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Chief Placido


My son was first introduced to Texas history in second grade. They taught that the first settlements of Texas started in 1821 with the 300  hundred families brought by Stephen F. Austin, through a Mexican Land Grant.

I went to the school to talk to the teacher and asked if they planned to teach the rest of the story. I asked why they didn’t cover the earlier settlements of the Spanish and Adeos, of San Antonio, of the Nuevo Santander villages, not to mention the original human inhabitants, that is the indigenous tribes occupying the area such as the Wichita, Comanche, Caddo, Tonkawa, etc.

Not getting a satisfactory answer, my husband and I had to supplement our son’s instructions for history and geography classes at home. Years later, the trend to ignore settlements other than the Anglo ones was still strong. I remember taking a tour of San Marcos with a prominent local historian. She pointed out that no humans inhabited the area until General Edward Burleson helped develop it in the 1840s. In actuality, the San Marcos River had been the lifeblood of the Tonkawa and other early settlers. The historian’s words concerned Chuck, my husband, who wrote the following poetic essay:

Tonkawa child sitting on a rock by the San Marcos River, you see the reflection of your image and know that you are beauty too. Yours was an old culture developed over thousands of years. Every sound, every leaf, and every living thing had meaning and value. You lived upon the land, but more so, you lived with the land. The white historian said “the land was empty of humans—only a few Indians were here!” Little Tonkawa, I cherish your humanity deep within my heart. The arrogant and ignorant culture that pushed you aside did not accept your wisdom and now weights heavy upon the land. But I know your humanity cannot be measured in bank-buildings and finished factories. For you transcend the human and rise to an even more exalted plane. This you and I can share.  — Chuck Tabor 4/10/91

Chuck was a member of Leadership San Marcos in 2007, when under Rodney van Oudekerke, they dedicated a statue by sculptor Eric Slocombe, to honor Chief Placido and the Tonkawa of Central Texas. Chief Placido, known in his own language as Ha-shu-ka-na (“Can’t Kill Him”), was the last major Chief of the Tonkawa Indians.

They moved the Tonkawa Tribe to Oklahoma, but they still have a ceremony that requires juniper branches from San Marcos. 

For reference to Indigenous tribes of Texas, you can visit

Chief Placido at:

Bullock Museum:

And the Texas State Archives:


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