Tale of The First War Party

When the people came into the world there were so many that they had to be divided into groups, and each group was given a different name, although they all belonged to the same tribe. After a time the tribes began to fight with each other and the Caddo fought the Kiowa and Comanche. The Caddo gathered one time in council and the chief told the errand-man to cry out for all the young men to come to the council. The young men came and the chief asked all of those who wanted to fight the other tribes to sit in a circle. After the circle was formed the chief brought the largest buffalo hide that he had and laid it upon the ground in the center of the circle. Then he gave each man a stick and they all beat the buffalo hide with the sticks and sang a war song. They began singing at sunset and continued until Morning Star drove the other stars away.

In the meantime the chief and his assistants went ahead to choose a good place with water near by to make a camp. At dawn all the men arose and marched out to the place, continuing their war song as they went. They were not allowed to go back to their homes, but had to march all together out of the village. They waited until noon at the place the chief had chosen, so that others who decided late to join the party would have time to catch up with them. They all stopped their songs and ate, and, while they were eating, the chief made the following speech:

“I want to make certain rules for you, my men, for if you are to become great warriors you must learn to obey. First, I want all to move forward in one body and want none to stop by the way. I will appoint two men who shall be water-carriers, and I want each man to drink only when water is brought by the water-carriers, and not to stop and drink at every spring or stream. A drink of water three times a day is enough for each man. We will also eat three times a day. March on, now, and remember to keep in one body, that we may overcome the enemy.”

They marched by day and made camp by night. The chief always camped about a hundred yards in advance of the others, facing the enemy’s country. When the men were near the enemy’s country the chief appointed four men to go on ahead as spies and to come back at night and report. They went out in all directions, but before going they arranged a meeting place, so that if any one saw the enemy he could go to that place, give the signal, and the other spies could join him and all race back to tell the leader that they had seen the enemy. When they reached camp they stood in line and waited for the water carriers to give them a drink before they began to speak.

They went on until they found the enemy and fought them, but scalped only one, for that was enough to show that they had been victorious. When the battle was over the warriors were all left to do as they pleased. The chief sent word to their homes that they had defeated the enemy and were bringing back a scalp. The people decked themselves in paint and feathers and went out to meet the returning war party. When the people met the party the chief told the man who had the scalp to put it on a pole, and then all the young men raced for it, and the one who got it ran on until some one overtook him; then that one took the scalp and ran on until some one overtook him, and so they raced home. The people at home were waiting for them, and when they arrived they all joined in a big war dance.

So it was with the first war party, and so it has been with all war parties since that time.

Caddo, Legends,

Dorsey, George A. Traditions of the Caddo. Washington: Carnegie Institution. 1905.

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