Kronks – The Native American Cannibals of Texas


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I am reading Mike Cox‘s brilliant recounting of the Texas Rangers in his Wearing the Cinco Peso 1821  -1900 The Texas Rangers and I found, early on in the book,  a mention of the Karankawa Indian tribe. This tribe, was said to be a cannibal tribe of Indians that were greatly feared by everyone.

They lived along the Texas coastal region next to the Gulf of Mexico. Cox relates in his book how Stephen Fuller Austin (ex-Missourian and “father” of Texas) encountered a “branch” of Coco Indians who were part of the larger Karankawa tribe.

Where it was considered common knowledge that the tribe engaged in the act of cannibalism, it was not a part of their dietary requirement. It was more a case of eating their fallen foes to gain their strength and abilities, a cultural rather than sustenance reason shared with other races in the world.

Author Robert A Ricklis points this out in his (out of print) book on the Karankawa tribe written in 1991. Although if you read Austin‘s description of the Coco’s he encountered they certainly don’t sound like they exist on human flesh, they look too healthy!

From The Texas Rangers by Michael Cox: “These Indians were well-formed and apparently very active and athletic men.”  The women were also something to be admired, “They wore painted animal hides that hung just below their knees, but, above the waist they were naked…Their breasts…marked or tattooed in circles of black beginning at the nipple and enlarging as the breast swelled. All the women were handsome and one of them quite pretty.” (Stephen Fuller Austin – July 1821)

Detailed picture of Karankawa Indians from Unversity of Autin
Detailed picture of Karankawa Indians from Unversity of Autin

The Karankawa, or Kronks as the white settlers called them, were not a popular tribe. The other tribes and the Spaniards feared them. They generally protected their territory fiercely and the added practise of eating the carcasses of their fallen enemies gave them an overall terrifying reputation.

They also, according to Austin, were clever and cunning in their dealings with outsiders. It was the war-like tendency of the Kronks combined with the cannibal rituals that made them especially feared by the white newcomers to the Texas territory. Before the battle with the Mexican government for their freedom, the settlers first declared war on the various tribes already entrenched in Texas. The Kronks were the first to be vanquished from the face of the countryside.

Oddly, this race of Indians were not the only people who did not find cannibalism distasteful. On a Ranger scouting trip after  three Indians had been dispatched with extreme prejudice; a member of the company named Dave Lawrence then proceeded to “step up and cut off the thigh of one of the slain Indians.” When Ranger Cicero Rufus Perry asked Lawrence what he intended to do with it, he replied, “Why, I am going to take it along to eat. If you don’t get some game before noon tomorrow we’ll need it.” (From Mike Cox’s The Texas Rangers)

It could be argued that Lawrence was just “buying” into the general feeling at the time that Native Americans were too hostile to be human and were viewed by many as more like animals, but, I don’t think so.

Being of Native American descent myself, I’m aware that the Indians encountered by the white settlers as they made their way across the country were considered savages by the mutual consent of the “civilised” men who did not understand their mostly nomadic and war-like way of life. When it came to the way the tribes fought and killed their enemy (often killing women and children indiscriminately) the white man could not and would not accept that this was acceptable.

Artist's rendition of The Trail of Tears. Painting by Max Stanley.
Artist’s rendition of The Trail of Tears.
Painting by Max Stanley.

War between the two factions was inevitable as was the Indian’s eventual defeat. Despite the country being enormous, the settlers numbers were too big to be turned back and having superior firepower and numbers, the tribes were continually being forced onto smaller and smaller bits of land.

As I have at least one direct relative that was found by the “trail of tears” (a baby abandoned, no doubt by the parents who most likely died on that forced march) by a Cavalry Patrol and was adopted by one Pvt Sallee (a French immigrant) I know that Native Americans all have long and fascinating stories of their life before and during the invasion of North America.

Having read a large amount of literature about my (distant) relatives, I was surprised to learn of a “cannibal” tribe. The tales from Texas Rangers and settlers who lived in the country at that time, give a wonderful look at the tribes that they encountered, fought and vanquished. Unfortunately, the tales are a bit one-sided as the victor often gets to dictate the “truth” of events.

In this case, the Karankawa or “Kronks” were not cannibals as such, as I stated above, they practised a cannibal ritual that has been around since, presumably, mankind first started walking the earth.

I’m reading three books on the Texas Rangers to get background for a book I am writing. I will periodically stop to write about the more interesting things I discover. Things like the cannibal Kronks.

Image of the Texas Ranger, the lariat, the pistol, cartridges and the cinco peso.
Image of the Texas Ranger, the lariat, the pistol, cartridges and the cinco peso.

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, http://MikesFilmTalk.com Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

10 thoughts on “Kronks – The Native American Cannibals of Texas”

  1. Dear Mike, Steve and TeePee12,
    Check out the movies Stalking Moon and Ulzanas Raid. A couple interesting films on the Apache wars.

    Enjoy,
    Bill

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  2. I saw this new movie last night entitled Bone Tomahawk. Disgusting tale. It was this movie that prompted me to go online and find out if, in fact, there were Native American cannibals. I came across your article here. I was fortunate to have spent 4 years in North Dakota. 1990 to 1994. It was in Fargo that I saw my first Native Americans and I was mesmerized by the size and raw beauty of these people. At a Bingo session I attended, there were native Men and women in attendance. I wanted to go over and talk with them but was afraid that I would offend them even saying hello to them. I have always been appalled by what we did to the native Americans and still do so today. Reservations are awful and not one President and it should have been Obama … who would visit these Reservations and provide monies to clean them up. Instead we give Iran 120 billion dollars. Ok ..I have vented.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and for venting. My great-grandmother was found by the trail of tears by a cavalry patrol. My ancestors were treated shabbily no doubt, by a race that seemed determined to eradicate them off the face of the planet. Cheers matey.

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  3. The “Kronks” being tall compared to other’s of the period and being muscular was a significant factor in others being fearful of them. My research and on going education in relation to these “Native Texans” indicates that all were very tall. Embellishment is always a factor but I’m wondering if the label of “Giant Devils” I’ve encountered multiple times is actually quite true. One source told of the last Kronk left [a male] that found refuge with the lady who operated the ferry service in east Texas/west Louisiana being 7′ plus which would have been freakish heighth in the period if true. It also reported that he worked and lived at the ferry site but was murdered by a civilzed difter who upon seeing the mild mannered faithful Native screamed “INJUN!” and hot him dead. He reportedly was very close to multiple Texans and of no visible cause of alarm. Enjoyed this article.

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    1. Thank you for sharing this fascinating information! I’d stumbled over the Kronks, I think, while researching the Texas Rangers and found the information interesting enough to put pen to paper, so to speak, and write a bit about them. And I’m very pleased that you enjoyed the article! 🙂

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  4. Great look at this, Mike. If you’re interested, I recommend reading S.C. Gwynne’s wonderful tome and breathtaking history, ‘Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History’. You’ll get a look at the Kronks, Texas Rangers, and the people who most shaped the country by holding Europeans at bay the longest.

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  5. Except for emergencies where there was no choice but to eat the dead or become one of them, to the best of my knowledge, eating the enemy has always be a ritual and not a food choice.

    European settlers on this and every other continent did their best to kill off the aboriginal inhabitants of whatever lands they invaded. The various rationalizations employed for doing it are just that: rationalizations. They wanted the land. They took the land. They killed the people whose land it had always been. The rest is bullshit.

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    1. In a word? Agreed! Even at the same time the settlers were “converting” the heathen population to the joys of Christianity, they were still pushing and killing them at alarming rates and if it wasn’t out and out warfare they were starved to death on the Reservations! Whew! Rant over…

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