What were the Karankawa Indians’ favourite foods?

The Karankawa Indians ate berries, plant roots, and other edible plants as well as wild deer, turtles, rabbits, turkeys, oysters, clams, drum, and redfish. They dwelt on the Gulf of Mexico coast in southeast Texas, among the Coahuiltecans to the south and west, and the Tonkawa to the north.

One popular misconception about the Karankawas is that they were cannibals. True, if they captured an enemy chief or warrior, they would murder and consume him. However, this was not for the goal of survival.

Instead, the goal was to seize the warrior’s inner force. The fact that the Karankawas were taken aback when the Spanish explorer Cabeza da Vaca told them that some of his companions had eaten their fellow expedition members to avoid starvation shows that the Karankawas did not regard fellow humans as a food source.

Because of the scarcity of food, the Karankawas rarely stayed at their camps for more than a month or two. When migrating from island to island, they mostly travelled by dugout canoe, but they also journeyed by foot, dwelling in portable wigwams that could hold up to eight people. The Karankawas’ continual search for sustenance led them to roam across southeastern Texas.

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Misha Khatri
Misha Khatri is an emeritus professor in the University of Notre Dame's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. He graduated from Northern Illinois University with a BSc in Chemistry and Mathematics and a PhD in Physical Analytical Chemistry from the University of Utah.

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