The Caddo Doctors

The Beaver (t’ao) doctor is the “strongest” (i.e. most powerful) (Ingkanish). He is a daitino (mescal-bean) doctor. He held a medicine dance in early spring. He would throw fire up onto the “grass house” and get it down without the house catching fire. He would shoot another doctor through the heart so that he bled from the mouth. They would find the bullet and give it to the doctor who would then revive the one he had shot. Also, according to Ingkanish, the doctors were in groups, “bands.” He mentioned three “bands”–Beaver, Mescal-bean, yuko, and there were two or three other “bands” also. For the (?)origin of the yuko, next strongest to Beaver, Ingkanish told a story of two brothers who raided a camp. “One jumped over the fire. When a brave man did this it meant that he never left the fire. 1 This man was riddled with bullets. His brother found him, took out the bullets, and restored him to life. He was yuko.” Inferably the yuko doctor was for wounds …. To one of the doctor “bands” the scalp taker was conducted …. Bear medicine was familiar to Ingkanish and so was the Panther doctor. There are still some doctors among the Caddo, Ingkanish admitted; but he would not take me to one. “If we looked for the doctors, the witches might be around.”  And there was no doubt that Ingkanish was very much afraid of witches. Pardon was also. “Witches don’t like to be questioned. They might kill you. We were not allowed to ask questions about them.” The Delaware, Pardon added, did not keep their witches as secret as did the Caddo. Delaware witches came to the house as birds.

According to Pardon, yuku (yoko) were doctors who could tell what was going to happen, and could find lost things, they could bring back a stray horse. Yuku could find out a man’s supernatural “partner” or p’itauniwan’ha (to have power from). 2 Pardon’s grandfather, known as Mike Pardon, was a yuku. He could foretell the coming of an epidemic or of anything else four days in advance. Beaver and dai’tono doctors were known to Pardon merely as names. He knew, however, of the Beaver medicine dance.

A doctor is invited to perform a cure with a gift of tobacco. If he accepts it, it means that he will undertake treatment. 3 He performs it, for six days in the patient’s house, with a woman or man of the household to assist. None may enter the patient’s room without being smoked with cedar 4 or with white-leaf (Gasa’Gaiyu’, R. ? sage). In sickness a sweat bath is also used. 5 After six days if no cure is effected, another doctor might be called in. The doctor “puts down his medicines.” He prays to “one above” or to a’a, father (Ingkanish). If “one above” says so, the doctor undertakes the cure. He is paid with a horse, calico, etc.

Each doctor has his own rules of curing, which depend on his supernatural partner. Tsa’bisu, Mr. Wing (Dr. Gerrin) who died in 1907 was a famous doctor. His supernatural partner was a Red-headed woodpecker (R. ban’). He was also “connected with” the buffalo. Once while Wing was curing a girl, White Moon looked into the tipi and saw Wing acting like a mad buffalo. 6 There was a buffalo tail which seemed to be swishing about of itself. This girl died. She was too far gone, Wing reported, “it was time for her to die.” And White Moon added, “We believe that you die when it is time.”

Before his own death Wing had an extraordinary experience. There was an epidemic in the tribe, and Wing (himself a Caddo witch) dreamed that it was I being caused by witches. In his dream there appeared to him somebody with thorns all over his face and head. This one said to Wing, “I am going to show you the men who are causing lots of you to die, some of them are important men, too.” And then Wing saw these men sitting in a tipi. “I will show you, too, men of good power,” said the one with thorns, and among them, according to White Moon was Mr. Blue, his father. But there was m ore to it. Before the one with thorns disappeared he said to Wing, “I am leaving two things in your hands. Tomorrow at noon these things will be taken.” Then Wing woke up, and in his hands, which were crossed over his best were two snakes. He told the old woman who was sitting there taking care of him to take the snakes in a can to a certain tree. The day following, a summer day, clear and bright, as everybody remembers to this day, at noon that tree was struck by lightning and the snakes disappeared.  The day after,  Wing died.

A Kiowa-Apache doctor was referred to by Ingkanish. His infant brother who had a straw sticking in his throat-the child had swallowed it–was taken to this doctor. The doctor made circuits around the patient. He brushed the patient with an eagle wing feather. He sucked out the straw. The doctor used the eagle feather because when he had himself been sick with pains in his side which he could not get out he had gone into the mountains [to ask for power] and there an old eagle alit and gave him power to cure himself and others. This doctor wore a necklace of daitino. 7 This daitino plant is used for medicine by Caddo also.

Doctors have a medicine for snake bite. There is a “worn out (i.e. played out) horse medicine.” 8

Still another type of doctor is represented in Tsa’biti, Mr. Cedar. 9 He is a rain-maker. His rain-making ceremony lasts six days. In it he uses the pole which is used in the Ghost dance and is painted dark blue to represent clouds. In time of drought, people will say, “Let us go to Mr. Cedar.” But Mr. Cedar has been criticized as “going to extremes.” For this reason his ceremony has been known to intensify the drought and burn up the crops instead of bringing rain. (Mr. Cedar died in 1921.)

Kanushe, the curing doctor, was also described by Ingkanish as a rainmaker, in time of war. Once he went with four or five men to steal horses from the Comanche. He made a fog to enable the raiders to steal the horses within the camp, and he made rain to wash out the tracks of the raiders. 10 He had a medicine to make the enemy crazy.

Kadit’si was a doctor who died thirty years ago (Pardon). He both doctored the sick and controlled weather. He could draw rain or cyclone. Once in Louisiana he drew a cyclone against white soldiers in pursuit of the tribe. He made use of Cyclone only to protect the tribe in danger. 11 His rain ceremony he kept secret, and he had no helper. He would perform his ritual at a spring, staying there only a few minutes. He would plunge a stick with a black cloth on the top into the water. 12 If the kerchief floated and a mist rose up two feet above the water, Kadit’si knew it was going to rain.

Inferably, rain-making or weather control and curing were merely different functions, and shamans themselves were not differentiated into rainmakers and curers.Citations:

  1. Does this obscure reference mean that by jumping over the fire a warrior fire the fire would stand fast? Choctaw said that if one did anything wrong in the presence of the fire the fire would tell the sun of it (Swanton 3: 196).[]
  2. See pp. 57 ff. See also pp. 61, 62 for the point of view that a doctor ran the risk of losing his power if his supernatural partner were known.[]
  3. Among Shawnee, tobacco binds the appointment of the funeral leader. Tobacco is used among Shawnee and many speaking Woodlands tribes when approaching a guardian spirit, or to make binding the prayers to a supernatural (Voegelin). Same concept throughout Southwest.[]
  4. Cp. Kiowa, Parsons, 135[]
  5. See p. 50[]
  6. Compare buffalo doctors of Kiowa, Parsons, 116; also for Caddo, Dorsey 2: 22, where Black-mountain-bear medicine-man acts like a bear.[]
  7. Mexican bean “next to peyote” [mescal bean]. According to Pardon, this red bean is only worn nowadays for beads, nobody knows how to use it for medicine. See La Barre, 105 ff.[]
  8. See p. 40 for other shamanistic functions.[]
  9. When Mr. Cedar was a child he was rescued from the Texans and restored to his people by White Moon’s great grandfather (Gen. II, 4). The boy had been left behind by the people on their escape from northern Texas into Oklahoma. White Moon’s forebear returned twice to Texas for things which had been forgotten. The second time he was killed. His horse returned riderless and bloody. They went to search for the rider, but could not find him.[]
  10. See p. 59.[]
  11. One Bat’nint’iti, Little-button, who died in 1906 is mentioned as protecting a house against a cyclone by going outside and making certain motions, causing the cyclone to keep away from the house. (Cp. Dorsey 2:56; Shawnee, Voegelin; Kiowa, Parsons, 15-17).[]
  12. Shawnee make rain by dipping a buffalo tail in a spring (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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