Payaya people

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Click map to enlarge: Payaya territories (within the orange area) in south-central Texas, ca. 1500 CE
Total population
extinct as a tribe
Regions with significant populations
present-day Bexar County, Texas
a Coahuiltecan language
Indigenous religion, Roman Catholicism
Related ethnic groups
other Coahuiltecan peoples

The Payaya people were Indigenous people whose territory encompassed the area of present-day San Antonio, Texas. The Payaya were a Coahuiltecan band and are the earliest recorded inhabitants of San Pedro Springs Park, the geographical area that became San Antonio.[1]

Territory and settlement[edit]

The Payaya people lived near the San Antonio River, the Frio River to the west, near the Pastia tribal lands; and Milam County to the east, where they lived among the Tonkawa.

The Payaya called their village Yanaguana. It was located next to the river which the Spanish named the San Antonio. Some historians believe the band referred to the river as Yanaguana, but the Spanish Franciscan priest Damián Massanet recorded this as the name of their village.[2][3]


17th century[edit]

The Payaya first made contact with Spanish colonists in the 17th century, when the tribe had ten different encampments.[4]

18th century[edit]

By the year 1706, the Spanish had converted some Payaya among the Indigenous converts baptized at Mission San Francisco Solano, 5 miles (8.0 km) from the Rio Grande in Coahuila, Mexico. Today's municipality of Guerrero is the approximate location of Mission San Francisco Solano.[5][6] The Payaya were a small band of sixty families by 1709.[7]

In 1716, the Payaya befriended Franciscan priest Antonio de Olivares. They became the mission Indians at San Antonio de Valero Mission, founded in 1718, later known as the Alamo Mission in San Antonio.[8] The mission began assimilation of the Payaya by teaching them Spanish and trade skills. The tribe had an elected form of self-government within the mission. Infectious diseases took a high toll of the mission Payaya during the 18th century.[8]


The Payaya, like other Coahuiltecan peoples, had a hunter-gatherer society. The Spanish recorded their nut-harvesting techniques. Historians have speculated that the band's movements in the Edwards Plateau is an indication that pecans were a substantive protein source to the Payaya.[9]

Spanish Franciscan priest Damián Massanet wrote about the Payaya on the June 13, 1691, in his journal. He described an Indigenous people who were friendly toward the Spanish, but warlike and combative within their own group. Massanet described a tribal war dance, their deerskin clothing, and the practice of stealing horses and capturing women from other tribes. He said the Payaya were adept at learning the Spanish language and enjoyed Spanish clothing.[10]

Massanet portrayed the Payaya as having a respectful attitude towards a higher spiritual power and noted they had erected a wooden cross in their village. Massanet recounted that the day after the Spanish arrived, he and his group observed the Feast of Corpus Christi with a Mass, during which the Payaya were present.[11]


Native toTexas
Era18th century
Language codes
ISO 639-3None (mis)

The Payaya language is not sufficiently attested to classify.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "NRHP-THC San Pedro Springs Park". Texas Historical Commission. Retrieved September 28, 2012.
  2. ^ Federal Writers Project (1940). Texas: A Guide to the Lone Star State. Hastings House. p. 327. ISBN 978-0-403-02192-5.
  3. ^ "San Pedro Springs Park". Texas Historical Commission. Retrieved September 28, 2012.
  4. ^ "Coahuiltecan Indians". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Commission. Retrieved September 28, 2012.
  5. ^ Campbell, Thomas N. "Payaya Indians". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved September 18, 2012.
  6. ^ Weddle, Robert S. "San Francisco Solano Mission". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved September 28, 2012.
  7. ^ Anderson, Gary Clayton (1999). The Indian Southwest, 1580–1830: Ethnogenesis and Reinvention. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 39. ISBN 978-0-8061-3111-5.
  8. ^ a b De Zavala, Adina; Flores, Richard R (1996). History and Legends of the Alamo and Other Missions in and Around San Antonio. Arte Publico Press. pp. 3–6. ISBN 978-1-55885-181-8. indian people payaya.
  9. ^ "Who Were the "Coahuiltecans"?". Texas Beyond History. Retrieved September 29, 2012.
  10. ^ Guerra, Mary Ann Noonan. "Indians of the San Antonio River: Yanaguana". University of the Incarnate Word. Retrieved September 29, 2012.
  11. ^ Matovina, Timothy (2005). Guadalupe and Her Faithful: Latino Catholics in San Antonio, from Colonial Origins to the Present. The Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-8018-7959-3.