A BRIEF CADDO HISTORY & CULTURE
Please follow these links below for even more information about the Caddo culture and history.
I'm certainly no historian, nor ethnohistorian, nor an archeologist, but I do read quite extensively and have researched my tribe's history and culture up to this point. I have also been told a lot by my people and relatives. I have tried to soak it all in and make sense of it, but it has been troubling to say the least. People always ask me, what Indian are you? =) I know some Native Americans would be offended. I don't know why. "Native American" is as incorrect as "Indian", as it wasn't always America. It makes no difference to me, but then I didn't grow up in the limelight of racism and prejudice against native peoples. So I like it when people ask me. I proudly respond "Caddo", which is almost always followed by a wrinkling of the brow by the inquirer, and the response "Never heard of them".
It is to be expected. The Caddo are not a very large tribe anymore. They are not one of the "Five Civilized Tribes". They were not some infamous or vicious plains tribe that you see in the movies. They are not a tribe made famous by the trade relations of the pueblos and Santa Fe. Currently we are a small tribe headquartered out of Binger, Oklahoma. We are federally recognized as the Caddo Nation. Though to tell someone these things is like simply stating an iceberg is just a little bit of ice. There is so much more underneath. All that people know or see today is what remains of a once very large, powerful, and influential tribe.
I could now go on forever and give a history lesson, but at the risk of loosing readers to an imposing wall of text, I will try to keep it as short as possible while still maintaining the essence of the culture of the ancient Caddos. There are archeological phases of the culture of the Caddo, but the Caddo people do not go by these, simply go by their oral tradition, which understandably changes over the years. Our creation story is that we came from out of the ground, man and woman, with the squash, pumpkin, and a drum. There is the story of the coming into these lands by leaving what is known as the Place of Crying. This story tells of how the first Caddo Chief, called a Caddi, by the name of Nish (Moon) led his people away and out of the cave but those that looked back were left, and the rest weeped. This is historically known as a place near what is now Caddo Lake in Louisiana. The Caddo's spread out and formed individual identities and traditions and became a multitude of tribes that all spoke the same language and had very similar beliefs, traditions, and ceremonies, songs and dances. To name a few were the Kadohadacho, Hasinai, Nebadache, Natchitoches, Nagocdoches, Hainai, Cahinnio, and Yatasi. Their number was around the 250,000's before the entrance of the explorer De Soto in 1560.
The name of the state of Texas is a Caddo word. The Spanish interpreted the Caddo word Tay-Sha as Tejas. Americanized became Texas. The Caddo word Tay-Sha literally means Wolf, but it is the wolf that leads you to the other side after death, and therefore is a friend. The Caddo would refer to ally tribes and friends as Tah-Shas. They would refer to the French and Spanish colonists as friends off and on and that is where the term was transferred. All the Caddo tribes inhabited the entire four corners region of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana. They were the largest tribe west of the Mississippi river in the SE region. When archeologists and museums refer to the moundbuilder Indians, they are talking about the Caddos. There were definitely other tribes in the SE which were also moundbuilders, as this was a ceremonial tradition of the entire area. But what sets the Caddo apart from many other moundbuilder tribes was that one of the most famous of all mounds, the Spiro Mounds in Oklahoma, were built by the ancient ancestors of the Caddo people. It was the most lavishly decorated and most abundant burial in this country. It was the beginning of the most skilled and sought after ceramic tradition in the entire region, and would prove to be even more sought after with the introduction of the explorers and French traders.
Before the coming of the explorers, colonists, and missionaries, the Caddo people already only believed in one god, Ah-ah-Ha-yo, Father in heaven. The Caddo were quite capable of being the most civilized and politically savvy tribe in the region. They were peaceful farmers that had a very detailed system of government in place that handled the politics of inter-tribal relationships in and among the area. They had city centers and ceremonial centers that stretched for miles. Their political and civil abilities along with their location along the Mississippi and at the junction of major ancient continental trade routes set the Caddo up to be the most influential tribe in governing the area of Texas from the first exploration of the French and Spanish, to the entrance of the English and Americans. These countries were dependant on the kinship systems the Caddo people had in place to deal with roles and rules of alliances and trade rights.
However, despite their power, influence, and skill, several foreign factors aided in slowly decimating the Caddos as they clung onto their ancient traditions that had served them perfectly for millennia. The most devastating were the diseases that the native people were not equipped biologically to handle. Since the introduction of these diseases by De Soto, the constant moving by betrayal of the governments that signed treaties with them, and from the deaths by more severe warfare brought on by the expansion of hostile tribes or the introduction of other hostile tribes, all the Caddo tribes were reduced by 95%. By the first US Census of the Native Americans in 1895 on the Caddo Reservation in Oklahoma, the Caddo numbered merely 400 and remained at that number until each was allotted their own plot of land by he Dawes Severalty Act in 1901. My family still holds the land that was given to my Great Grandfather Patrick Kun-Teno Miller, to this day around Hinton, Oklahoma.
Well I managed to hit you with a massive wall of text anyway. Hope you like to read! I will try to put up some pictures soon once I get the rights, so as to give you something to look at. I welcome anyone's input on the correctness of the story I tell, and please do not hesitate to go to www.TexasBeyondHistory.com to read a more comprehensive account of the Caddo people.