Skip to main content
Select Source:

Caddo

CADDO

CADDO. The Caddo cultural pattern developed among groups occupying conjoining parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas from a.d. 700 to 1000. These groups practiced agriculture, hunting, and trading and lived in dispersed family farmsteads associated with regional temple mound centers. Their elite leadership institutions and an emblematic material culture distinguished these groups. Caddos were first contacted by members of Hernando de Soto's expedition in 1542, when their population may have included as many as 200,000 people. Sub-sequent accounts portray a well-organized society, one that traced ancestry through the mother's line, that filled leadership positions by male inheritance, that had a calendar of ceremonies associated with important social and economic activities, and that had widely extending alliances. Access to European goods stimulated production of commodities for colonial markets, and Caddo leaders played important roles in colonial diplomacy. By the nineteenth century, European diseases had reduced the Caddo population to about 500 individuals, and families had been removed to reservations in Texas and Oklahoma. In this region, the Caddo preserved key social, political, and religious institutions, despite their diminishing circumstances. In 2002, about 4,000 people represented the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma, where at a tribal complex near Binger, a variety of health, education, economic development, social service, and cultural programs were maintained.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Carter, Cecile Elkins. Caddo Indians: Where We Come From. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995.

LaVere, David. Caddo Chiefdoms: Caddo Economics and Politics, 800–1835. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 1998.

Newkumet, Vynola B., and Howard L. Meredith. Hasinai: A Traditional History of the Caddo Confederacy. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1988.

Perttula, Timothy K. The Caddo Nation: Archaeological and Ethno-historic Perspectives. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992.

Smith, F. T. The Caddo Indians: Tribes at the Convergence of Empires, 1542–1854. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1995.

———. The Caddos, the Wichitas, and the United States, 1846– 1901. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1996.

GeorgeSaboIII

See alsoTribes: Southeastern, Southwestern .

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Caddo." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Caddo." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 16, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/caddo

"Caddo." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved December 16, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/caddo

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Caddo

Caddo

ETHNONYMS: Ceni, Caddoquis, Teja

"Caddo" is the name used for a number of related and perhaps affiliated groups who lived in the lower Red River Valley and surrounding sections of what are now Louisiana, eastern Texas, and southern Arkansas. The number of Caddo subgroups is unknown and may have ranged from six to more than a dozen, including the Adai, Natchitoches, Kadohadacho, Hasinai, Hainai, and Eyeish. The name "Caddo" is an Anglicization of the French corruption of "Kadohadacho," the name of one of the subgroups. Each subgroup spoke a dialect of the Caddo language; only Kadohadacho and Hasinai are spoken today. The Caddo now live mainly on allotted land in Caddo County, Oklahoma, where they are affiliated with the Wichita and Delaware and are largely assimilated into European-American society. In 1984 there were about three thousand Caddo.

First contact was evidently with Hernando de Soto's Expedition of 1540. Subsequent contacts with the Spanish and French were generally peaceful, though the Caddo were drawn into the wars between the French and Spanish and depopulated by disease. Following the Louisiana Purchase, the Caddo ceded their land to the federal government and moved first to Texas and then, in 1859, to their present locale in what is now Oklahoma.

The Caddo lived in settled villages of large earthlodges and grass-covered lodges similar to those of the Wichita. They subsisted through a combination of horticulture, hunting, and gathering. Maize and beans were the major crops and deer and bison the primary game animals. The Caddo were well known for their highly developed manufactures including baskets, mats, cloth, and pottery. Their religion centered on a supreme deity and lesser deities. The ceremonial cycle closely followed the annual subsistence cycle. Leadership rested with hereditary chiefs and subchiefs. The tribe is governed today by elected tribal officers and a council, which operates independently of the similar bodies that govern the Delaware and Wichita.

Bibliography

Gregory, H. F. (1986). The Southern Caddo: An Anthology. New York: Garland Publishing.

Pertulla, Timothy K. (1980). "The Caddo Indians of Louisi-ana: A Review." Louisiana Archaeology 7:116-121.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Caddo." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Caddo." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 16, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/caddo-0

"Caddo." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Retrieved December 16, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/caddo-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Caddo

Caddo (kăd´ō), Native North Americans whose language belongs to the Caddoan branch of the Hokan-Siouan linguistic stock (see Native American languages). These people gave their name not only to the linguistic branch but also to the Caddo confederacy, a loose federation of tribes that in prehistoric times occupied lands from the Red River valley in Louisiana to the Brazos River valley in Texas and N into Arkansas and Kansas. Members, besides the Caddo, included the Arikara, the Pawnee, the Wichita, and others. The culture of these loosely knit peoples was similar. Generally they were sedentary, living in villages of conical huts, although they did raise horses. The culture of the Caddo proper was marked by a clearly defined system of social stratification and by a religion that closely regulated daily life. Some now reside on tribal land in Oklahoma. In 1990 there were 3,000 Caddo in the United States.

See J. T. Hughes, Prehistory of the Caddoan-Speaking Tribes (1968).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Caddo." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Caddo." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 16, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/caddo

"Caddo." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 16, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/caddo

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Caddo

Caddo

Name

The name Caddo is an abbreviation of the Caddoan word Kadohadacho, meaning “the real chiefs.” The term comes from the word Kaadi (chief), and designates not only the Caddo people, but the Caddoan language family, the original group of 25 tribes within the Caddo Nation, and the lands they occupied.

Location

Caddo groups lived in parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas, with the Red River Valley at the center of their territory. Present-day Caddo people live in Oklahoma (near Fort Cobb and Fort El Reno) and in other southwest central states.

Population

In the 1700s there were about 8,000 people from Caddo nations, including about 2,500 Caddo, 3,000 Hasinai, and 1,800 Natchitoches (the three main tribes in the Caddo Nation). In 1910 there were only 452. In the 1990 U.S. Census, 2,935 people identified themselves as Caddo; an additional 49 people identified themselves as Oklahoma Caddo. In 1998 the Caddo Tribe of Oklahoma claimed 3,200 enrolled members. The 2000 census recorded 2,768 Caddo living in the United States. These statistics differ somewhat from the official roll of the Caddo Nation, which in 2006 listed 4,774 members.

Language family

Caddoan.

Origins and group affiliations

Most experts agree that the Caddo Nation lived in the Red River region since at least 800, if not longer. The nation consisted of about 25 tribes with similar languages and cultures that lived along the Red and Arkansas rivers in present-day Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. Until they were removed from their homelands in the nineteenth century, the tribes were not united and operated mostly on their own. The three powerful members of the Caddo confederacies were the Hasinai, the Natchitoches, and the Kadohadacho, or Caddo proper.

The Caddo lived comfortable lives as farmers and livestock tenders in the beautiful, fertile lands along the Red River before Europeans arrived in their lands. According to their tribal legend this was the place where they had lived since the beginning of time. After the Europeans arruved the Caddo became embroiled in three centuries of disputes. Through it all, these intelligent, adaptable people remained true to their treaties and to their traditions. Though brave when they had to fight, they preferred to live in peace.

History

Before Europeans

Early writings about the Caddo describe the people as “industrious, intelligent, sociable, and lively; courageous and brave in war, and faithful to their … word.” These writings also told of the friendly welcome the Caddo extended to European visitors, giving them the best food and places to sleep.

The Caddo built their homes, temples, and burial mounds in villages with central open areas for social gatherings and ceremonies. These were the villages found by the first Europeans who explored their region.

Around the mid-1500s the Caddo acquired horses from other tribes who had gotten them from Spanish explorers. They learned to hunt buffalo on the western Plains. This changed Caddo life, and the tribe adopted some traits of the Plains cultures. They became skilled horsemen and hunted farther west than ever before.

Important Dates

1714: The French found a trading post in Caddo territory and begin a half-century of control.

1763: The Spanish take control of Caddo territory.

1803: The United States takes control of Caddo territory with Louisiana Purchase.

1835: A treaty is signed giving more Caddo territory to the United States. Some Caddo move to Texas, where a reservation is established for them in 1846.

1859: The Caddo relocate to Indian Territory to escape murderous white Texans.

1938: The Caddo organize as the Caddo Tribe of Oklahoma.

1963: The Caddo, Delaware, and Wichita tribes are given land in Oklahoma, which the three tribes now hold in common.

1976: The tribe amends original constitution and by-laws.

2002: Name of the tribe is changed to the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma.

Relations with the Spanish and the French

In 1541, when Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto (c. 1496–1542) led his treasure-hunting expedition into Caddo territory, the tribe controlled lands in Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, and parts of Oklahoma. De Soto did not mention in his journals that he had seen the Caddo people. When French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle (1943–1687) arrived in 1686 he began a French association with the Caddo that would last until 1762.

From the beginning of their arrival in Caddo territory, France and Spain vied for control of the land and its people. The French sought to do this by trading and giving gifts, while the Spanish felt the best way to control the people was to convert them to the Catholic faith. The Caddo preferred the French approach and established friendly relations with them, thwarting Spanish efforts to control the tribe for the time being.

Between 1714 and 1719 the French built several trading posts and forts along the Red River. The Caddo learned to speak the French language, and the French developed a great respect for the tribe. There were troubles back in France, though, and the French never succeeded in building up the Louisiana territory and attracting settlers. A war that raged between France and Spain carried over into Caddo territory. Caddo villages became European forts, and European soldiers marched along Caddo trails. The Native people suffered and died from European diseases; survivors were sometimes forced to abandon their villages.

In 1763 France gave Louisiana to Spain, and the Caddo came under Spanish control. The Caddo were angry at being “given away” by the French as if they were cattle and threatened to resist Spanish control. The Spanish were quick to realize that they had to adopt French ways of dealing with the Caddo. They built up a relationship based on trade, the giving of gifts, better treatment, and friendship with the Native Americans. But the relationship between the Caddo and the Spanish did not last long.

Under U.S. control

Caddo territory passed into the hands of the United States with the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 when France sold to the United States territory extending from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains, an area that doubled the area of the United States. The Caddo were enthusiastic about the change, not because they disliked the French or the Spanish, but because the Americans paid more for furs. The U.S. government continued the policies of their European predecessors by giving the Caddo gifts, and they promised that no whites would settle on their lands.

Meanwhile Native Americans from the East were being driven out of their lands by American settlers, who never seemed to have enough land to satisfy them. In the 1820s the U.S. government allowed small groups of displaced Native Americans to settle on Caddo lands. At first the Caddo did not object—they could use the help of the Choctaw, Delaware, and Cherokee (see entries) against the Osage (see entry), who raided Caddo hunting expeditions and camps, stole horses, and killed Caddo people. But the Caddo did object when the U.S. government worked out a treaty in 1825 that would require thousands of Native Americans from many different tribes to move onto Caddo lands and become part of the tribe.

Next white settlers set their sights on Caddo lands and moved there, even though it was against the law. The game supplies in their traditional hunting territory were now seriously depleted, and the Caddo population was decreasing due to war and disease. For the first time Caddo people thought about moving away from their ancient villages.

The Caddo sell their homeland

The Caddo signed a treaty with the United States in 1835, selling about one million acres of land in Louisiana for $80,000 worth of cash and goods. They agreed to move within one year—at their own expense—to land outside the boundaries of the United States, never to return.

Some Caddo joined their relatives in Texas, which was then part of Mexico. In the 1820s Mexico invited American settlers to move to Texas because it was sparsely populated. By the mid-1830s those settlers were revolting against Mexican rule. Before more Caddo could move to Texas, white settlers there asked the U.S. government to prohibit Native American movement to the territory. They feared that angry Natives who had been forced out of their homelands would band together to fight against Americans in Texas.

A short residence in Texas

By 1836 white settlers had won control of Texas. Some Caddo joined the Texas Cherokee, who battled the Texans in 1839 and lost. A series of peace treaties followed, the last being the Council Springs Treaty (1846) between the Caddo and the U.S. government. In exchange for “perpetual peace,” the Caddo agreed to move to a Texas reservation.

The Caddo lived peacefully on the reservation for a short time, but white Texans’ resentment and hostility toward all Native Americans grew stronger. In 1858 white men attacked a group of Native Americans who were grazing their horses. The U.S. government decided to move the Caddo to Indian Territory for their own safety. (Indian Territory was the land that now forms most of the state of Oklahoma.) During the 1800s many tribes were moved to Indian Territory as part of a government plan to make the area into a state governed by those tribes.

White Texans did not think the government was acting fast enough to rid the state of its Native American population, and they threatened to massacre every Native American on the Caddo reservation. To avoid such a tragedy Indian Superintendent Robert S. Neighbors hurriedly took 1,500 Native Americans across the Red River in the scorching heat of the summer of 1859. In 15 days they marched to what would become the new Caddo County along the Washita River in Oklahoma. There the Wichita Agency and Reservation was established near Fort Cobb. (The Wichita were Caddoan speakers.) Superintendent Neighbors was murdered when he returned to Texas.

Settling in Oklahoma

At the Wichita Reservation the Caddo cultivated land and built homes. But whites cast their eyes on Indian Territory, demanding that it be opened up for settlement. The U.S. government gave up efforts to keep settlers out of the territory. In 1890 the government passed a law that divided Native American land into 160-acre parcels, one parcel for each family. Instead of tribes cultivating their land as a community, as was traditional, families had to farm their own parcels. This policy, called allotment, was intended to turn Native Americans into farmers so they could assimilate, or become more like white American society. After the parcels were allotted the leftover land was opened to white settlers. Thousands of acres of Native American land passed into their hands in the early 1900s.

The Caddo managed to retain much of their culture throughout the allotment period, which lasted until the 1930s. At that point the U.S. government concluded that allotment was not working. It passed laws to end the policy, to restore Native American lands to the Native Americans, and to organize tribal governments so tribes would govern themselves. The Caddo organized themselves in 1938 as the Caddo Tribe of Oklahoma. In 1963 land in Oklahoma was restored to the Caddo, Wichita, and Delaware tribes. The land, jointly owned by the three tribes, is now a 487-acre reservation spread throughout Grady, Canadian, and Caddo counties.

Religion

Traditional beliefs and practices

The Caddo worshiped a Great Spirit they called Ayanat Caddi (“the great captain”), as well as many spirits and powers, including the Sun, the Moon, and animal spirits. They believed that long ago the Great Spirit placed a family (carrying corn and pumpkin seeds) near a lake in Caddo territory, and from that family sprang all the Caddo people.

According to Caddo belief everything in nature had power for both good and evil. Natural forces had to be kept happy so they would not turn their powers against the tribe.

The religious leader of the community was a high priest known as the xinesi (pronounced che-ne-see or hee-ne-see ), who informed the people of the wishes of the spirits. The xinesi conducted ceremonies, maintained the temple, and performed religious services. Fire was especially sacred to the Caddo, and a perpetual fire was kept burning in the temple, tended by the xinesi.

Because fire was an important part of their religion, each house also kept a sacred fire burning at all times. The Caddo built these fires by placing four logs in the shape of a cross, pointing north, south, east, and west. As the ends of the wood closest to the fire burned families pushed the logs toward the center. Fire symbolized the sun, or highest god.

Native religions

The Caddo began performing the Ghost Dance in 1890. The Ghost Dance was a revitalization movement that had arisen in the 1870s to bring back traditional lifestyles. Ghost Dance practitioners hoped to bring back the buffalo and their dead ancestors and to free the continent from the white invaders. The Caddo held the Ghost Dance two or three times a year, usually during the summer months. They composed songs, often after being in trances, to use as prayers that the world would become as fruitful and peaceful as it had been in the past.

Meanwhile a man named John Wilson (c. 1840–1901) was spreading the Peyote (pronounced pay-OH-tee ) religion among the Caddo and other Native groups. (Peyote is a cactus plant that causes hallucinations when chewed or eaten.) Wilson was of mixed Delaware, Caddo, and French parentage but considered himself Caddo and spoke only that language. He claimed to have had several visions while under the influence of peyote, and these visions allegedly revealed the “right way” for Native Americans to worship Jesus Christ. According to Wilson, those who followed the Peyote Road would be set free from their sins.

A Caddo named Enoch Hoag (c. 1856–1920) served as Wilson’s assistant, then developed his own version of Wilson’s Big Moon Peyote ceremony. Hoag began a thirty-year reign as a Caddo chief in 1896.

Religion today

The Baptists started missions after the Caddo moved to the Oklahoma reservation, and they still maintain an Indian Baptist Church there. Later both the Episcopalians and Catholics established missions. In the early twenty-first century many Caddo belong to various Christian denominations, while others belong to the Native American Church.

Language

Many tribes spoke varieties of the Caddoan language, including the Wichita and the Pawnee (see entry). The Caddo were the southernmost tribe speaking the language. They also used a sign language, and many Caddo spoke several other Native American dialects to communicate with other tribes.

There are two different forms of the Hasinai language: a common form used in ceremonial songs and a prayer language that only a few Caddo men now living in Oklahoma still use. Since the 1970s the common form of Hasinai has been taught outside the home in places such as the Caddo Tribal Complex in Oklahoma.

Government

The Caddo Nation consisted of 25 small, loosely organized tribes with similar languages and cultures. The Caddo had not united as a people before the government removed them from their homelands in the nineteenth century. Each tribe remained independent of the others.

Village leadership and power passed through the mother, making it a matrilineal society. Several officials, led by the xinesi, or priest, ruled each tribe. Beneath the priest were the caddi (the village headmen or chiefs) and the canahas (subchiefs and village elders). The caddi governed the community, making important political decisions, conducting peace pipe ceremonies, and leading war councils. The canahas assisted the caddi, performing tasks like lighting peace pipes and preparing their beds during a hunt.

Caddo war leaders were called amayxoya . They were elected from those who had achieved success in combat. When the tribe engaged in war the war leader had absolute authority.

The Caddo Nation of the late 1990s was a union of the Kadohadacho, the Hasinai, and the Natchitoches peoples. The Caddo are governed by a constitution and an eight-member elected board, although every tribal member has a say in the decision-making process. The tribe is headquartered in Binger, Oklahoma, where it oversees a senior citizen’s center, a community center, and indoor and outdoor dance grounds. The Caddo also co-own land with the Delaware and Wichita tribes spread over three counties, where a school, a Bureau of Indian Affairs Office, and an Indian Baptist church are located.

Economy

Throughout history the Caddo have been noted for their work ethic (a guiding philosophy that stresses the importance of hard work). No one was allowed to be idle, and those who refused to work were punished. Long ago the Caddo economy was based mostly on agriculture, although the people did some hunting and fishing. After about 1700, when the Caddo became expert horsemen, hunting and trading grew even more important than farming. The Caddo traveled as far north as Illinois to trade with other tribes. Their most prized trade items were salt they extracted from boiled spring water and wood from the Osage orange tree, which only grew in their area. The French called it bois d’arc (pronounced bwah-dark ), meaning “bow wood” because it was so popular for making bows.

The Caddo are working with the Delaware and the Wichita to help members of all three tribes achieve economic independence. They jointly own WCD Enterprises, which leases the oil, gas, and grazing lands that provide much of their income. The tribe manages farming operations, a factory, a smoke shop, and a bingo enterprise. The Caddo people also work in fields such as health care, education, banking, ranching, farming, sports, and construction.

Daily life

Families

Several Caddo families—as many as eight to ten—lived in the same house in traditional times. Each family had its own space within the dwelling, but the entire household owned and cultivated the land around the house. An elderly woman in the household took charge of distributing food supplies to each family.

Buildings

The Caddo built two kinds of houses: grass-and cane-covered or earth-covered. Grass-covered houses were conical in shape and could be as large as 60 feet (18 meters) in diameter and up to 50 feet (15 meters) high. They were well-insulated and kept out wind, snow, and rain. The tribe used their enclosed houses all winter, but built open shelters for summer. These open-air homes had raised woven platforms to allow air to circulate through the holes in the floor.

Villages were arranged around a central open area used for ceremonies and other gatherings. Caddo communities also held a variety of public buildings, including the temple for the sacred fire and meeting places for tribal leaders.

Clothing and adornment

The Caddo made their clothes out of deerskin and buffalo hide. In summer both men and women wore only breechcloths, garments with front and back flaps that hung from the waist. They often went barefoot, wearing moccasins only for travel. In winter they wore leggings, buckskin shirts, and moccasins that they painted with intricate designs. The Caddo also decorated their clothing with fringe and adorned themselves with bead necklaces, collars, nose-rings, and earrings.

Some Caddo tribes removed their body hair completely, including their eyebrows. Others cut their hair short with one long section tied off to the side, or left it uncut and untended. The Caddo wore tattoos with designs featuring animals and birds. At puberty Caddo girls received tattoos of large, brilliantly colored flowers.

Food

Caddo life revolved around farming, hunting, fishing, and gathering wild plants. Corn was their most important crop, with two harvests per year. The early crop, “little corn,” was much like modern-day popcorn; it was planted in April and picked in July. “Flour corn” was planted in June and harvested in September in a celebration called the Harvest of the Great Corn.

The Caddo ate corn baked as bread and in a variety of other ways. They also cultivated squash and beans, melons, sunflowers, and tobacco. The tribe hunted deer, buffalo, bear, raccoon, turkey, and other animals and gathered nuts, acorns, berries, and fruits such as pomegranates and wild grapes. (One painting by American artist George Catlin [1796–1892], who traveled among the Native Americans, is entitled “Caddo Indians Gathering Wild Grapes.”) At some point before the turn of the nineteenth century the Caddo began to raise livestock.

Farming, Caddo-style

An early European onlooker once wrote down his observations of the Caddo style of farming. He said that when it was time to ready the fields for planting, word went around the entire village. On the chosen day, the men gathered their tools, met at one family’s field, and prepared it, while the women went to the home to prepare a feast. If there was no meat, he wrote, “they [would] bake Indian bread in the ashes, or boil it, mixing it with beans.” After the feast the men socialized until the next day, when they moved on to the next household’s field. The women of the house did the planting.

Education

The Caddo prized the virtues of honesty, fair dealing, and hospitality, and they passed these beliefs on to their children. Built in the late twentieth century, the Caddo cultural center stands as a reminder to tribal members of their proud and ancient heritage. Two organizations—the Hasinai Society and the Caddo Culture Club—meet regularly to pass on tribal culture. Attendees practice songs and dances or learn storytelling, so these arts will not be lost.

Healing practices

In addition to their roles as political and religious leaders, the xinesi served as the tribes’ healers. They cured the sick or wounded with fire, snakeskins, feathers, necklaces, and musical instruments. Another aspect of the xinesi healing ritual involved sucking foreign objects and blood from victims to rid them of disease-causing evil spirits. Illnesses, called aguian (meaning “arrow tip”), were thought to stem from an object shot into a victim by an evil spirit or a witch.

The Caddo also practiced a limited number of natural remedies with special brews and used sweat baths to cure the sick. As Elsie Clews Parsons wrote in her article “Notes on the Caddo,” doctors had different rules for curing, depending on their supernatural guide. For example, she wrote: “Tsa’bisu … [was] a famous doctor. His supernatural partner was a red-headed woodpecker.” The powers these animals provided to the doctors helped them in curing the sick or wounded.

Modern-day Caddo are treated by the Indian Health Service at a facility located on tribal territory. The people also have access to hospitals in nearby towns; the Community Health Program (CHP), which also operates the clinic, provides transportation.

Arts

Caddo women were skilled at crafts; they decorated their houses with handmade, beautifully colored rugs, baskets, and clay pottery. Caddo potters were known for their creativity. Pottery ranged in size from huge three-foot tall vessels for storage to tiny child-sized cups. They also made earspools (worn through slits in the ear lobe), pipes, and ceremonial objects. Archaeologists have found ancient Caddo pottery hundreds of miles away from their homelands, leading them to believe that other tribes also valued these distinctive pieces.

The Spanish described many intricate carvings in wood, including masks, bowls, and chests. Unfortunately, because wood rots, few wooden artworks survive into modern times. The Caddo also carved designs into shells, some of which were used for jewelry or utensils. Cups made of conch shells had detailed designs on the bottom.

Dance

The Caddo have preserved many of their traditional dances. In addition to those that have ceremonial significance, they have many social dances. Some of the most well known are the Duck Dance, the Alligator Dance, and the Bear Dance. Songs are connected with each dance, and some, like the Bell Dance, have dozens of songs, many more than the two or three songs that most tribes have.

Oral literature

The Sun and fire were central characters in the stories of Southeast tribes. Sacred fires were often the centers of their towns and homes, and Caddo tales reflect the importance of the Sun as a figure of power. Like many other North American tribes, the Caddo told stories that centered on the trickster figure, Coyote.

Tribal history was shared largely through song. The song that accompanies the Drum Dance tells of the tribe’s beginnings, while the song that accompanies the Turkey Dance tells of events both ancient and modern. These and other songs have been recorded and preserved in the collections of the Hasinai Cultural Center and the Duke Oral History Collection of the Western History Manuscripts Collection of the University of Oklahoma.

False Bridegroom

In this Caddo tale, two twin girls desire to marry a rich chief they have never met. They set off, but need directions along the way. The man they ask tells them he is the chief and has them wait while he informs his grandmother.

The man, who was no other than Owl, ran on to his home and, calling his grandmother, said, “Clean up the lodge and put it in order. I am going to bring home two girls whom I am playing a joke on. They think I am the rich chief and want to marry me.” After they had cleaned the lodge, for it was very disorderly, Owl said, “I am going to put this turkey which I have brought home over my bed; when you get up in the morning ask me which turkey you shall cook and pretend to point to one, and I will say, “No, take this.” Then the girls will think that we have many turkeys and many good things to eat.”

Owl went back for the girls and brought them to his grandmother’s lodge. They were pleased, for everything looked neat and nice, and so they married Owl. Every day Owl came in with the turkey, and he always pretended to have been out hunting. Really he had been at the council, and the chief gave him the turkey for allowing him to sit on his back. At all the councils the chief always sat on Owl’s back, and so he gave Owl a turkey every time to repay him for his trouble and the pain of holding him so long.

After many moons the twins grew weary of nothing but turkey and they began to suspect something, so one day they followed Owl when he went away. They followed and saw him go to a large grass lodge. They peeped through an opening, and there they saw Owl sitting in the middle of the lodge with the chief sitting on his head. They gave a scream. Owl recognized their voices and jumped up, throwing the chief off his head, and ran home. He gave his grandmother a terrible scolding for letting the girls follow him and find him out. The girls felt so ashamed when they discovered how they had been fooled that they slipped off to their home and told their father and mother their experience.

McNeese, Tim. Illustrated Myths of Native America: The Southwest, Western Range, Pacific Northwest, and California. London: Blandford, 1999.

Customs

Festivals and ceremonies

Of all the Caddo ceremonies, the most important had to do with hunting, warfare, and harvest. The Turkey Dance celebrates victory and is performed in the afternoon; it must be completed by sunset, when turkeys come home to roost. A Drum Dance began an evening ceremony, and a Morning Dance ushered in the dawn. Since corn was the major crop, it was often the central focus of ceremonies.

The Caddo have worked hard to maintain their culture and still perform traditional dances and ceremonies. Since the 1970s the Caddo Culture Club has worked to preserve stories, songs, dances, and customs, and they hope to continue this project of preservation throughout the twenty-first century.

War and hunting rituals

Before going to war some Caddo warriors sang and danced around a fire for a week or more, offering gifts such as corn or bows and arrows to the Great Spirit. Warriors rubbed their bodies with smoke from the fire so the Great Spirit would grant their wish to slay their enemies.

Some Caddo groups tortured prisoners of war, then killed and ate them. They considered this practice necessary to “feed” the Caddo gods. Caddo warriors also took the scalps, and sometimes the heads, of their enemies for trophies.

The Caddo took special care with the burial of dead warriors. They buried those who died at home with the scalps they had taken from enemies in life; they believed this granted them power over their foes in the House of the Dead. They also buried them with food, water, tools, and weapons. A fire burned near graves for six days until the spirit passed on to the next world. Those who died in battle were either cremated (their bodies were burned) or left to be eaten by wild beasts, which was a great honor.

Before a hunt Caddo men prayed to animal spirits, asking that the animals would allow themselves to be slain.

Courtship and marriage

A Caddo man who wished to marry would present the woman of his choice with the finest gift he could manage. If she accepted it, then they were married. Sometimes these marriages lasted only a few days. If a man came along and offered a better gift, a woman was free to leave her husband and marry the new man. Men had only one wife at a time, though few stayed with their wives for long.

Current tribal issues

In 2003 the Caddo Nation received a grant from the National Park Service Historic Preservation Fund to do a cemetery documentation project. Many old cemeteries dot their homeland, but the small houses that marked the plots are now gone. Some elders know the approximate locations, but do not know who is buried there. Tribe members were trained to use new technology such as global positioning systems (GPS) and ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to help with them find and document the gravesites.

Notable people

George Washington (Sho-we-tat, Little Boy) was chief of the White Bead, or Indian Territory Caddo, before that band and the Texas band were merged. During the American Civil War (1861–65; a war between the Union [the North], who were opposed to slavery, and the Confederacy [the South], who were in favor of slavery) he served the Confederacy as commander of the Caddo Frontier Brigade.

Carol Hampton (1935–) is a teacher, tribal historian, writer, and activist for the Caddoan people. She taught Native American Studies at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma. Hampton has also been active in the Caddo tribal council since 1976 and in many state and national programs concerning education and Native American development.

Other notable Caddo include highly regarded Caddo-Kiowa artist T. C. Cannon (1946–1978); Richard Donaghey, who operates the internationally known First Nations Dance Company; and Dayton Edmonds, a Methodist minister and storyteller whose tales combine elements of Native American spirituality with Christian teachings.

Berlainder, Jean Louis. The Indians of Texas in 1830. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1969.

Bolton, Herbert Eugene. The Hasinais: Southern Caddoans as Seen by the Earliest Europeans. Reprint. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002.

Bowen, Jeff. Kiowa, Comanche, Apache, Fort Sill Apache, Wichita, Caddo and Delaware Indians Birth and Death Rolls, 1924–1932. Signal Mountain, TN: Mountain Press, 2005.

Carter, Cecile Elkins. Caddo Indians. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995.

Dorsey, George A. Traditions of the Caddo. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997.

Duval, Kathleen. The Native Ground: Indians and Colonists in the Heart of the Continent. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.

Jackson, Helen Hunt. The Indian Reform Letters of Helen Hunt Jackson, 1879–1885. Valerie Sherer Mathes, ed. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998.

La Vere, David. Life among the Texas Indians: The WPA Narratives. Austin: Texas A&M University Press, 2006.

Newkumet, Vynola Beaver, and Howard L. Meredith. Hasinai: A Traditional History of the Caddo Confederacy. College Station: Texas A&M Press, 1988.

Parsons, Elsie Clews. “Notes on the Caddo.” Memoirs of the American Anthropological Association. No. 57. Menasha, WI: American Anthropological Association, 1941.

Perttula, Timothy K. The Caddo Nation: Archaeological and Ethnohistoric Perspectives. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1997.

Smith, F. Todd. The Caddo Indians: Tribes at the Convergence of Empires, 1542-1854. College Station: Texas A&M Press, 1995.

———. The Caddos, the Wichitas, and the United States, 1846–1901. Austin: Texas A&M University Press, 1996.

Swanton, John R. Source Material on the History and Ethnology of the Caddo Indians. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1996.

Haurwitz, Ralph. “Selling the Beauty of Caddo.” Austin American-Statesman (March 26, 1993).

“Arkansas Indians: Arkansas Archeological Survey.” University of Arkansas. (accessed on August 27, 2007).

“Caddo Indian History.” Access Genealogy: Indian Tribal Records. (accessed on August 27, 2007).

“The Caddo Confederacies.” El Centro College. (accessed on August 27, 2007).

Glover, William B. “A History of the Caddo Indians.” Formatted for the World Wide Web by Jay Salsburg. Reprinted from The Louisiana Historical Quarterly, 18, no. 4 (October 1935). (accessed on August 27, 2007).

Official Website of the Caddo Nation. (accessed on August 27, 2007).

“Texas Beyond History: Caddo Fundamentals.” The University of Texas at Austin, created by Texas Archeological Research Laboratory in partnership with Southern Texas Archaeological Association. (accessed on August 27, 2007).

George Cornell, Ph.D.; Associate Professor, History and American Studies, Michigan State University; Director, Native American Institute

Laurie Edwards

John H. Moore, Ph.D., Anthropology Department University of Florida, Gainesville

Laurie Edwards

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Caddo." U*X*L Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Caddo." U*X*L Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 16, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/caddo

"Caddo." U*X*L Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes. . Retrieved December 16, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/caddo

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.