Fish

Fish were an important resource for the native peoples who lived along the Rio Grande. The most compelling archeological evidence of this comes from La Cabrana Pueblo near El Paso, where more than 5,000 fish bones and scales were recovered. Freshwater drum (Aplodinotus grunniens), catfish (Ictaluridae), teleost fish, and minnows have been identified at La Junta. Notched pebbles interpreted as “sinkers” or net weights are also common at La Junta and Cielo complex sites overlooking the Rio Grande valley. Fish were also shot with bows and arrows and speared.

Spanish explorers who traveled along the river during the late 16th century noted that all of the native peoples they encountered exploited fish to some degree. They dubbed one group who relied particularly heavily on fish the “Gente de Pescado” (people of the fish) or Pescados. During the Spanish Colonial period, both the Mission Indians of El Paso and groups in La Junta continued to exploit fish, despite the introduction of livestock and other food sources by the Spanish.

photo of a Carmen deer int he Chisos Mountains
Freshwater drum was one of many types of fish exploited by the native peoples who lived along the Rio Grande. One group who relied particularly heavily on fish was dubbed the “Gente de Pescado” (people of the fish) by early Spanish explorers. Photo courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
photo of a mule deer in the Davis Mountains
Catfish caught in a modern fisherman’s net. The prehistoric peoples who lived along the Rio Grande caught fish in nets made of plant fiber, shot them with bows and arrows, and speared them. Photo courtesy National Park Service.