The Caddo Indians have a very interesting culture. This and other factors such as their environment have helped them survive and overcome adversity. From dealings with other tribes too the dealings they had with three different nations. Until recently with the advent of the World Wide Web, many people not living in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma or Texas may not have heard of them. For they have not been glorified in the genre of old westerns or in popular novels like the Cheyenne, Sioux and other tribes have been. The Caddo have not had their symbolism used as team mascots. Many other tribes have had this happen to them, and thus have felt violated by pro and college sports teams. Many Indians are resentful of this because it does not show them the respect they deserve. Due to movies books and the use of Indian symbolism in our culture most everyone knows about Indians and too some extent a little about them. But most do not know of the rich history various Indian tribes possess and thus relegate them to positions of disrespect.
The department of the Interior in the early 1800's set up the Buerau of Indian affairs to watch out for the well being of the Indians and to help assimilate them into the mainstream culture through schooling and other means, they were also responsible for the maintainence of the reservations. In order to do their job to the best of their ability they have legally defined what an Indian is and what the rights of an Indian are in the eyes of the Government. The Berea of Indian affairs has a different definition of what as Indian is. This is based on Laval terms and not so much on what the popular culture feels.
According to the BIA, an Indian is defined as follows:
The Aleuts, Eskimos and Indians of Alaska are eligible for BIA services. Most of the No single Federal or tribal criterion establishes a person's identity as an Indian. Government agencies use differing criteria to determine who is an Indian eligible to participate in their programs. Tribes also have varying eligibility criteria for membership. To determine what the criteria might be for agencies or Tribes, you must contact each entity directly. To be eligible for Bureau of Indian Affairs services, an Indian must (1) be a member of a Tribe recognized by the Federal Government, (2) one-half or more Indian blood of tribes indigenous to the United States (25 USC 479); or (3) must, for some purposes, be of one-fourth or more Indian ancestry.
The Caddo Indians, as known to the average person having menial knowledge about their existence, are really a confederation of several different tribes. According to John R. Swanton who wrote Source Material on the History and Ethnology of the Caddo Indians.
The name Caddo is applied collectively to a people now regarded as a single tribe, but which, when they were first known to Europeans, consisted of something like 25 tribes forming 3 or more confederated groups besides some units that held themselves entirely separate.
Furthermore, In W. Glover's Article "A history of the Caddo Indians" he states," Caddo is a popular name contracted from the Kadohadacho, the name of the Caddo proper, as used by themselves."(Glover, p.2) Swanton mentions that there were close to 25 tribes forming the entirety of the Caddo confederacy. The largest member of the confederacy being the Hasinia, but the other principle members are as follows Nabedche, Necanhau, Nacogdoche, Nacanish, Neches, Hainai, Namidish, Nasoni(?), Guasco, Doustioni, Anadarko, Cahinnio, Kadahodacho, Nantasaho, and Natchitoches. (Stanton p.9) The list given by Stanton also mentions some of the principle members of the Hasinia confederation. In the book by Newkumet and Meridith, Hasinia: A traditional history of the Caddo confederacy, a more detailed list of the principle members of the Hasinia is given. They go on to list the principle members of the Hasinia confederacy as including the Nabedche, Nichii, Nacachua, Nacao, Nacogdoche, Nacono, Nasoni, Nechai, Neche, and the Hainai. And then later during the Texas Revolution a part of the Natchitoches' tribe joined the Hasinia confederacy. Besides the Hasinia confederacy the other major confederacy that makes up the Caddo are the Kadohadacho. They are also referred to as Caddo proper. (Glover, pg2) Glover suggests that the Wichita, Kichai, Pawnee, and Arikara could be considered as members of the Caddo confederacy due to the fact that they belong to the same linguistic family as the Kadohadacho and Hasinia. (Glover, p.2)
Since the Caddo confederacy was so vast in eminence it is not surprising that they had villages all throughout the Red River valley and in parts of east Texas and Western Louisiana as well as parts of Arkansas. The Hasinai had many settlements south of the Sabine River and East of the Trinity River, (Swanton, map1) and the Kadohadacho had settlements on both sides of the Red River on what is now the Texas-Oklahoma Border. (Stanton, map 1) The Kadohadacho also had villages along the Ouachita River in Arkansas and farther upriver in NorthernLouisaina. (Stanton, map 1) They also had villages along the upper Red River around present day Natchitoches in Central Louisiana. (Stanton, map 1) As well as villages along the Red River around present-day Shreveport La. and all along the Little River in Southwestern Arkansas as evidenced by recent archeological sites as shown on page 14 in C. Carter's book, Caddo Indians: Where We Come From.
The Caddo Indians incorporated many different tribes and traditions. To do this successfully they had to have ways of keeping peace within the groups and with their neighbors that surrounded them on all sides. To accomplish this they used trade, diplomacy and sometimes force to keep the status quo. So with the successive waves of Europeans that came to the Americas the Caddis faired better then other tribes. This experience proved invaluable in dealing with the U.S. The Caddo have been more successful than other groups forced onto reservations because their mythology, culture and government have been instrumental in their survival.
Like most tribes the Caddo have myths of where they come from. And like the Hopi, Anasazi and other pueblo tribes, the Caddo and the Hasinai both believe they came out of the earth. According to Caddo tradition, "they came up from under the ground through the mouth of a cave on a lake close to the south bank of the Red River". (Glover, p.8) The Hasinia on the other hand believed that they lived in land of darkness. While there they slowly grew in number until it was time for them to go east. While in the land of darkness they came to know a new being whom they called Ah-ah-ha'-yo or the "Father Above". (Newkumet, p.4) Eventually the Hasinia traveled east and emerged out of the mouth of a cave by the Red River. (Newkumet, p.5) As can be seen this myth closely resembles the myth that the Caddo have. Although the Hasinia myth is much more in-depth. This is probably due to the fact that Glover did not include the entire myth in his article as Newkumet did in her book. The Hasinia and the Caddo not only share this myth they also shared a common government structure, which it is also related by myth that the "Father Above" instilled upon them.
The Hasinia believe that the leadership of the tribe was set out before they ever stepped out of the cave. In fact they believe that there was to begin with only one Hasinia and in time whole villages appeared around him. This man gave the Hasinia many things including their form of government.
The unknown man indicated that the people, in its new existence, should have a leader. This man should be called the cah-de, "chief". The Cad-he should be the wisest and most able among them. . . . Neesh agreed to accept the leadership position and then selected an aide. Ta'-sha [the aide] was selected to call the people together for council. He [Ta'-sha] was to be known as the tum-mah, or village crier. (Newkumet, pp.4-5)
The legend goes on further to state that the new chief called everyone together to prepare him or her for the journey into the light. So the village crier was sent out to let the people know and gather. Soon the chief sub-divided the people into communities, each with a headman. In essence, the Caddo have a bureaucracy as a form of government, which is comparable to the colonial forms of government that the French and Spanish had in place when they ruled Texas and the Louisiana Territory. This similarity proved helpful in the dealings the Caddo had with the foreign powers. The unknown man that taught the Hasinia their form of government, he also gave them other gifts.
From the outset the Caddo and Hasinia were farmers as well as hunters. This not only allowed them the extensive trade that they enjoyed with other tribes but allowed them to build the mounds and other structures that they did within their settlements. Their homes were of two designs. The first was a conical home with thatched roof. And the other was a rectangular house built out of wood. This design came later with the coming of the Europeans and their way of building on the frontier. Due to this fact and written record of the existence of these settlements it is assumed that the Caddo were not nomadic like the Cheyenne and the Arapaho. Stanton states that, "the Caddo had reached a stage in development where they depended on their livelihood more upon the products of their fields then the gleanings from the wilderness." (Stanton, p.127), thus they were not nomadic. The main staples of the Caddo crops were corn, pumpkin and beans. They also grew peas, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, beets, cabbage, lettuce, and grapes. It is related by Caddo myth that, "from the time of the emergence of the Hasinai from the earth, respect has been given. . In the beginning the Hasinai received gifts that they were to hold and use for their benefit. The two gifts most closely associated with the earth were corn and pumpkin." (Newkumet, p. 30) So the myths that the Caddo hold onto not only explain about the people and their belief structure it also is the foundations for all the major aspects of their culture from government to agriculture. And due to their allegiance to their myths have helped them stay strong in the face of adversity because the myths take on the importance of the tenants of the culture that is facing the adversity, and thus plays a role in overcoming the problems presented to them.
The myths and legends of any people help to bring cohesion to a people and help make up the cultural fiber bid a people together. Numerous examples of this phenomenon can be seen in many other groups of people beside the amerinds. There are other ingredients that make up ones culture beside the myths common to them. For the Caddo, one such ingredient is the dances that they performed each year. In Newkumet's book she details twelve specific dances that they perform each year. And she ordered the book in such a way as to demonstrate the order of a typical dance cycle as well as when it would begin and end. The first dance that would be done is called the Drum dance. It details the origins of the Caddo and retells the myths that they share. Tradition states," young boys are allowed to join the lead singers, so that they may become familiar with the songs". (Newkumet p.3) Newkumet goes on to say that Irving Whitebead, a Caddo, learned all the songs by sitting with his father and singing them, so he could learn them all. The last dance in the cycle is the Turkey dance, which tells of the history of the Caddo and the highlights of that history. Due now to the fact that many of the tribes that were enemy of the Caddo are now friends the Caddo skip portions of their history of conflict when these tribes are present as guests. Not only is this a sign of respect for the other tribes it makes good diplomatic sense, and thus reaffirms the ability of the Caddo to being skilled at the game of diplomacy.
Another ingredient of a people's culture is the family unit. For the without the family the tribe, or nation could not exist. So the family relationship could be considered an integral part in defining the culture of a people. So it would not be surprising to learn that the Caddo have a dance that deals with the subject of family relationships, its name is the Woman's Dance. Newkumet goes on to state,
Among the Hasinai, the basis of all social organizations rests clearly in the family, Relationships are bound up in the names of individuals and the vocabulary for relatives, who are known to each person born into the body of the people. These words of relationship have power in themselves. The name of a person is never told outside the family. . . . Of these relationships the most important are those of the father and mother. From these two parents grows a fabric of well being that provides security in the world. ( Newkumet, pp.46-47)
The aspect of family has been approached from the parental standpoint and is quite different then marriage. The Hasinai believed in arranged marriages, as did the Caddo. As long as the woman was still a maiden, if she was a mother than the choice was she own. Marriages among the Caddo were characterized by polygamy in some cases and there were other abuses that Stanton does write, "marriage endures among these people only so long as it is not unsatisfactory to the contracting parties. In that case new mates are sought." (Stanton p161) Stanton also states that the husband also was known to exchange or barter their wives for goods and services. If a wife is courted by someone new who gives her better gifts than her husband is, then she can either go with the new man or ask her current husband to outdo the prospective husband. So in a sense there is equality between the man and woman. This ensures happiness and the longevity of the tribe. The Caddo had a spiritual side as well. One of the nicknames of the Caddo is the "mound builders".
There is tremendous evidence that the Caddo built mounds for various purposes. In fact, one of the state parks of Texas is dedicated to a Caddo encampment and the mounds that were built there.
The Davis Site near, Alto Texas, is a major mound complex and village site. . . . . Its remains are in the Neches River valley in what is now eastern Texas. . . . . . The remains of the urban complex extend over approximately sixty acres. The most prominent architectural features are three large mounds constructed of earth, clay and ash. (Newkumet, p.38)
These mounds according to Newkumet were places where the temple would be built and where the chief would live. It is reported that one of the three mounds at the Davis site is a burial mound discovered under the supervision of A. Krieger. The way in which the remains of buildings, and other artifacts seem to suggest that these mound complexes tended to be the center of the settlement. So the mounds served as sites of religious practice and also served to bind the community together. Much like a church does in a community. And thus, a part of the Hasinia cultures.
The Caddo and Hasinai both have the same makeup in leadership, stemming from the common myths that both tribes share. This form of government is like other tribes that are formed at the chiefdom level. Though they are noticeably different in the structure beyond the chiefdom level as reviewed by Stanton in his book. He details a report authored by Casabas detailing the makeup and execution of the type of government the Caddo did have. As well as the common beliefs that the government held
These allied tribes do not have one person to govern them (as with us [Spain] a kingdom is accustomed to have a ruler whom we call king). They have only a xinesi. He is usually a subordinate who gathers together four or five tribes who consent to live together and to form a province or a kingdom as it might be called-and a very large one, too, if all these tribes had one person to rule over them. But such a dead they have not, and I, therefore, infer that this province which in New Spain is called "Tejas"-which really expresses just what they are because each tribe is a friend to all the others-cannot be called a kingdom. In each tribe there is a caddi. He is like a cove nor ruling and commanding his people. The office of caddi also descends through the direct line of blood relationship. Each caddi rules within the section of country occupied by his tribe, no matter whether it be large or small. If large, they have certain officials called canhas. Of these, there are then seven or eight to aid in governing. If the tribe is small, there are only three or four. It is the duty to relieve the caddi and publish his orders by reporting that the caddi commands this or that. (Stanton p.170)
Thus that was the makeup of the Caddo government. Little has changed from then to now except how the Caddo interact with the U.S.
Before the sale of the Louisiana Purchase to the U.S. in 1809 the Caddo were under the jurisdiction of the French(1686-1762) and then the Spanish(1762-1803). These relationships were defined by how both nations perceived the indigenous tribes that lived in Louisiana and Texas. The French took the position of befriending the Indians through trade and gifts. For it was felt that if the Indians were loyal to the crown then they would also protect the land from invaders ranging from hostile Indian tribes to military and civilians from countries that France did not approve of. Glover states," The Caddo was one of the groups located on the frontier between Louisiana and New Spain. France and Spain began a contest to control these frontier tribes from the first moment until 1762 when Louisiana was ceded to Spain" (Glover, p.9) Since the Caddo inhabited what was called neutral ground they often had trade relations with France and Spain and also helped them militarily when asked. Besides dealing with foreign powers the Caddo also had to contend with the natives that were friendly and hostile toward them. The tribes that were often friendly or beneficial in trade made lasting friendship pacts. These pacts simply stated that they would not hurt each other, and would come to the aid of the other if they needed aid; i.e. if one side was attacked by hostiles, then they would receive help from the other side. Below is a map of the disputed territory between France-Spain and then U.S-Spain.
In 1803 the U.S made its presence known in its new territory. The Caddo at that time were living much as they did when they first met the white man almost 300 years ago. In 1803 the biggest threat to Caddo survival was the constant raids by the Osage in the east. This forced their migration about 35 miles south along the Red River. When the U.S. came to Louisiana the game that the Spanish and French were playing became a new version of the same game with the U.S. replacing the French. The game had new meaning though because of a land dispute. When the U.S. took over Louisiana the land between the Sabine River and the Calcasieu River became disputed territory as to where the boundary actually existed. Because of this and the fact that the Caddo had become accustomed to receiving yearly gifts from the Spanish they received the same treatment from the U.S., thus gaining their alliegence. Their allegiance was tested during the War of 1812 when the British sent the Creek to persuade the Caddo to make war upon the U.S., that attempt failed, due in part from intervention by the governor at Natchitoches. Relations did become strained with the onset on settlers onto Caddo lands though. So with the infringement of the settlers and other tribes, the Caddo decided to sell their land, and so the U.S. responded by sending, "Colonel Brooks received instructions to treat with the Caddoes for their land ." (Glover, p.24) After selling their land in Louisiana the Caddis were forced to move to Texas. And then in the 1840's they migrated to Oklahoma. They have maintained a reservation in Oklahoma since then.
With the advent of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1935 came change for the Caddo. "The law provided that any recognized tribe . . . residing in Oklahoma had the right to adopt a constitution and bylaws in order to organize as a whole for the benefit of tribal members."(Newkumet, p.51) This allowed new interaction with the U.S. to defend the lands that had been encroached upon by recent settlers and to attain assistance from the government in similar ways that states attain assistance. One of the goals set forth within the charter of the Caddo is,"to promote in any way the general welfare. To advance the standard of living of the tribe through the development of tribal resources, the acquisition of new tribal land, the preservation of existing land holdings, the better utilization of land and the development of a credit program for the tribe." (Newkumet, p.52)
The Caddo have been successful in what they set out in their charter. And they have been more successful than other tribes forced onto reservations because of their mythology, culture and government have been instrumental in their survival. Today there are about 2000 Caddo Indians left (Caddo Indians of Texas) Their existence is better then other tribes who live on reservations.
They do not suffer the poverty of the Hopi, Navaho or Sioux. The Caddo tribal complex is located on thirty-seven acres of tribal controlled land that also contains the dance ground.
It is about seven miles north of Gracemount in Caddo County. The Caddo Nation also have a website under construction as of 4.25.00. To learn more about the Caddo please visit these other websites: Texas Indians, Caddo Indians of Texas.
1. Swanson, John R.
Source Material on the History and Ethnology of the Caddo Indians. Foreword by H. H. Tanner. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1942
2. Carter, Cecile Elkins.
Caddo Indians: Where We Come From.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995
3. Newkumet, Vynola B. And Meredith, Howard L.
Hasinai: A Traditional History of the Caddo Confederacy. Foreword by Arrell M. Gibson
College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1988
4. Glover, William B.
" A History of the Caddo Indians". Formatted for
World Wide Web by J. Salsburg. Reprinted from the Louisiana Historical Quarterly, volt 18, no. 4 Oct. 5 1935
5. Aron, Wanda
CADDO INDIANS OF TEXAS