This story has been updated.
Lawsuits filed by an Indigenous group against agencies and individuals involved with the Alamo, its redevelopment and human remains at the historic site have been settled.
The final agreement — signed by tribal members, a City of San Antonio assistant city manager and an Alamo Trust attorney on May 30 and approved by City Council last week — includes no monetary award but includes a commitment from Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation and the Alamo Trust to develop a “working relationship” after years of contention.
In 2019, Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation sued the city, the Texas General Land Office (GLO), the Texas Historical Commission, the Alamo Trust, its former CEO Douglass McDonald and Land Commissioner George P. Bush for violating its civil rights by excluding its members from formally participating in the archeological work taking place at the site and barring the group from participating in a ceremony at the Alamo Church, among other claims.
A federal district judge and a district judge in Travis County dismissed similar lawsuits filed by Tap Pilam in 2020 and 2021, respectively, but the group appealed both decisions.
The joint dismissal with prejudice, approved by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, means the claims can’t be re-filed against the defendants.
Tap Pilam had argued that its members have a “birthright” to be included in decisions about the treatment of the remains, as the group claims to be descended from Indigenous people buried at the Alamo. Tap Pilam is not recognized by the federal government as a Native American tribe.
The agreement does not grant Tap Pilam the seat it wanted on a committee that oversees archeology and the treatment of human remains found during digs at the historic mission, which is currently undergoing redevelopment and preservation work. That committee will, however, invite Tap Pilam to its meetings.
The agreement also extends public visiting hours on the second Saturday of each September, likely to allow for a religious sunrise ceremony Tap Pilam had requested. The group will also be invited to consult on cultural and historical programming at the Alamo.
The agreement includes a confidentiality agreement that bans all parties from speaking to the media regarding the litigation or settlement. If that term is breached, the entire settlement agreement can be terminated by a non-breaching party.
The statement allowed to media, per the agreement, is the following:
“Alamo Trust Inc. (‘Alamo Trust’) is pleased to announce an agreement with the Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation (‘TPCN’) which addresses all current disputes and the dismissal of all pending litigation by TPCN.
“Alamo Trust looks forward to working with TPCN to implement the Alamo Plan to restore and preserve the Alamo for future generations of Texans.”
The Martinez de Vara law firm, representing Tap Pilam, provided the following statement on Friday: “The Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation, as lineal descendants of the indigenous residents of Mission San Antonio de Valero looks forward to working with ATI to preserve, protect and proclaim the indigenous presence and heritage at Mission San Antonio de Valero for future generations of Texans.”
The agreement allows the city to issue a separate statement, but none was provided by deadline.
While McDonald and Bush were not parties to the agreement, it settles the claims made against them — but they are not subject to its terms.
The dismissal “confirms that all my actions were proper and constitutional,” McDonald said in an emailed statement. “At each level the courts ruled in our favor. Tap Pilam were treated equal to every other member of the public and they have no special constitutional privilege.”
A separate state lawsuit filed by the Alamo Defenders Descendants Association, against the GLO, Alamo Trust and Texas Historical Commission and its leadership was settled earlier this year.
City Council approved that settlement in February; it prevents the city from ever trying to relocate the Alamo Cenotaph again and prevents human remains found at the Alamo before Sept. 1, 2023 from being reinterred.