and can be appealed to for guidance and protection.

By the end of the 1700s the Comanche had displaced the Apache. The Comanche, like many other plains tribes, looked upon the sun as the universal father. Jean Louis Berlandier, in his firsthand account, The Indians of Texas in 1830, wrote: "The sun seems to be the single object of creation they venerate most assiduously…In general all the nomadic peoples make no sacrifice to him…After the sun, the earth takes second place in their devotion…Their various superstitious ceremonials, handed down generation after generation from their ancestors or picked up in some other way, are celebrated amid the majestic monuments of nature…You may see Comanches and others, hoping for a revelation or some important inspiration…seek out some high and lonely place where they build a sort of sepulchre of stones. There they pay homage to the object of their veneration, whereupon they go to sleep hoping for a dream that will reveal the counsel they have prayed for."

There is no question that Enchanted Rock was the site for both the Gan dance of the Apache and the vision quest of the Comanche and other Plains Indians. Some of the earliest European visitors mention seeing stone sepulchures on the summit. As recently as thirty years ago flint shards were found on a large flat area on the northwest summit.

In 1892, James R. Mooney wrote in The Ghost Dance Religion, about Wovoka, a famous Paiute prophet and medicine man, whose influenced was felt throughout the Plains. Although the excerpt is not specifically about Enchanted Rock or its native inhabitants, on a deeper level it speaks directly to the spirit of the place, Plains Indian spiritual leaders, and the mythological foundation of their religion.

"[Wovoka was] by nature of a solitary and contemplative disposition, one of those born to see visions and hear still voices…His native valley, from which he has never wandered [was] roofed over by a cloudless sky in whose blue infinitude the mind instinctively seeks to penetrate to far off worlds beyond. Away to the south the view is closed in by the sacred mountain of the Paiute, where their Father gave them the first fire and taught them their few simple arts before leaving for his home in the upper regions of the Sun-land…It seems set apart from the great world to be the home of a dreamer."

Resources with More Information
An excerpt from James Mooney's text about the religious ceremonies
that take place during a Ghost Dance. An in-depth account of
witnessing such a ceremony; readers will feel as if they have just
received a personal invitation to the ceremony of a lifetime as
they read details of the ornate experience.
A place to find collections of information and artifacts that
reveal certain cultural and religious aspects of America's past. One
might search for personal written accounts of events, remnants from
events such as wedding invitations and photographs from the actual event,
or for other sources of information that might reveal more.
A way to create memories and preserve your own history. Artifacts
such as letters, photographs, wedding invitations, and other
trinkets help to shed light on what ceremonies, celebrations, and other
practices and performances entail.
One such example of texts used (in this case, wedding invitations
are the medium used) to study and better understand a culture and



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(c) 1999   Ira Kennedy   All rights reserved