Native & White Americans

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Re-establishing our

Native Friendships

The last fifty years has seen new generations of Americans grow up in their respect for the role of indigenous peoples. Most of us have at least heard of the “trail of tears” even if we don’t fully understand its scope and impact. But while our respect is often present, actual friendships are quite rare. That must change! I propose that new friendships be formed locationally — that is, with those very tribes who used to inhabit the land upon which our city formed. Since I live in Austin, my foremost interest is the Tonkawa Tribe.

Telling the Story of the Tonkawa Tribe: Movie? Book?

While researching a fictional screenplay, stories regarding the Tonkawa Tribe in Austin Texas caught my attention. The Tonkawa were the primary people group to inhabit Central Texas in the hundreds of years that preceded the establishment of Texas. However, the historical record of the Tonkawa in Austin and Central Texas is scarce, scattered, and indicated the tribe was often overlooked. Today many Texans still believe the Tonkawa Tribe is extinct!

It took me more two years to acquire a private collection of seventy-five primary and secondary Tonkawa Tribe historical sources; it may now be one of the largest in the country. Studying the (all-white) sources, and pushing past the settler bias (if not prejudice) I began to find patterns that spoke towards how the tribe might have viewed itself. In a rare combination of events, I found myself in front of the tribal leadership in 2020 to share my research. Not only has the tribe rebounded, but their core values have remained intact. After meeting the tribe I worked with the tribal historian to add annotations to my research including evidence of historical inaccuracies. “You are the first writer in modern times to ask for our point of view,” was a sentence I couldn’t believe I heard spoken.

The sourcebook is not for sale — it belongs to the tribe, but it provides a foundation for what CAN be published. But how? A book? A movie? Probably both, but at least the latter.  In 2022 we formed Sugarloaf Pictures LLC in order to make Tonkawa: They All Stay Together.

I will not rest until something wonderful has been re-established in our day, from the deeply held friendships a few Texans held with their honorable Tonkawa friends.

Blog Posts from Native and White Americans

The Tonkawa Tribe is Extinct – Not!

Beginning with the major eyewitness accounts of the Tonkawa in Central Texas in the late 1800s, and continuing into the mid-1900s many statements were made by Texans that the Tonkawa were either extinct or close to it. For example, an American Statesman Article in 1947 concludes, “The Indian affairs people believe there’s only one Tonkawa brave left. And he lives not in Tonkawa, but in Texas.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. The Tonkawa Tribe has grown to over 800 persons, most of whom live in or near Tonkawa, Oklahoma just off I-35. The tribe still retains its friendly disposition, openness, and a strong desire to preserve its heritage.


For Bob’s Research on the Tonkawa

Russell Martin – Tonkawa Tribe

Bob O’Dell’s compilation of the recorded history and stories of the Tonkawa Tribe in Central Texas is the largest such collection I have seen.

Russell Martin

Chief, Tonkawa Tribe

Albert J McCarn – Historian

Every story left out of our past diminishes us all in some way. The grand story of Texas, rich as it is, still contains gaps that impact the collective identity of all Texans. The tale of the Tonkawa Tribe’s connection to Austin is one of those gaps. Bob O’Dell has begun the laudable effort to recover that story. His research shows that Austin, if not the entire State of Texas, still owes a debt of honor to this lesser-known Native people for their friendship and support in the creation of  Texas.

Albert J. McCarn
Lt. Col. (Ret), U.S. Army
Historian and Author

Get in Touch With Bob O’Dell

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