The natural springs and river valley of our region have attracted human visitation and settlement for thousands of years. Prehistoric artifacts dating back at least 11,000 years have been found in Brackenridge Park, at San Antonio Springs and in the Olmos Basin.
The largest and most important archaeological site in Bexar County was located where Olmos Dam now sits.
Early residents of our region were Coahuiltecans (pronounce it: KOE-ha-HWEE-ta-kanz). They were not a single group of American Indians but instead a generic term for those who lived in Coahuila y Texas, of which San Antonio was a part prior to its independence from Mexico in 1836. In our area, there were up to 200 small bands of hunter-gatherers that lived in seasonal villages along the river they named Yanaguana, meaning “refreshing waters.” They were semi-nomadic, maybe spending the winter on the Gulf Coast and the rest of the year around San Antonio.
In the 1600s and 1700s, other American Indian bands began to enter the area, mainly the Tonkawa, the Lipan Apache (all the way from Canada!) and the Comanche. At the same time, Europeans began to settle the region: Father Massanet first to meet with the Coahuiltecans of the Payaya tribe near the headwaters of the river on June 13, 1691. The combination of these forces devastated the original inhabitants. They were forced to live and work in the the missions, their nomadic way of life was destroyed, and diseases, for which they had no immunity, killed many of them.
This is not to say that the original inhabitants have disappeared. They intermarried, and many of their descendants still live in San Antonio, near the missions, where you will go on Saturday’s Texas Trail Rounup.