The region that now encompasses Central Texas and northern Coahuila, Mexico, was once inhabited by numerous Native hunter-gather groups whose identities and lifeways we are only now learning through archaeological discoveries and painstaking research into Spanish and French colonial records. From these key sources, Maria F. Wade has compiled this first comprehensive ethnohistory of the Native groups that inhabited the Texas Edwards Plateau and surrounding areas during most of the Spanish colonial era.
Much of the book deals with events that took place late in the seventeenth century, when Native groups and Europeans began to have their first sustained contact in the region. Wade identifies twenty-one Native groups, including the Jumano, who inhabited the Edwards Plateau at that time. She offers evidence that the groups had sophisticated social and cultural mechanisms, including extensive information networks, ladino cultural brokers, broad-based coalitions, and individuals with dual-ethnic status. She also tracks the eastern movement of Spanish colonizers into the Edwards Plateau region, explores the relationships among Native groups and between those groups and European colonizers, and develops a timeline that places isolated events and singular individuals within broad historical processes.