The Lipans hunted a variety of animals and gathered a
great variety of plant foods. Their primary source of meat was the buffalo, which
they hunted twice a year in hunts which were called carneadas by the Spanish.
The Lipan word for buffalo was ezhánde, but they also called them buhala,
which was similar to the Spanish word buffalo. The buffalo hunt was a time of
rejoicing by the people. A number of bands would gather together. Old friends and
distant relatives were reunited; marriages were arranged and celebrated. Before
the hunt began, a holy man would consult with the spirit deities as to the location
of the herd. Then the men would ride out and surround the herd, advancing simultaneously
on all sides. Antelope, which the Lipan called tcela-a, were also hunted in the
same manner. Deer (called kockeya) were generally hunted by small groups of men
or by individuals who tracked the deer on horseback. Lipan hunters were careful to always
leave the eye of the animal and pieces of meat from between the ribs for Crow, mythic
guardian of the hunt. Smaller animals such as rabbits, turkey, quail and javelinas
were also hunted.
The Lipan also gathered and processed many plant foods.
The hunt was an activity carried out by men, but the gathering of plant foods was done
by women, who wove baskets in order to carry the harvest back to camp. Before setting
out to harvest cactus tunas in the spring, the women danced. The Lipan harvested and
processed a wide variety of cactus species, yucca, mescal, tule, palm and mesquite in
order to supplement the meat in their diet. Flavoring and seasoning was provided by
mountain chilies and wild onions. Honey and wild plums were also gathered.
The Lipans practiced a limited form of agriculture
long before the tribe had any contact with Europeans. The women would plant corn
and squash along fertile river banks and the band would camp in that location
long enough for the plants to sprout and produce. When the Spanish first founded
San Antonio, they found corn growing northwest of town; they named the spot Elotes,
which means “green ears of corn.” The Spanish had stumbled across a Lipan corn camp and
the Lipans returned to Elotes or Helotes until at least 1856.