Bidai Tribe

Bidai (Caddo for ‘brushwood,’ probably referring to the peculiar growth characteristic of the region). An extinct tribe, supposed to have belonged to the Caddoan stock, whose villages were scattered over a wide territory, but principally about Trinity river , Texas, while some were as far north as the Neches or beyond. A creek emptying into Trinity river between Walker and Madison Counties, Texas, bears the name of the tribe, as did also, according to La Harpe, a small bay on the coast north of Matagorda bay. A number of geographic names derived from this tribe survive in the region. The tribal tradition of the Bidai is that they were the oldest inhabitants of the country where they dwelt. This belief may have strengthened tribal pride, for although the Bidai were surrounded by tribes belonging to the Caddo confederacy, the people long kept their independence. They were neighbors of the Arkokisa, who lived on lower Trinity river and may have been their allies, for according to LaHarpe (1721) they were on friendly terms with that tribe while they were at war with the people dwelling on Matagorda bay. During the latter part of the 18th century the Bidai were reported to be the chief intermediaries between the French and the Apache in the trade in firearms; later they suffered from the political disturbances incident to the controversy between the Spaniards and the French, as well as from inter-tribal wars and the introduction of new diseases. As a result remnants of different villages combined, and the olden tribal organization was broken up. Little is known of their customs and beliefs, which were probably similar to those of the surrounding tribes of the Caddo confederacy. They lived in fixed habitations, cultivated the soil, hunted the buffalo, which ranged through their territory, and were said by Sibley in 1805 to have had “an excellent character for honesty and punctuality.” At that time they numbered about 100, but in 1776-7 an epidemic carried off nearly half their number. About the middle of the 19th century a remnant of the Bidai were living in a small village 12 miles from Montgomery, Texas, cultivating maize, serving as cotton pickers, and bearing faithful allegiance to the Texans. The women were still skilled in basketry of “curious designs and great variety.” The few survivors were probably incorporated by the Caddo.

Bidai, Caddo,

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

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