The Jumano Indians, now believed to be extinct, were an indigenous tribe that occupied a significant part of Texas, New Mexico, and present-day Mexico. This Historyplex post gives you some interesting facts about the mysterious and fascinating Jumano Indians.
Did You Know?
Spanish explorer Antonio de Espejo has been credited with first using the term ‘Jumano’ back in 1582, when he came across the natives living at La Junta.
Very few Indian tribes are as mysterious and fascinating for historians and anthropologists alike, as the Jumano Indians. A distinctive tribe (rather, a people) living in what today is Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico, along with the Southern Plains, much is yet to be discovered about the Jumano Indians simply because they were always on the move when the Europeans arrived in the 1500s.
If some accounts are to be believed, it is even suggested that there was more than one group of Jumano Indians based upon where they lived, making identification even more difficult. Their nomadic nature and constant shifting from one place to another adds to the confusion. However, there is no doubt that these people played a significant role in shaping the history of the land. Facts about their culture, beliefs, traditions, clothing styles, food, weapons, and homes will be covered in the trailing sections of this Historyplex article.
History and Origin of the Jumano Indians
► There is much speculation and confusion about the origin of the Jumano Indians owing to their nomadic lifestyle and nature. They were known to frequently change their place of inhabitation, and thus it has become very difficult to determine their exact place of origin or homeland.
► Anthropologists and historians, based upon the accounts of European explorers of the time, have divided the Jumano Indians into three distinct groups.
◉ The group that lived in Texas, Mexico, and New Mexico
◉ The group that lived in the Southern Plains, and
◉ The group that was in between these two regions.
► The Jumano Indians adapted a lot to other cultures and traditions, and did not follow any one specific culture. This made determining their origin even more difficult. Some experts account their origin to the Apache tribe, while others relate them to the New Mexico Tompiro Pueblo Indians.
► Though the tribe is now primarily referred to as Jumano, it has been known by a variety of names in the accounts of early European explorers who penned the tribes’ names down according to the pronunciation of the name. Hence, it has been known as Jumana, Xoman, Chomana, and Humana, among other names, in various accounts. This has made it difficult to determine the origin and culture of this tribe.
► Though this tribe was very large, the language spoken by the people hasn’t been determined yet due to incomplete records of the early explorers. Some experts feel they spoke Uto-Aztecan, while others debate whether it was Tanoan or Athabascan.
Culture and Lifestyle of the Jumano Indians
This tribe is widely known for its mixed culture, which is apparent from the food habits, clothing styles, and the traditions of the people of this tribe.
Food and Shelter
► The Jumano Indians were known to grow their own food as well as hunt around for it. Though a large part of the tribe lived in the desert areas, they managed to undertake agriculture in the areas that were near the river.
► The tribe is known for being omnivorous in its diet. The Jumano Indians hunted and traded the meat for cultivated products and vice-versa. They were known to grow corn, beans, and squash to name a few, and hunted deer, wild buffaloes, and rabbits for their meat.
► The food habits of the Jumano Indians depended on where they lived, rather than any cultural beliefs or traditions. Those living near the major rivers could grow and raise their own food, while others depended on hunting, gathering, and trading for fulfilling their nutrition needs.
► The methods of preparation of their food were also known to be primitive. The Jumano Indians ate most of their food raw, or boiled and salted. Sometimes, meat was smoked or specially dried in order to preserve it for another time.
► The Jumano Indians living in the regions of present-day Texas and New Mexico used materials such as rocks, dirt, and straw to make their houses. In order to make the houses strong enough for several people to live in and stay protected, the Jumano Indians made their ‘adobes’ by mixing mud and straw, which resulted in a strong, brick-like material which could then be used to build walls. Though the houses were small, many people, almost always an entire family, lived together in the same house.
► The Jumano Indians living in the Southern Plains did not build their adobes as they stayed in one place for a very short time and were almost always on the move. These people built tepees from animal skin, like many other Native Indian tribes, to protect themselves from wild animals, insects, and the weather elements.
► Some old accounts of European explorers have referred to the Jumano Indians as the Naked Indians, because often, the tribal people did not cover their genitalia, wore nothing above the waist, and often went without clothes, owing to the heat of the areas they lived in.
► Eventually, to protect themselves from the harsh elements as well as from wild animals and insects, the Jumano Indians began to wear long skirts and moccasins. However, even after they learned how to make their own clothes, a lot of them still preferred not to wear clothes.
► The men wore cloaks or capes made from tanned skins and animal hide to protect themselves from the cold. They also wore moccasins made from deer hide in their feet as shoes. They cut their hair short except for one long lock, colored their hair with paint, and wore bird feathers in the long lock.
► Women wore short tunics and long skirts made from deer skin or buffalo hide. They too, wore moccasins in their feet. Women wore their hair long and tied it in a braid on the side, which could be decorated with bird feathers. Women, like men, used cloaks and capes for protection from the cold.
► The Jumano Indians, both men and women, were known to cover their bodies with interesting tattoos. These tattoos, especially those on the facial area, made it easy to identify them as Jumano people. Research suggests that these tattoos may have been drawn using needles made from animal bones.
► The Jumano Indians traded their expertly-made garments from animal hide with other tribes for shells, copper, and feathers.
Tools and Weapons
► Until the European settlers arrived, the concept of using metals for tools and weapons was unknown to the Jumano Indians. They largely used bones of animals, wood, and stone to make their tools and weapons.
► The Jumano Indians were known for their distinctive and intricate tattoos. The tribal people used bone splinters to make the needles that were required for the tattoos, which were elaborate and an important part of their appearance.
► Jumano men were known to shave their heads and keep only one lock of hair, as a part of their style. In order to do this, they used scrapers made from flint, which were perfectly sharpened and did the job of shaving their heads.
► The Jumano Indians who practiced agriculture stuck to basic wooden tools for their work. Often, they used their own hands for digging and weeding, or sometimes used bent wooden sticks as hoes. For hunting, they used bows, arrows, and clubs which were often made from hardwood.
Culture, Religion, Traditions, and Lifestyle
► According to some studies, the Jumano Indians tattooed themselves as a mark of celebration. However, this is a debatable point as the tattoos are a distinguishing feature of the tribe.
► Not much is known about the religion practiced by the Jumano Indians, as they did not belong to any one particular culture, and picked up the culture and traditions of those around them. For instance, the faith introduced to them by the arrival of the Spanish explorers led to quite a number of the Jumano people to follow that.
► Some experts suggest that the Jumano tribe worshiped nature and celebrated during the cropping season, as is observed largely in the Native American culture. Their religious practices included special dances and similar kinds of celebrations during the farming seasons. Since the Jumano tribe was dependent on rain for their farming, these ceremonies were of particular importance.
► The Jumano tribe was said to be very good at trading. They traded a large variety of items with most tribes they met on their way whenever they shifted from one region to the other. The Jumano Indians traded different kinds of food, weapons, and tools with other tribes in exchange for different items, and this ensured that the culture of the Jumano Indians remained mixed and diverse. Not only did this trading help them have access to different items, but this also enabled them to introduce new and different items to other tribes.
► Even when the Spanish came to settle in the regions of the Jumano Indians, they were known to take painstaking efforts to adapt to the Spanish culture and accept their traditions and beliefs, which were largely different from those the native tribe was used to. Jumano Indians acted as the middlemen between the Spanish and the other tribes in that region.
► The Jumano Indians were also known to be friendly and interactive with the European explorers. Not only did they act as middlemen and interpreters between the explorers and other native tribes, but they also included the explorers in their daily lives. They were known to help the explorers with their food, drink, and shelter needs until they had established their own settlements.
The Jumano Indians were certainly an interesting group of people, who played a key role in the Spanish colonization in the region, but are now perceived to be extinct. A major reason for this was the invasion of the Spanish, who brought with them a host of European germs that wiped out a lot of the population with deadly diseases, the cure to which was unknown to the Jumano tribe. Similarly, clashes with rival native Indian tribes and later, the military, led to major human losses. The remaining population died in slavery and forced labor. Though there have been reports of people claiming to trace their ancestry back to the Jumano Indians, official records state that the tribe has certainly disappeared.