Historian discusses history of the Jumano nation 

Photo by Maisie Crow / Jumano historian Felix Bonilla Salmeron discussing the history of the Jumano nation to area residents on Monday at The Sentinel.

MARFA – On Monday, members of the Jumano nation, an indigenous tribe from the region, led a discussion at The Sentinel on the history of the Jumanos and the nation’s current efforts to find other descendants of the tribe throughout North America.

Earlier in the day, the Jumano members had given a talk to area kids at the Marfa Museum as part of a teaching program called “The Magic Around Us” put on by former Marfa ISD teacher Sam Watts.

“I decided this last year that a program needed to be created for children in this area to learn about the early people of this area, and the plants of this area and the animals of this area that I just wasn’t finding in school,” Watts said to kick off the discussion.

A historian from the Jumano nation, Felix Bonilla Salmeron, led the talk. “As you probably heard, the Jumanos disappeared around 1750, or so all of the books [say],” Salmeron said. But the Jumanos are still alive, Salmeron added, contrary to a lot of academic texts suggesting otherwise.

“What we’re trying to do is to make people aware that the Jumanos didn’t disappear,” Salmeron said. The issue, according to Salmeron, is that the Jumanos never signed a treaty with the United States or Mexico, and thus were never designated any tribal lands. Throughout the years, Jumanos and their families have spread out all across the United States, making them hard to track down.

One of the nation’s most pressing efforts is to find other descendants who either might not know of their ancestry or may even push back against it. “The biggest challenge that we’re having is finding other Jumanos in the area that want to admit they’re Jumanos and that they’re not Mexican,” Salmeron said.

For Salmeron, the nation is undertaking this mission in order to be able to teach younger Jumano generations about the traditions of their tribe. Salmeron said that the Jumanos farmed and hunted while also maintaining a low profile and friendly way of living. “They were traders and some of the very first horsemen in the area after the Spanish invasion,” the nation’s website says.

“We like to think all of this area is Jumano country. We don’t own it, but this is where our ancestors grew up,” Salmeron said toward the end of his speech.