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A tangled web : the role of material and ideational definitions of culture in evaluating Coahuiltecan cultural change
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This thesis is grounded in the concept of Native American cultural change, focusing specifically on the Coahuiltecan peoples, native hunter-gatherers of south Texas and northeastern Mexico. Anthropological literature has long maintained that the Coahuiltecan Indians became culturally and biologically extinct by the mid-nineteenth century. A review of anthropological literature on the Indians of south Texas and northeastern Mexico reveals that a material definition of culture underlies the "Coahuiltecan extinction hypothesis" and has influenced the construction of anthropological knowledge about Coahuiltecan lifeways, language, biology, and material culture. However, an equally prominent anthropological and sociological perspective stresses the dynamic, constructed nature of culture and uses an ideational definition of culture. If cultural change among geographic Coahuiltecans is evaluated using an ideational definition of culture, then it is conceivable that elements of aboriginal cultural expression have survived among descendants of missionized Indians in San Antonio. Coahuiltecan cultural change and renewal are used as a case study to explore Native American cultural and ethnic renewal. In particular, this thesis looks at the resurgence of Coahuiltecan cultural expression at the end of the twentieth century by members of the American Indians of Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions (AIT-SCM) and the Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation. Although members of these two related organizations have mixed tribal ancestry, all trace their heritage to the ethnically and culturally diverse indigenous peoples of south Texas and northeast Mexico, geographically defined as Coahuiltecans. Through these two organizations, individuals who trace their ancestry to Coahuiltecan peoples, many of whom were brought into the Spanish missions in San Antonio during the 1700s, pursue issues related to cultural renewal, including language revitalization and repatriation. Members of the Mission San Juan community in particular, a number of whom trace their heritage to Indians brought into the mission, play a central role in Coahuiltecan resurgence activities. Accordingly, the archaeological, bioarchaeological, ethnohistoric, and linguistic background of San Juan's indigenous residents is reviewed to provide a historical context for Coahuiltecan cultural resurgence activities. A review of literature on contemporary Native American cultural issues, interviews with members of AIT-SCM, and a review of popular tourist literature on San Antonio provide counter-perspectives to the anthropological assessment that Coahuiltecan peoples are extinct.
Logan, Jennifer Leigh (2001). A tangled web : the role of material and ideational definitions of culture in evaluating Coahuiltecan cultural change. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from
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