The Querechos were a Native American people.
In 1541 the Spanish conquistador Francisco Vásquez de Coronado and his army journeyed east from the Rio Grande Valley in search of a rich land called Quivira. Passing through what would later be the panhandle of Texas he met a people he called the Querechos.
This was the first known venture of Europeans across the Great Plains of the United States. Coronado and his chroniclers were the first Europeans to describe the buffalo-hunting nomads of the Plains. The Querechos were Apache Indians.
Meeting the Querecho
Coronado and his army found a Querecho settlement of about 200 “houses” on the Llano Estacado of the Texas Panhandle and adjacent New Mexico. On the Llano they also saw vast herds of buffalo or bison. According to members of Coronado’s expedition, the Querechos lived “in tents made of the tanned skins of the cows (bison). They travel around near the cows killing them for food....They travel like the Arabs, with their tents and troops of dogs loaded with poles...these people eat raw flesh and drink blood. They do not eat human flesh. They are a kind people and not cruel. They are faithful friends. They are able to make themselves very well understood by means of signs. They dry the flesh in the sun, cutting it thin like a leaf, and when dry they grind it like meal to keep it and make a sort of sea soup of it to eat....They season it with fat, which they always try to secure when they kill a cow. They empty a large gut and fill it with blood, and carry this around the neck to drink when they are thirsty.”
This brief account describes many typical features of Plains Indians culture: skin tipis, travois pulled by dogs, sign language, jerky (food), and pemmican. In 1581, Spanish explorers of the Chamuscado and Rodriguez Expedition had another meeting with the Querechos. The found a large rancheria of 400 warriors on the Pecos River. probably near Santa Rosa, New Mexico. The Spanish were especially interested in the Indian dogs which pulled travois with all their belongings, The Indians told the Spaniards that the bison herds were two days to the east and were "as numerous as grass in the fields."
In 1565 Francisco de Ibarra met a bison-hunting people he called Querechos near Casas Grandes Mexico, hundreds of miles from where Coronado had visited them. There were about 300 men and their "attractive" women and children visiting the area, probably on a trading mission. They said that large bison herds could be found four days journey to the North. This meeting indicates that the Querechos were far ranging even before they acquired horses.
In 1583, the explorer Antonio de Espejo met Querechos in the mountains near Acoma who traded salt, game, and deerskins to the townspeople in exchange for cotton blankets. He described them as warlike and numerous.
Who Were the Querecho?
Authorities agree that the Querechos were Apache and Navajo Indians. The Apache were newcomers to Texas, having arrived on the Llano Estacado perhaps less than 100 years before the Spanish visited them there. A village farming culture in the Texas Panhandle, the Antelope Creek Phase, disappeared about 1450. The reason for its disappearance may have been displacement by the Apache or the onset of a dryer climatic phase. By the time of Coronado it appears that the Apache were the dominant people over a wide area of the Great Plains extending north from the Llano Estacado to Nebraska. The Querechos that Espejo met in 1583 at Acoma were Navajo, whose language and culture at that time was very similar to that of the Apaches. The word Querecho soon passed out of usage, replaced by other names by which the Apache and Navajo would be called by the Spanish in the centuries to come.
- Winship, George Parker (ed and trans), The Journey of Coronado, 1540-1542, from the City of Mexico to the Grand Canon of the Colorado and the Buffalo Plains of Texas. New York: A.S. Barnes & Company, 1904,65, 112., 194.
- Mecham, J. Lloyd, "The Second Spanish Expedition to New Mexico," New Mexico Historical Review, Vol. 1, No. 3, July 1926, 284
- Foster, William C. Historic Native Peoples of Texas. Austin: U of Tex Press, 2008, 143
- Hammond, George P. and Rey, Agapito, The Rediscovery of New Mexico, Albuquerque: U of NM Press, 224
- Prehistoric Texas
- Blasing, Robert, “Pre-European Cultural Relationships between the Plains and Southwest Regions," 10-12. http://soar.wichita.edu/dspace/bitstream/10057/1765/1/LAJ+V+13_p7-34.pdf,Accessed, Mar 1, 2010; Wilcox, David R. “The Entry of Athapaskans into the American Southwest: The Problem Today" http://www.adwr.state.az.us/Adjudications/documents/HopiContestedCaseDisclosures/Hopi%20Initial%20Disclosure/HP8042.pdf, Accessed, Mar 1, 2010
- Hammond and Rey, 224
- Vaquero Indians, Texas State Historical Association