Caddo Instructions of Youth

Boys were sent every morning to bathe in the river, even through the ice. 1

The boys would shoot birds and a little boy liked to show his birds to his grandmother.

The older woman in the family would talk to both the girls and the boys about how to take care of themselves. White Moon remembers that his grandmother told him he was not to interfere in other people’s affairs. “That feeling grows in… I don’t want to fool with anybody’s business and I don’t want them to fool with mine.” A boy used to be told that he was not to marry until he could kill a deer 2 and skin it; “now it is different,” said Grandmother Chu’’uu to White Moon, “but still you should not marry until you can help support a wife.” And she also talked to him about not showing jealousy in public. 3 I infer she had opinions about not “going to extremes” see pp. 52-53). If he got into a fight, said his grandmother, and was shot in the back she would feel very bad about it, but if in the front, she would feel bad but yet proud–a Plainslike flourish. “We sure do think a great deal about being brave,” added White Moon.

Formerly systematic instruction about behavior on war parties was given to the boys by their senior relatives, sometimes by their father, generally by their grandfather, in the evening. The youths had to collect wood and keep up a big fire while “getting their lectures.”- According to Ingkanish, boys were supposed to listen even more to their uncle (mother’s brother) 4 than to their father. A boy, whatever his age, was not to answer back to his uncle or father, especially if the senior was a warrior or a doctor. If the boy spat, the elder knew he was not listening and would stop talking. Nowadays, “you can’t talk to the boys,” they do not listen to you.

On the return of a war party with a scalp (ba’at), the scalp was left outside the camp until the scalp dance, but scalps were kept permanently in a “grass house” 5 which was closed up and dark. If a little boy, a youngster of three or four, showed himself quarrelsome and mean to the other children, he would be taken into the “grass house,” to test his courage. In the “grass house” he would hear voices (Ingkanish). 6

After a man had fought 7 against the enemy together with another man the two might become friends, tesha, which was the same as brother. Thereafter, if your tesha was in danger, you stood by him to the death, “never leave him. 8 If your tesha asked you for anything you had, you would have to give it to him, otherwise the relationship would break on the spot. This tesha relationship was held also between women. They would help each other in sickness or other emergency.Citations:

  1. Like Shawnee, the Delaware sent their children, boys and girls, from eight years upwards, into the brush to get a supernatural partner. Of his daily river bath, Pardon, Caddo, said “I never got any partner from it, only rheumatism.” The early morning bath in running water was universal in the Southeast (Swanton 2: 699).[]
  2. Ten deer (Pardon).[]
  3. See p. 30[]
  4. See p. 63.[]
  5. The aboriginal Caddo house was thatched with grass (Swanton 2: 688); the ceremonial house was entirely covered with grass (Joutel, 345).[]
  6. For these spirit voices, cp. Hatcher, XXX, 291-292.[]
  7. “The Caddo never used shields.”[]
  8. Cp. Grinnell, 46-47, 49.[]


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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