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Thomas N. Campbell

CHAYOPIN INDIANS. The aboriginal homeland of the Chayopins has not been positively identified. They seem to have been first recorded under the name Cayupin by Juan Bautista Chapa, an early historian of Nuevo León who died in 1695. Although Chapa connected them with the northern part of Nuevo León, he failed to mention whether the Cayupins were native to Nuevo León or lived north of the Rio Grande and raided southward into Mexico. For the Texas area no documents refer to the Chayopins until San José y San Miguel de Aguayo Mission was established at San Antonio in 1720. The earliest reference to a Texas location for the Chayopins appears in a document of 1737. This and several later documents indicate that they were from an area southeast of San Antonio, lying mainly between the lower courses of the Nueces and San Antonio rivers, apparently in the general vicinity of modern Bee County. As no early French and Spanish travelers in Texas referred to encounters with Chayopins, and no Chayopins were ever recorded for northern Tamaulipas, it is possible that Chapa's Cayupins, along with other refugees from the northern frontier of Nuevo León, moved into the Bee County area in the early part of the eighteenth century.

Chayopin individuals and families are known to have entered at least three of the five Spanish missions of San Antonio. The documentary record, however, is limited, and it is difficult to extract much precise information. It is evident that initially the Chayopins were dissatisfied with the restrictions of mission life, for they sometimes deserted a mission to return to their home grounds. Reliable figures cannot be given for the number of Chayopins who went to each of the three missions, or for the number who remained in their homeland and never entered missions at San Antonio or elsewhere. Although the recorded evidence is none too clear, it appears that some Chayopin entered San José Mission not long after it was established at San Antonio in 1720, but they soon deserted this mission. Just when they deserted, or for what reasons, remains unknown. Apparently no Chayopins ever returned to this mission. A document of 1743 names the Chayopins as one of the nine Indian groups represented at Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Acuña Mission when it was established in 1731. Just how many Chayopins came to this mission is unknown, but probably not many, since the Concepción marriage register, the only register that has survived, identifies only two Chayopin individuals (entries for 1745–46). Most of the Chayopin who entered missions seem to have been associated with San Juan Capistrano Mission. It is clear that Chayopins arrived at this mission sometime between 1731 and 1737. In 1738 all of them deserted the mission and returned to their former home in southern Texas. One document mentions that the Chayopin and Venado Indians, who both deserted at the same time, numbered over 150. In 1762 it was recorded that the principal Indian groups at San Juan Capistrano were Chayopin, Orejón, Pamaque, and Piguique, which all together consisted of fifty-one families with a total population of 203. Some Chayopins seem to have remained at San Juan Capistrano until the mission was secularized in 1794. One Chayopin individual, a young man of San Juan Capistrano known as Andrés, went to Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria Mission when it was founded in 1749 on the San Gabriel River in what is now Milam County, some forty-five miles northeast of Austin. At Mission Candelaria Andrés served as cook for the two missionaries. In 1752, one of the missionaries, Fray Juan José Ganzabal, was killed, and Andrés was charged with murder. The case was complex because the presidential commander, Capt. Felipe de Rábago y Terán, who had quarreled with the missionaries, was implicated. Neither the commander nor Andrés was ever convicted. During a lengthy investigation Andrés was taken to Coahuila, and it appears that he spent the remainder of his life at a Spanish mission near Monclova.

In 1769 two Indian men, one a Chayopin, the other an Apache, were imprisoned for theft in San Antonio. These men escaped from their cell and took refuge in a room where guns and ammunition were stored. Both were killed in a long gunfight with Spanish soldiers. The Chayopin was evidently from one of the San Antonio missions, probably San Juan Capistrano, for he was given Christian burial. The corpse of the Apache was hung in a tree outside of town. In the second half of the eighteenth century the name Chayopin was given to the San Antonio-La Bahía road crossing of the San Antonio River northwest of the site of present Floresville (Wilson County), and several nearby ranches had names that included the word Chayopin. These place names were frequently mentioned in travel documents of that period. In 1760 Fray Bartolomé García published a manual for use in administering church ritual in the Coahuilteco language. According to him, the Chayopins spoke this language. Though this has led most scholars to classify the Chayopin as Coahuilteco-speakers, linguists have recently asked whether the Chayopins spoke Coahuilteco before entering the San Antonio missions. This problem cannot be resolved unless a pre-mission sample of Chayopin speech is found in some heretofore unknown European document. Nothing was ever recorded about Chayopin culture.

Some confusion surrounds recognizable variants of the name Chayopin. A statement made by one missionary at San Antonio indicated that the names Chayopin and Tiopin refer to the same Indian group. Chayopin has sometimes been mistakenly equated with the names Tiopan and Sayupan, both variants of the name Siupam, which refers to an Indian group distinct from the Chayopins. Apparently because of the similarity in the names, the Chayopins have been confused with the Choyopans, a poorly recorded subdivision of the Tonkawa Indians. As yet no documentary evidence has been found that shows Chayopin and Choyopin to be names for the same people, and there is no basis for relating the Chayopins to the Tonkawas.

Herbert E. Bolton, "The Founding of the Missions on the San Gabriel River, 1745–1749," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 17 (April 1914). Lyle Campbell and Marianne Mithune, eds., The Languages of Native America: Historical and Comparative Assessment (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1979). T. N. Campbell, "Coahuiltecans and Their Neighbors," in Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 10 (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1983). Carlos E. Castañeda, Our Catholic Heritage in Texas (7 vols., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1936–58; rpt., New York: Arno, 1976). Bartholomé García, comp., Manual para admiministrar los santos sacramentos (Mexico City, 1760). Marion A. Habig, The Alamo Chain of Missions (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1968; rev. ed. 1976). Frederick Webb Hodge, ed., Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico (2 vols., Washington: GPO, 1907, 1910; rpt., New York: Pageant, 1959). Alonso de León et al., Historia de Nuevo León (Monterrey: Centro de Estudios Humanísticos de la Universidad de Nuevo León, 1961). Proceedings for the Investigation of the Murder at San Xavier of Father Francisco Joseph Ganzábal and Juan Joseph Zains de Zeballos, February 21-September 30, 1752, Bexar Archives Translations, Vol. 24, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. M. K. Schuetz, "An Historical Outline of Mission San Juan de Capistrano," La Tierra: Quarterly Journal of the Southern Texas Archaeological Association 7 (1980). Robert S. Weddle and Robert H. Thonhoff, Drama and Conflict: The Texas Saga of 1776 (Austin: Madrona, 1976).

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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, "CHAYOPIN INDIANS," accessed April 05, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/bmc49.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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