Caddo Creation Story

White Moon knew little if anything of the tradition of tribal emergence from cave or underground 1 which Caddo and other Southeasterners have in common with Southwesterners; but familiar to White Moon was the phrase, d’qki haiyano kin’aota, six human (peoples) out came 2 a reference to the emergence from the earth of the traditional six tribal divisions of the Caddo.

where we used to livedarknesswhen it was

which is translated by Dorsey as “old-home-in-the-darkness” is perhaps another reference to the emergence or pre-emergence period. “They claim that it used to be dark all the time,” said White Moon. According to Pardon, the Caddo came from a hole, underground.

Several of the tales recorded by Dorsey contain such phrases as “when the world was new.”

when it wasgreen or new, not ripe 3

is a regular tale opener, which is followed up sometimes by “it was a dangerous place to live in.” 4

hashdanah kinhai’yahasakunihai’ya
dangerous when it wasgreenwhen it was

Dangerous, because there were dangerous things (hacdana’diGahai), 5 perhaps monsters abroad.

Horned snakes (kika kiokahųni, snake with horn) still exist. The snake is black, the horn, green. 6 It is a water snake and if it comes out on dry land, it will be killed by lightning. This horned snake is dangerous; to get power from it is too dangerous …. There was a horned snake in Florida. He stayed under a coral reef, which was his house, because of the lightning he was afraid of. One time he went up from the ocean which followed him, by this giving Florida the shape of a peninsula …. Around here (Oklahoma) the lakes dried up and the horned snakes left (Pardon).

The following tale was summarized by White Moon in reference to something with horns, kiu`k’ahhonih’ (kiu`, horn or spoon), translated “devil.”

A woman went for water to the creek. She did not return and so her husband went after her. Something told him that his wife was down under the water. He went and gathered some sunflower seeds and pulled up some bamboos and out of them made arrows. Then he threw the seeds into the air and shot up the arrows, which turned into birds. The devil in the water shot up water and drowned some of the birds. This he did five times, but the birds kept on flying and the sixth time the arrows fell down and hit the water. The water began to shake all over. Soon the woman came up out of the water. The devil also came floating up. They built a big fire and burned him, for six days.

Dorsey records tonin as a term for Jesus. According to White Moon, Tonin was a Caddo, “a real man,” who “lived in Louisiana before the people moved away from there,” at the period 1700 to 1812 when Caddo tribes were under Catholic missionary influence. 7

Tonin had a very small horse and a saddle with buffalo-hide straps for stirrups. He was very poor, he dressed in rags. 8 One day he disappeared, he was gone for some time, for how long I don’t know. They said he went around the world, which I think meant the United States. Finally he came back. When he came back he told his tribe that he had met the White soldiers somewhere and had had a little talk with them.

In those days they had their tipi in rows, all made of buffalo hides. They used to have a man who got up at 4:30 in the morning and would start calling from one end of the village to the other for every one to get up. So one morning the caller (crier) came through the village calling out for everybody to get up and dress and

238 Shawnee also say axes and hoes were used first as decorations (Voegelin).
239 Told White Moon by his grandmother, Chu´’uu.-Perhaps Tonin is comparable with Poshaiyanki-Montezuma of the Pueblos and with Motzeyeuff of the Cheyenne.Citations:

  1. See Mooney, 1093-1094. They came up from under the ground through the mouth of a cave in a hill which they call cha’kanĭ’nă, “the place of crying,” on a lake close to the south bank of Red River, just at its junction with the Mississippi. In those days men and animals were all brothers and all lived together under the ground. But at last they discovered the entrance to the cave leading up to the surface of the earth, and so they decided to ascend and come out. First an old man climbed up, carrying in one hand fire and a pipe and in the other a drum. After him came his wife, with corn and pumpkin seeds. Then followed the rest of the people and the animals. All intended to come out, but as soon as the wolf had climbed up he closed the hole, and shut up the rest of the people and animals under the ground, where they still remain. Those who had come out sat down and cried a long time for their friends below, hence the name of the place. Because the Caddo came out of the ground they call it ină’, mother, and go back to it when they die. Because they have had the pipe and the drum and the corn and pumpkins since they have been a people, they hold fast to these things and have never thrown them away.–Note striking resemblances with Pueblo emergence myth: leaving behind or, through an animal mischief maker, losing members of the tribe, who are bewailed; and bringing up the precious things, “what we live by.”[]
  2. Pardon corrects: d’onki hayanu kinayaoaha (kin’aota, singular form) nawadat, six people come out the ground.[]
  3. Raw as of any kind of fruit or corn. Compare the Pueblo Indian concept of the beginning of the world, a sunless, unhardened, dangerous place.[]
  4. See Dorsey 2: 46.[]
  5. Cannibals (Dorsey).[]
  6. Shawnee and other eastern tribes tell of a horned snake or monster, one horn green, one horn red (Voegelin). Compare, too, the horned water serpent of the Southwest. The Shawnee horned water serpent may be brought out and killed by powerful doctors. See below.[]
  7. Mooney, 1094.[]
  8. This element of the poor and miserable little boy hero is very characteristic of Pawnee tales, and it figures in Kiowa and Pueblo tales. Also it occurs in a Shawnee tale, where an orphan boy (or two orphan boys) are sent out to get power, and maltreated. They gain power and accomplish heroic feats (Voegelin).[]


Parsons, Elsie Clews. Notes on the Caddo, Memories of the American Anthropological Association. Supplement to American Anthropologist, Volume 43, No. 3, Part 2. 1921.

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