Supernatural Beliefs of the Caddo Indians

Grandfather or Father Sun, Earth (wadat’ina: wadat’, earth, ĭn’ă, mother), 1 Fire (ibat’niko: ibat, grandfather, niko, fire), 2 Lightning (ika adinin: ika, grandmother, adinin, lightning), Thunder (R. iGahabaGanswa, grandmother, noise maker, see p. 16), 3 Winds, 4 Cyclone, God, 5 all are referred to by White Moon as supernatural beings, but so vaguely that in his mind, at least, they appear to have little religious import. Whereas to ghosts and to certain animals a more definite significance attaches.

The relationship with the animals is the familiar one of supernatural helper, or, in White Moon’s phrase, partner – pi’DO’niwana’gu (R.), “two are partners with” 6 e.g. bear or panther or screech owl or lightning, pi’Do’niu’ana’ cu nauutsi or Gici7 (R.) or Ga’e·tsi (R.) or adinin. “You have the same power as your partner,” from him you get your power, and such partners can understand each other. The partnership is established through some accidental encounter, not through deliberate seeking, and only certain men, comparatively few, I take it, doctors included, have had such experience. The following stories show how the experience is come by. The first story is about White Moon’s great-uncle (Gen. II, 12), called Snipe as a youngster, in later years Kill-deer. He was a hunter of deer and bear, and sometimes served as hunt leader.

When Snipe was a little fellow, they would send boys down early in the morning to the river, to break through the ice. After this morning bath, Snipe would take his bow and arrows and go hunting, but he never got anything. But one morning, while a hunting, he heard something mewing. Two panthers came by. They stuck up their tails and rubbed against him, like a cat. He knew that panthers were mean, still he ran his hand over one and petted it. The panthers left him and went down over a hill to his right and disappeared. He looked over there, and there was a herd of deer. After that Snipe or Kill-deer was graceful like a panther, keen-sighted, and quick of hearing. And he never would kill a panther, because it was his friend. 8

Several years later the people were camping and one day in moving camp they left behind a piece of iron to tan deer hides. Kill-deer started back to fetch it. With him he had a dog he thought a lot of. Going along the creek the hound went around a bend and began to bark. When Kill-deer got there he found the dog lying dead. He saw tracks which he knew were panther tracks. He grew angry, he started to trail the tracks were of three panthers. After a few hundred yards he found a panther with two cubs up a tree. He killed them, with the piece of iron.

Why all this had happened Kill-deer did not know. When a man is out hunting, the people at home should not fuss; if he was buffalo hunting, for example, they should not say that perhaps the buffalo would kill him. And so now Kill-deer thought that his people might have been fussing. He went home and told his people all about it. He went through the ceremony to ask forgiveness (R. Dumbakaotsihaadina’) from his friend, the panther.

About forty years ago on a hunting trip a certain man got lost, and a panther attacked him and fractured his skull. On recovery, this man found himself attached to the panther, and possessed of his power. Now some horses had been stolen by Caddo from government soldiers who charged it to this man and wanted to jail him. He got sore about it, he said that he was not going to jail, they would have to take him dead, he would kill them. But the Chief decided to give the man up to the soldiers, otherwise the soldiers would punish the whole tribe. One man said, “I’ll go after him. Why should we all get into trouble for one man?” He went, the (accused) man came out; he fired off a shot, he said, “If I live after noon today, nobody will kill me, and many will be lost.” They did not know what he meant, so they decided to kill him. They waited a while, then they killed him. Already his back had hair on it, spotted [marked] like a panther; his back had turned panther, he was half panther.

Two men are mentioned as partners with Wolf (R. ta-ca’) , 9 Worthless (Gen. I, 19) and Maik’t’it’i, and both are reputed thieves, with thieving power from Wolf. Once Little Mike was jailed, but he got away, they could not keep him. He was said to have escaped through the keyhole, not through the help, however, of Wolf, but of another partner, of forgotten name.

Nihi’ (R.) or Billy Bowlegs (Gen. II, 8), another great-uncle of White Moon was partner with nihi’, the horned hoot owl. As the family was sitting up together one night, they heard an owl hooting. Nthi’ 10 said, “We have had bad news.” What?” asked his sister, Chu’’uu. “We are going to have floods, our crops will be drowned.” That summer there were floods and washouts. One power of the owl is to predict 11 . And an owl partner may be sent to carry messages.

The partner of Mr. Blue (Gen. I, 10), White Moon’s father, was Fox (ku’us). Mr. Blue hung a fox skin, we recall, to the pole in the Caddo Ghost dance of which he was leader. When White Moon was a child, at night a fox used to come up to the house. “My father would come as a fox to see how I was doing. When I was sick, the fox would come oftener. My father always knew when I was sick, although, having married again, he was living in another place.”

Supernatural partnership is not limited to the animals, a man may be partner with Sun or Cyclone—pi’DO’niwana’ Gu (R.) s’aku or shahau’, or with Lightning, pi’Do`niwana’ gwadinin. Moon-head appears to have been partner with the Moon. 12

Formerly in war certain men figured as partners with the Clouds. They could make a mist rise and hide them from the enemy, or they could summon a heavy rain to wash out their tracks. 13 Other men would have the power to make you lose your way, by changing the look of the landscape, they might bring up a tree where it had not been before, but whence this power was received is obscure.

“Our people are very much afraid of ghosts (kaayu),” said White Moon. Ghosts are said to be hungry. When anybody gets something fresh from the store, a bit of it is put into the house fire. The story goes that once Tom Moonlight (Gen. II, 46) was walking home with groceries and heard something behind him. He could see nothing. He dropped bits of his supplies on the road and the sound stopped. Any one walking out at night and hearing something behind him would drop a piece of meat, if he had it, or would cut off a piece of tobacco or roll a cigarette and throw it down. 14 It is dangerous for a man to be scared that way (Ingkanish).

Once the Government Indian policeman was going through some timber. He heard something behind him. It stopped when he stopped. Finally it left him at a certain stump. He showed the stump the next day to some White fellows. They dug there. They said they found nothing. The policeman visited the stump and saw an empty kettle. This had had money in it. The kaayu (ghost) was trying to show it to him; but the White fellows got it (Ingkanish).

Abroad at night are (R.) habana’di’Gahai (habana’, worthless, di’Gahai, things) or (R.) hacdana’diGahai, dangerous things-evil spirits would be the approximate English term.

Ha’yacatsi (R.), “lost,” are very small, stout people who wander about, without a home, toward the south, in the bamboo country. They can speak every language. It is said that when you are out camping, one of them might approach you and ask you to wrestle. All they think of is wrestling. Small though they are, they can throw you. 15 If you play with these people, according to Pardon, who live, he thinks, in the mountains, they will give you power so nobody can throw you. 16Citations:

  1. Cp. Mooney, 1096, 1098; Pawnee, Dorsey 3: 14.[]
  2. Ingkanish refers to “Mother Fire.”[]
  3. ika hobakan’ naswa’wa, grandmother, make a noise, going everywhere (Pardon). He also referred to ibat ihinin, Grandfather Thunder, to ina koko, Mother Water, ina wadat, Mother Earth, a’a’ sako, Father Sun.[]
  4. Hohutu. “Wind is spoken of as somebody.”[]
  5. Năă’, father above: ăă’ father, na above (Mooney, 1103). Early in the eighteenth century two Spanish Franciscan missions were established among the Caddo; in Oklahoma, Baptist, Episcopalian, and Catholic missions were established in 1872, 1881, and 1894 (Handbook).[]
  6. R, tsi toniwana’ Gu, I am partner with.[]
  7. In translating this term White Moon prefers to say tiger, not panther. “There are still a few tigers in Wichita Mountains,” he says.[]
  8. Formerly the taboo on killing panthers was general (Mooney, 1093).[]
  9. Another hunt leader particularly for bear, was Kill-deer’s brother-in-law, Tahbakumshia (Gen. Il, 16), a Shawnee.[]
  10. Nihi’ was named for his “partner”; and so, indirectly, was his brother, Kill-deer; but this name relation does not always occur.[]
  11. Medicine-Screech Owl, a culture hero in the tales recorded by Dorsey, has the power of prophecy. Among Shawnee the owl predicts misfortune (Voegelin). Cp. Choctaw, Swanton 2: 199, 216-217.[]
  12. See p. 47 n. 174.[]
  13. See p. 40. Cp. Pawnee, Dorsey 1: 51.[]
  14. Shawnee won’t eat outside at night, without dropping a little food for the ghost; otherwise the ghost would think you were “stingy” and take revenge. Also Shawnee never wash their dishes after supper, but leave them covered with a cloth, so if ghosts are about, they can have some food and not call the persons stingy. Also, no water that has stood overnight is used the next morning, as ghosts may have been in the house and drunk from the pail (Voegelin).[]
  15. Cp. Choctaw, Swanton 3: 198.[]
  16. See pp. 62, 63-64.[]


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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