Caddo Tribe

Caddo Indians (contracted from Kä’dohädä’cho, ‘Caddo proper,’ ‘real Caddo,’ a leading tribe in the Caddo confederacy, extended by the whites to include the confederacy). A confederacy of tribes belonging to the southern group of the Caddoan linguistic family. Their own name is Hasínai, our own folk.’ See Kadohadacho Tribe.

Caddo Indian History

According to tribal traditions the lower Red river of Louisiana was the early home of the Caddo, from which they spread to the northwest, and south. Several of the lakes and streams connected with this river bear Caddo names, as do some of the counties and some of the towns which cover ancient village sites.

Cabeza de-Vaca and his companions in 1535-36 traversed a portion of the territory occupied by the Caddo, and De Soto’s expedition encountered some of the tribes of the confederacy in 1540-41, but the people did riot become known until they were met by La Salle and his followers in 1687. At that time the Caddo villages were scattered along Red river and its tributaries in what are now Louisiana and Arkansas, and also on the banks of the Sabine, Neches, Trinity, Brazos, and Colorado rivers in east Texas. The Caddo were not the only occupants of this wide territory; other confederacies belonging to the same linguistic family also resided there. There were also fragments of still older confederacies of the same family, some of which still maintained their separate existence, while others had joined the then powerful Hasinai. These various tribes and confederacies were alternately allies and enemies of the Caddo. The native population was so divided that at no time could it successfully resist the intruding white race. At an early date the Caddo obtained horses from the Spaniards through intermediate tribes; they learned to rear these animals, and traded with them as far north as Illinois River 1.

During the 18th century wars in Europe led to contention between the Spaniards and the French for the territory occupied by the Caddo. The brunt of these contentions fell upon the Indians; the trails between their villages became routes for armed forces, while the villages were transformed into garrisoned posts. The Caddo were friendly to the French and rendered valuable service, but they suffered greatly from contact with the white race. Tribal wars were fomented, villages were abandoned, new diseases spread havoc among the people, and by the close of the century the welcoming attitude of the Indians daring its early years had changed to one of defense and distrust. Several tribes were practically extinct, others seriously reduced in numbers, and a once thrifty and numerous people had become demoralized and were more or less wanderers in their native land. Franciscan missions had been established among some of the tribes early in the century, those designed for the Caddo, or Asinais, as they were called by the Spaniards, being Purísima Concepción de los Asinais and (for the Hainai) San Francisco de los Tejas. The segregation policy of the missionaries tended to weaken tribal relations and unfitted the people to cope with the new difficulties which confronted them.

These missions were transferred to the Rio San Antonio in 1731. With the acquisition of Louisiana by the United States immigration increased and the Caddo were pushed from their old haunts. Under their first treaty, in 1835, they ceded all their land and agreed to move at their own expense beyond the boundaries of the United States, never to return and settle as a tribe. The tribes living in Louisiana, being tints forced to leave their old home, moved southwest toward their kindred living in Texas. At that time the people of Texas were contending for independence, and no tribe could live at peace with both opposing forces. Public opinion was divided as to the treatment of the Indians; one party demanded a policy of extermination, the other advocated conciliatory methods.

In 1843 the governor of the Republic of Texas sent a commission to the tribes of its north part to fix a line between them and the white settlers and to establish three trading posts; but, as the land laws of the republic did not recognize the Indian’s right of occupancy, there was no power which could prevent a settler from taking land that had been cultivated by an Indian. This condition led to continual difficulties, and these did not diminish after the annexation of Texas to the United States, as Texas retained control and jurisdiction over all its public domain. Much suffering ensued; the fields of peaceable Indians were taken and the natives were hunted down. The more warlike tribes made reprisals, and bitter feelings were engendered. Immigration increased, and the inroads on the buffalo herds by the newcomers made scarce the food of the Indians.

Appeals were sent to the Federal Government, and in 1855 a tract near Brazos river was secured and a number of Caddo and other Indians were induced to colonize under the supervision of Agent Robert S. Neighbours. The Indians built houses, tilled fields, raised cattle, sent their children to school-lived quiet and orderly lives. The Comanche to the west continued to raid upon the settlers, some of whom turned indiscriminately upon all Indians. The Caddo were the chief sufferers, although they helped the state troops to bring the raiders to justice. In 1859 a company of white settlers fixed a date for the massacre of all the reservation Indians. The Federal Government was again appealed to, and through the strenuous efforts of Neighbours the Caddo made a forced march for 15 days in the heat of July; men, women, and children, with the loss of more than half of their stock and possessions, reached safely the banks of Washita river in Oklahoma, where a reservation was set apart for them. Neighbours, their friend and agent, was killed shortly afterward as a penalty for his unswerving friendship to the Indians 2.

During the civil war the Caddo remained loyal to the government, taking refuge in Kansas, while sonic went even as far west as Colorado. In 1872 the boundaries of their reservation were defined, and in 1902 every man, woman, and child received an allotment of land under the provisions of the severalty act of 1887, by which they because citizens of the United States and subject to the laws of Oklahoma. In 1904 they numbered 535.

Missions were started by the Baptists soon after the reservation was established, and are still maintained. Thomas C. Battey, a Quaker, performed missionary work among them in 1872. The Episcopalians opened a mission in 1881, the Roman Catholics in 1894.

Caddo Tribe Culture

Customs and beliefs. In the legend which recounts the coming of the Caddo from the underworld it is related: “First an old man climbed tip, carrying in one hand fire and a pipe, and in the other a drum; next came his wife with corn and pumpkin seeds.” The traditions of the people do not go back to a time when they were not cultivators of the soil; their fields surrounded their villages and furnished their staple food; they were semi-sedentary in their habits and lived in fixed habitations. Their dwellings were conical in shape, made of a framework of poles covered with a thatch of grass, and were grouped about an open space which served for social and ceremonial gatherings. Couches covered with mats were ranged around the walls inside the house to serve as seats by day and beds by night. The fire was built in the center. Food was cooked in vessels of pottery, and baskets of varying sizes were skillfully made. Vegetal fibers were woven, and the cloth was made into garments; their mantles, when adorned with feathers, were very attractive to the early French visitors. Living in the country of the buffalo, that animal and others were hunted and the pelts dressed and made into clothing for winter use. Besides having the usual ornaments for the arms, neck, and ears, the Caddo bored the nasal septum and inserted a ring as a face decorations, a custom noted in the name, meaning “pierced nose,” given the Caddo by the Kiowa and other unrelated tribes, and designated in the sign language of the plains. Tattooing was practiced. Descent was traced through the mother. Chieftainship was hereditary, as was the custody of certain sacred articles used in religious ceremonies. These ceremonies were connected with the cultivation of maize, the seeking of game, and the desire for long life, health, peace, and prosperity, and were conducted by priests who were versed in the rites and who led the accompanying rituals and songs. According to Caddo belief all natural forms were animate and capable of rendering assistance to man. Fasting, prayer, and occasional sacrifices were observed; life was thought to continue after death, and kinship groups were supposed to be reunited in the spirit world. Truthfulness, honesty, and hospitality were inculcated, and just dealing was esteemed a virtue. There is evidence that cannibalism was ceremonially practiced in connection with captives.

Caddo Indian Divisions and Totems

How many tribes were formerly included in the Caddo confederacy can not now be determined. Owing to the vicissitudes of the last 3 centuries only a remnant of the Caddo survive, and the memory of much of their organization is lost. In 1699 Iberville obtained from his Taensa Indian guide a list of 8 divisions; Linares in 1716 gave the names of 11; Gatschet 3 procured from a Caddo Indian in 1882 the names of 12 divisions, and the list was revised in 1896, by Mooney, as follows:

  1. Kadohadacho
  2. Hainai
  3. Anadarko
  4. Nabedache
  5. Nacogdoches
  6. Natchitoches
  7. Yatasi
  8. Adai
  9. Eyeish
  10. Nakanawan
  11. Imaha, a small hand of Kwapa
  12. Yowani, a band of Choctaw 4.

Of these names the first 9 are found under varying forms in the lists of 1699 and 1716. The native name of the confederacy, Hasinai, is said to belong more properly to the first 3 divisions, which may be significant of their prominence at the time when the confederacy was overlapping and absorbing members of older organizations, and as these divisions speak similar dialects, the name may be that which designated a still older organization.

The following tribes, now extinct, probably belonged to the Caddo confederacy:

  1. Doustionis
  2. Nacaniche
  3. Nanatsoho
  4. Nasoni (?)

The villages of Campti, Choye, and Natasi were probably occupied by subdivisions of the confederated tribes.

Each division of the confederacy was subdivided, and each of these sub-tribes had its totem, its village, its hereditary chieftain, its priests and ceremonies, and its part in the ceremonies common to the confederacy. The present clans, according to Mooney, are recognized as belonging equally to the whole Caddo people and in old times were probably the chief bond that held the confederacy together.Citations:

  1. Shea, Cath. Ch. in Col. Days, 559, 1855[]
  2. Ind. Aff. Rep. 18.59, 333, 1860[]
  3. Gatschet, Creek Migrations Legend, I, 43, 1884.[]
  4. Mooney in 14th Rep. B. A. E., 1092, 1896[]


Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

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