|The penned inscription on this photograph reads “Tonquaways of Texas,” and it dates from around 1865. The two men, at this point unidentified, each pose with a bow and a single arrow. They wear a combination of tribal and Western clothing. |
“Tonquaway” is a 19th spelling for the Tonkawa tribe, which once roamed the region that is now Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. In 1884, the US government forcibly gathered and relocated the Tonkawas, finally settling them in Oakland, Oklahoma in 1885. That this image identifies the two men as “Tonquaways of Texas” is further evidence, apart from the photographic style of the print and mounting, that this image dates from a time before their expulsion from Texas.
The Tonkawa have endured, despite their version of the Trail of Tears. According to the official website of the Tonkawa tribe, the Waco (Wichita) name for the Tonkawa is “Tonkaweya,” which means “They All Stay Together,” and the Tonkawa’s own name for themselves is “Tickanwa•tic,” which means “Real People.”