The Permian Basin Over Time
There is evidence that during this period, groups of Native Americans traversed the landscape, guided in part by their knowledge of where and how to acquire food, including large mammals (megafauna) such as mammoth and ancient bison as well as wild plants. Finding sources of high-quality stone was also important because communities needed it to create distinctive tools such as Clovis and Folsom points. Archaeologists categorize these tools into toolmaking types or traditions.
With the extinction of the megafauna, Native Americans broadened their diet during this period. Tools used to procure and process food became more diverse and specialized at a time when populations were growing. While some groups remained highly mobile, others appear to have become more sedentary and constructed small shelters, earth ovens, and wells.
During this period, Native Americans used stone projectile points to hunt bison and other game while groundstone tools were used to process plants.
Some communities maintained a mobile hunter-gatherer lifestyle while others settled in villages as evidenced by residential architecture, storage pits, and trash middens. Inter-regional trade also likely blossomed within and beyond the Permian Basin.
Archaeological traces of village-like occupations become scarce, suggesting a shift toward a nomadic lifestyle focused on bison hunting. The presence of tipi rings (stone circles used to hold the edges of conical tents) is consistent with a highly mobile lifestyle; however, dating Post-Formative sites is challenging. Ceramics are largely absent and the projectile point styles mimic those from the Formative Period. By the 16th century, the earliest European settlers in the Permian Basin encountered a landscape that had witnessed thousands of years of Native American habitation.
In recent years, energy exploration has grown in the Permian Basin. Commercial oil wells appeared in the region during the early 1920s, with more significant development from the 1950s on. The industry currently supports more than 220,000 jobs in Texas and New Mexico and contributes billions of dollars to the economy.
While Native Americans were removed from the Permian Basin, nearly 30 Native American tribes continue to maintain cultural and historical connections through their cultural practices. The ancestors of these tribes were the first inhabitants of the Permian Basin, and they led rich lives on the land. Today, the archaeological remains found throughout the Permian Basin are the material remnants of the lives of these Native Americans, and they hold great value to their descendants. Today, Native American tribes engage with the federal government, developers, and archaeologists to ensure that the remains of their ancestors are adequately considered and treated with respect.
Through archaeological research and multivocal interpretations of the findings, this website pieces togethers fragments of the past to tell powerful stories of how people once lived.
Native Americans and the Permian Basin
The Permian Basin is the ancestral homeland of nearly 30 Native American tribes who continue to live on the land today. The historical footprints of the Comanche Indian Tribe - Comanche Nation of Oklahoma, the Mescalero Apache Tribe, the Kiowa Tribe, the Tonkawa Tribe of Oklahoma, the Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma, the Jicarilla Apache Nation, the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas, the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma, the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, and the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo overlap or are adjacent to the archaeological sites investigated as part of this project. Their histories and perspectives are vital to interpreting the past.
The Questions That Guided The Research
The questions guiding the research are influenced by an existing framework known as the Permian Basin Research Design (2016). By answering the research questions outlined in that synthesis, the data are more easily compared across sites and archaeological projects, potentially revealing a more complete picture of the past.
Why Do These Research Questions Matter?
Archaeology relies on material remains left by people who lived in the past. Interpretations are based on an incomplete picture that is impacted by numerous conditions, including the durability of artifacts, factors affecting preservation, and conscious and unconscious decisions to leave certain objects behind. Therefore, archaeological research questions tend to focus on topics such as diet, toolmaking, and crafts because the material byproducts of those activities are more likely to survive than those of belief systems or religious rituals.