While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Thomas N. Campbell

ATAJAL INDIANS. In 1690 Damián Massanet reported an encounter with the Atajals and five other Indian groups in the Frio River valley southwest of San Antonio, apparently in what is now Frio County. Massanet's observations on Indian languages spoken in southern Texas seem to indicate that the Atajals and their associates spoke the language now known as Coahuilteco. The Atajals of Massanet were evidently the same people as the Etayax Indians, who are recorded as one of the groups known to Jean Jarry in 1688. The Atajals appear to have originally lived somewhere along the southern margin of the Edwards Plateau west of San Antonio. The southward thrust of Apaches must have displaced them from their homeland. In 1708 they were last recorded, under the name Atacal, as living farther south in Texas. After being reduced in numbers, they probably merged with a remnant of some larger group. Although there is some similarity in the names, it is not possible to prove by documentary evidence that the Atajals of Massanet were the same people as the Atayos of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. The Atayos were known to Cabeza de Vaca in the years 1533–34 and appear to have lived in an area 140 miles east of the Atajals. This was more than 150 years before the Atajals were first recorded. The similarity in names is probably fortuitous.

Thomas N. Campbell and T. J. Campbell, Historic Indian Groups of the Choke Canyon Reservoir and Surrounding Area, Southern Texas (San Antonio: Center for Archaeological Research, University of Texas at San Antonio, 1981). Lino Gómez Canedo, ed., Primeras exploraciones y poblamiento de Texas, 1686–1694 (Monterrey: Publicaciones del Instituto Technológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, 1968). Alonso de León et al., Historia de Nuevo León (Monterrey: Centro de Estudios Humanísticos de la Universidad de Nuevo León, 1961). P. Otto Maas, ed., Viajes de Misioneros Franciscanos a la conquista del Nuevo México (Seville: Imprenta de San Antonio, 1915).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Thomas N. Campbell, "ATAJAL INDIANS," accessed August 05, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/bma57.

Uploaded on June 9, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...