What Kind of Food Did the Karankawa Indians Eat?

Berries, plant roots, and other edible plants made up the majority of the Karankawa Indians’ diet, along with wild deer, turtles, rabbits, turkeys, oysters, clams, drum, and redfish. They were neighbours to the Coahuiltecans to the south and west and the Tonkawa to the north along the Gulf of Mexico coast in southeast Texas.

The idea that the Karankawas engaged in cannibalism is a common misconception. It is true that they would slaughter and consume an enemy chief or warrior if they managed to capture them.

However, this was not done for subsistence. Instead, the aim was to seize the might that possessed that fighter. The Karankawas did not view other people as a food source, as evidenced by their horror when the Spanish explorer Cabeza da Vaca revealed that some of his companions had eaten their fellow expedition members to prevent starvation.

Due to the easy access to food, the Karankawas rarely stayed at their camps for longer than a month or two. They lived in portable wigwams that could accommodate up to eight people and moved from island to island primarily by dugout canoe, though they also travelled on foot. The Karankawas wandered all throughout southeast Texas in constant search of food.


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