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Biographies of Great Lipan Chiefs

Flacco (abt. 1790- abt. 1850)

      Chief Flacco led a Lower Lipan band which ranged from east of San Antonio to areas southwest of San Antonio (particularly Medina and Uvalde counties). He first appears in the Texas historical record during the Royalist-Republican struggles of 1812, as followers of Father Hidalgo attempted to include Texas in the uprising caused by the priest’s grito for the independence of Mexico from Spain. Chiefs Flacco and Cuelgas de Castro visited the camp of the Texas Hispanic rebels, who had been joined by American filibusters, shortly after the group had captured Nacogdoches. But the Lipan chiefs sensed that the rebels did not enjoy the full support of the people of Texas and were divided in their aims, so Flacco and Cuelgas did not bring their warriors to fight in the Battle of Medina in 1813 (although other Lipan chiefs did participate).

      Once Mexico gained its independence in 1821, however, Chief Flacco traveled to Monclova, Coahuila, to sign a peace treaty with Gaspar Lopez, a representative of the new government. The chief also established a friendly relationship with Stephen F. Austin and the American colonists who had been allowed to settle in east Texas. In 1829, when Abner Kuykendall and other Austin colonists launched a military campaign against the Wacos and Wichitas, Chief Flacco and his warriors rode with them and participated in several successful battles.

      After Texas gained its independence in 1836, Chief Flacco and his warriors continued to play a vital role in the defense of the new Republic. From 1838 to 1840, they joined Texas militia units led by Stephen Moore in campaigns against the Comanches. But Chief Flacco’s closest association with the Texans was his relationship with the famed Texas Ranger, John “Jack” Coffee Hays. Hays described the Chief as “tall and erect, with well-shaped limbs. He gave an impression of bounding elasticity. His circlet of eagle feathers was set back on his forehead so that it revealed his black eyes and gave to his bearing a fierce alertness coupled with strength and agility. Flacco’s general appearance was suggestive of the hawk and the panther.” The Texas Ranger also credited Flacco with saving his life on several occasions in battles against the Comanches.

      Chief Flacco also became a well-known figure in early Austin society, where he was often invited to dine with the leaders of the new Texas government. However, as more settlers began to pour into Texas, the Lipans began to be unjustly blamed for depredations committed by other tribes. In 1841, Chiefs Flacco and Cueglas de Castro were arrested in Austin on the suspicion that some of their warriors had killed a settler named James Boyce. Although the chiefs denied that the Lipans had been involved, they were held in jail until proof was found which showed that Comanches had committed the murder. The sentiment in Texas began to turn against the Lipan Apaches. However, Chief Flacco and his warriors continued to assist in the defense of the Republic of Texas. Flacco’s son and other warriors scouted and fought for General Somervell when the Texans were forced to repel a Mexican invasion in 1842. Flacco the Younger’s scouts were attacked by Mexican forces at Goliad and were part of the Somervell force which chased the Mexican invaders back across the Rio Grande into Mexico. But on their way back from Mexico, Flacco the Younger was killed. Although Sam Houston and other Texas government officials tried to blame the murder on Mexican bandits or Cherokees, Chief Flacco was convinced that his son had been killed by Anglo settlers.

      Sam Houston wrote a moving memorial tribe to the younger Flacco, in which he promised that the older chief and his son would not be forgotten and that the Texans would “be kind to the Lipan. Grass shall not grow in the path between us.” But Sam Houston was only one man and most Texans wanted the Lipans either dead or forced out of their homeland of San Antonio and south Texas. When the Texas government began to talk about forcing the Lipans to move north of Austin into territory inhabited by their Comanche enemies, a disillusioned Chief Flacco led his band into Mexico. Flacco had been a good friend to the Texans. He supported them in their struggles for independence; he defended them against hostile tribes. And he was rewarded with the murder of his son and eviction from his homeland.

Poca Ropa (abt. 1750- abt. 1790)


      Poca Ropa (few or scant clothes) was an eighteenth century chief of the Little Breech-clout band whose territories lay along the lower Pecos River of Texas. It is unknown whether Poca Ropa took his name from that of his band or visa versa, since Poca Ropa and Little Breech-clout mean virtually the same thing- a short version of the breech-clout worn only by this particular Lipan group. Chief Poca Ropa is first mentioned in the historical records in 1775 in connection with Chief Cavezon (Big Head), a powerful Lipan chief whose band inhabited territory from the San Saba to the upper Nueces Rivers of Texas. In October 1775, nine large Lipan rancherías, including those of Cavezon and Poca Ropa’s bands, were observed camping together along the Rio Grande. Juan de Ugalde, Governor of Coahuila, revealed in 1780 that Poca Ropa had married the daughter of Cavezon. This marriage represented not only a union of two families but also indicated a defensive alliance between two bands whose territories lay in adjoining areas of southwestern Texas. Poca Ropa also developed a friendly relationship with Governor Ugalde, bringing his band to camp near the presidio of Agua Verde (near the present-day border town of Quemado, Texas) in order to receive food and protection by Spanish troops. Ugalde reported that he met with Poca Ropa to discuss Spanish frontier Indian policy over a stiff drink, although the chief was “… careful to leave his rifle with me for the purpose of making himself tame” since the topic under discussion- the Spanish repudiation of assistance to the Lipans in favor of a Comanche alliance- inflamed the passions of the Lipan chief. Poca Ropa is last mentioned in 1788, when it was noted that he and his band were camped in Coahuila near Texas Lipan chief Casimiro.

      The name Poca Ropa re-surfaced in 1822 when Chief Yolcna Pocarropa (also spelled Yolcha or Yoléna Pocarropa) , representing the Lipan bands of west Texas, agreed to a peace treaty with Anastacio Bustamante, frontier military commander of a newly-independent Mexico. Yolcna Pocarropa was the successor to Poca Ropa, possibly his son or grandson. After signing the Bustamante Treaty, Chiefs Yolcna Pocarropa and Cuelgas de Castro journeyed to Mexico City, in order to ratify the treaty and meet with representatives of Mexican Emperor Iturbidé. Yolcna Pocarropa last appears in the historical records of Texas in 1828 when he negotiated a second treaty at Laredo. By 1828, Yolcna Pocarropa had relocated his band from west Texas and settled them at a fixed settlement near the town of Laredo. By 1830, the Pocarropa band had moved across the Rio Grande into Tamaulipas, settling downriver from Laredo at a location now covered by Falcon Lake, although the band crossed frequently back and forth from Mexico into Texas. The descendants of Yolcna Pocarropa have inhabited the Falcon Lake to McAllen area of south Texas from 1830 until the present day.

Cuelgas de Castro (abt. 1792-1842/1844)


      Cuelgas de Castro was an early to mid-nineteenth century chief of the Sun Otter band which had traditionally inhabited the San Antonio and south Texas region. Cuelgas, born about 1792, was the son of Josef Chiquito and grandson of Josef Grande el Manco (Big Joseph the One-Armed), progenitor of the primary line of Sun Otter chiefs. The Castro surname was informally bestowed on the family, and particularly on the infant Cuelgas, by Ramon de Castro, military commander of the northeastern Spanish frontier provinces from 1787 to 1792. The descendants of Cuelgas retained the Castro surname throughout the nineteenth century and bear the surname today.

      When Cuelgas was about eighteen years old, he and other Lipans joined Samuel Kemperer in attacking San Antonio during the Gutierrez-Magee expedition (1812), although Cuelgas did not participate in the later Battle of Medina (1814). Cuelgas de Castro had risen to leadership of the Sun Otter band by 1822, when he traveled to Mexico City with Yolcna Pocarropa to ratify the Bustamante treaty with the new government of Mexico; one provision of that treaty offered land grants to the Lipans in order to bring them “under the cares of civilization.” In 1826, Cuelgas signed a second treaty at Laredo with the government of Mexico; Cuelgas was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel and he drew a salary from the Republic of Mexico. Cuelgas’ band received gifts and food subsidies distributed from Laredo through 1827.

      After Texas independence in 1836, Chief Cuelgas de Castro, his son John (or Juan) Castro and warriors from the Sun Otter band fought as auxiliary troops in Texas militia engagements with the Comanches, most notably the attack on a Comanche camp led by Col. J.H. Moore in 1839 in which captive Matilda Lockhart was rescued. In 1838, Cuelgas signed the Treaty of Live Oak Point, a “treaty of friendship and mutual aid between his people and the Republic of Texas.”

      Although the Sun Otter band traditionally inhabited the San Antonio area, they ranged into south Texas and across the Rio Grande south of Laredo. In 1840, Cuelgas and his band were living at a buffalo camp near the northern Mexican village of Estacas (Tamaulipas) where a resident recalled, “I knew the Lipan Indians at Estacas below Laredo till as late as 1840. They killed many buffalo and brought the meat and skins to that place to barter to the Mexicans; and I remember seeing a pet buffalo cow their chief Castro had trained to follow his saddle animal.”

      One outside observer during the early years of Mexican and Texas independence who left a written impression of Cuelgas de Castro was Jean Louis Berlandier, a Swiss botanist who accompanied a Mexican scientific expedition into Texas in 1828. Berlandier observed that Chief Cuelgas de Castro “is quite civilized. Castro, as he is called, speaks good Spanish and has a feeling for justice and equity. He punishes the wrongs his subjects commit when complaint is made to him. He says that he has several times tried to get the scattered rancherías to join into villages but that most of the Lipans are unalterably opposed to such a move.” Berlandier also noted that Cuelgas was “a man remarkable for his urbanity and his propensity toward civilized life.”

      When Cuelgas de Castro died (1842-1844), leadership of the Sun Otter band devolved upon his sons, Ramón Castro and Juan or John Castro. Ramón Castro and his ranchería settled in the Selma, Texas area northeast of San Antonio. This site, located along Cibolo Creek, had originally been a buffalo camp in the eighteenth century but by 1846 had become a Lipan settlement area called “the Lipan’s old Town” by Robert S. Neighbors, Texas Indian Agent. As pressure mounted in the 1840’s and 1850’s to remove the Texas Indians and place them on reservations, the Ramón Castro ranchería moved between the Selma, Texas area and Atascosa County, south of San Antonio. John Castro and his portion of the Sun Otter band ranged southwest of San Antonio.

      Like their father, Ramón and John Castro attempted to establish a cooperative relationship between the Lipans and the Texas government. Chief Ramón Castro signed the Tehuacana Treaty of 1844 with the Republic of Texas and once Texas became a state, Chief John Castro signed the San Saba Treaty of 1851 with the United States. However, both leaders soon found that their cooperation would be used by the Texans as a means to remove the tribe from its ancient homeland. By 1847, Ramón Castro rejected the Texas Indian Agency’s attempt to restrict and control the movements of his portion of the Sun Otter band and fled with his people into deep south Texas and later, into Mexico. When Chief John Castro, who placed his portion of the band under the control of the Texas Indian Agency, was accused of the massacre of the Forrester family (a crime perpetrated by the Comanches) and threatened with imprisonment and forcible placement on a reservation, the chief fled with his people to Mexico in 1855. However, portions of the Castro rancherías later filtered back into Texas and the Castro family returned to the San Antonio area, where they remained throughout the twentieth century and are still living today.

Costalites (abt. 1820-1873)


      Costalites was the chief of a Lipan band which ranged from the northern Mexican state of Coahuila up into southwestern Texas. He is first mentioned in 1866, when warriors from his band captured a thirteen year old boy named Frank Buckelew from the Bandera/Medina County area of Texas. Costalites welcomed the young boy into the band and indicated that he wished to arrange the marriage of Buckelew with the chief’s granddaughter, but Buckelew escaped before the marriage could take place. In 1869, U.S. envoy Stephen Smith attempted to meet with Costalites and other Lipans in Mexico, but found they had fled into Texas after an attack by the Mexican Army near Zaragosa, Coahuila.

      In order to counteract the military pressures being exerted against the Lipans from both sides of the Rio Grande, Chief Costalites made several important alliances with Indian tribes who were not generally traditional Lipan allies. The chief’s alliance with Wild Cat’s band of black Seminoles, a group which had been given permission in 1850 by the Mexican government to settle in Mexico, was sealed by the marriage of the chief’s daughter Teresita to a black Seminole who later served as an Indian scout at Ft. Clark. Costalites also established an alliance with a group of southern Comanches led by Také-vera, who entered Mexico in 1872.

      In spite of these alliances, military pressures against the Lipans only increased in the 1870’s and the alliance with the black Seminoles eventually led to betrayal. In May 1873, Col. Ranald Mackenzie and six companies of the 4th U.S. Cavalry from Ft. Clark crossed the Rio Grande and attacked Costalites’ camp and a nearby Kickapoo camp at El Remolino, Coahuila. Mackenzie and his troops were led to the camps’ location by black Seminole scouts, one of whom roped Chief Costalies and dragged him behind his horse. Nineteen Indians were killed in the attack and 41 Lipan and Kickapoos were taken prisoner, among them Chief Costalites. The prisoners were brought to Ft. Clark and were then marched to San Antonio, where they were housed in a corral in conditions later described as a “prison camp.” One oral tradition states that Costalites refused to eat while in custody, as a protest against the prisoner’s treatment. In late June 1873, Chief Costalites escaped from Army custody. His body was found several days later, thirteen miles west of San Antonio. A rabbit carcass was found near the body, leading to the assumption that the chief had killed the rabbit for food and had died while attempting to eat it.

Magoosh (abt. 1830- abt. 1900)


      Chief Magoosh was born into a band which traditionally inhabited the area around San Antonio, Texas. As a young boy, he witnessed the Battle of the Alamo. In 1850, however, a severe smallpox epidemic caused Magoosh’s band to flee the San Antonio area. One group went to Mexico and settled near Zaragosa, Coahuila. A second group led by Magoosh sought refuge with the Mescalero Apaches in New Mexico. When the Mescaleros were placed on a reservation in the 1870’s, Magoosh and his followers formed the core group of Lipan Apaches living on the Mescalero reservation. His descendants still live at Mescalero.





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