The Tonkawa were once a federation of a dozen related tribes spanning from southern Texas to central Oklahoma. When the Spanish introduced guns and horses to the region, new tribes rose to dominance and this federation coalesced into central Texas. When rival tribes noticed that despite their challenges “they all stayed together” the name Tonkawa was born. The Tonkawa were consistently friendly to Texas settlers, but nevertheless suffered not just one, but two trails of tears to Oklahoma including being sent to a reservation in the midst of their former enemies. After a bloody battle in Oklahoma, tribal numbers ultimately descended to less than fifty people. In recent years, the Tribe has firmly reestablished its tribal rolls to over 800, and is known regionally as a savvy but generous economic force. Yet, with only one elder who speaks the Tonkawa language fluently, the people stand on the brink of losing their tribal identity. Time is running out.
Tonkawa: They All Stay Together follows the life of the Tonkawa Tribe over two years, as they work to firmly secure their independence and prowess as a first nation in modern society. They are working to preserve, rediscover, and redefine who they are as a Tribe historically, culturally, and socially. By staying together in the midst of their challenges, this once powerful tribe seeks to secure their culture and relevance, not only today but well into the future.