In Peter Jackson’s movie The Two Towers, we hear Samwise Gamgee say, “We’re not supposed to be here, Mr. Frodo.” And indeed, they weren’t. Sam and Frodo never went to Osgiliath in J. R. R. Tolkien’s classic novel, so the scene was a complete fabrication which aggravated many true Tolkien fans.
In the History Channel’s mini-series Texas Rising, we hear the Texas Ranger Billy Anderson (played by Brendan Fraser) exclaim, “Karankawa! I don’t know what they’re doing so far inland.” Indeed, I don’t know either. The scene is a complete fabrication, and this Texas history fan found it aggravating.
- Though Indian raids were a danger throughout the colonization and settling of Texas, I can find NO indication that any raiding parties of any tribe attacked the Texians during the Runaway Scrape.
- Most certainly Native American raiding parties did not attack Susanna Dickinson and her companions as they made their way from the Alamo to Gonzales.
- In all my years living in Texas and in all my encounters with other history enthusiasts, I have NEVER heard the name of this tribe pronounced as it was in Texas Rising. These were the Ka-RAN-ka-wah (means “dog lovers”, because they kept canines), not the KA-ran-KOW-uhs. Ugh! Unfortunately what has been heard cannot be unheard, and this bit of nonsense is likely to become an annoying “ear worm”. No. Just…no.
- The Karankawa were a coastal tribe. They were nomadic, but they rarely ventured very far inland. Their entire culture and way of life was tied to the coastal region.
- The Karankawa did occasionally attack white settlers, but mostly when they felt invaded. They would not have ranged so far north as a raiding party.
- The Karankawa, as far as I can tell, did not ride horses. They traveled on foot or in log canoes (which are not much use on the Texas prairies).
- The Karankawa were unique in appearance among native cultures. For one thing, they were strikingly large–over 6′ tall in a day when the average man was a good 6″ shorter. They were very muscular, heavily tattooed, and wore next to nothing. They smeared themselves with mud or rancid alligator grease to keep the mosquitoes off, and pierced their lips and nipples with bits of cane.
- The Karankawa did not fight with bows and arrows of the style depicted in Texas Rising. They used long bows 5′-6′ in length to shoot cane arrows roughly 3′ long. It took a lot of muscle power to draw such a bow, and it could not have easily been fired from horseback in any case.
- Finally, the Karankawa were never a very large people group, and they had been nearly wiped out by disease by the time of the Alamo. “When Texas became an independent republic in 1836 the Karankawa had been so reduced that they were no longer considered a formidable enemy.”
So for historical depiction of native Texas tribes, the mini-series failed rather monumentally.