In the late sixteenth century, Spanish explorers described encounters with North American people they called "Jumanos." Although widespread contact with Jumanos is evident in accounts of exploration and colonization in New Mexico, Texas, and adjacent regions, their scattered distribution and scant documentation have led to long-standing disagreements: was "Jumano" simply a generic name loosely applied to a number of tribes, or were they an authentic, vanished people?
In the first full-length study of the Jumanos, anthropologist Nancy Hickerson proposes that they were indeed a distinctive tribe, their wide travel pattern linked over well-established itineraries. Drawing on extensive primary sources, Hickerson also explores their crucial role as traders in a network extending from the Rio Grande to the Caddoan tribes' confederacies of East Texas and Oklahoma.
Hickerson further concludes that the Jumanos eventually became agents for the Spanish colonies, drafted as mercenary fighters and intelligence-gatherers. Her findings reinterpret the cultural history of the South Plains region, bridging numerous gaps in the area's comprehensive history and in the chronicle of these elusive people.
About the Author: Nancy Parrott Hickerson is an associate professor of anthropology at Texas Tech University. She has written numerous related articles and is the author of Linguistic Anthropology.