The Caddo Indians of Louisiana

By Hiram F. Gregory and Clarence H. Webb

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Title: The Caddo Indians of Louisiana

Authors: Clarence H. Webb
         Hiram F. Gregory

Release Date: January 23, 2022 [eBook #67235]

Language: English

Produced by: WebRover, Stephen Hutcheson and the Online Distributed
             Proofreading Team at


              Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism
       Louisiana Archaeological Survey and Antiquities Commission
                       Anthropological Study No. 2

                                THE CADDO
                              OF LOUISIANA

         [Illustration: Green Corn Ceremony of prehistoric Caddo
        Indians. Presumed village, dress, and utensils about A.D.
      1000 as reconstructed from archaeological findings. Mural in
              Louisiana State Exhibit Museum, Shreveport.]

                           _Clarence H. Webb_

                           _Hiram F. Gregory_

                               August 1978

                         Baton Rouge, Louisiana

       *       *       *       *       *


    Edwin Edwards


    Dr. J. Larry Crain


    _Ex-Officio Members_

    Dr. Alan Toth           _State Archaeologist_
    Dr. E. Bernard Carrier  _Assistant Secretary_, Office of Program
    Mr. William C. Huls     _Secretary_, Department of Natural Resources
    Mr. Leon Tarver         _Secretary_, Department of Urban and Community

    _Appointed Members_

    Mrs. Lanier Simmons   Mrs. Dale Campbell Brown   Mr. Thomas M. Ryan
    Mr. Fred Benton, Jr.    Dr. Clarence H. Webb      Dr. Jon L. Gibson
                            Mr. Robert S. Neitzel

       *       *       *       *       *

Editor’s Note

More than 10,000 years of human settlement in Louisiana have left
a cultural heritage that is both rich and informative. With the
publication of “The Caddo Indians of Louisiana,” the Department of
Culture, Recreation and Tourism is pleased to continue the series of
_Anthropological Studies_ that will illuminate some of the major episodes
in Louisiana’s past.

The two authors of the present study are eminently qualified authorities
on the Caddo Indians. Dr. Clarence H. Webb, a well-known Shreveport
physician, is equally distinguished by his pioneer archaeological
efforts in the Caddoan area. For more than four decades, he has led the
professional community in the illumination of Caddoan prehistory. Dr.
Hiram F. Gregory is Professor of Anthropology at Northwestern State
University and also a veteran of many years of Caddoan archaeology.
His professional career, which began with an exhaustive study of the
Spanish _presidio_ of Los Adaes, has acquired a pronounced ethnohistoric
orientation in recent years as the result of his close cooperation with
the Caddo and other living Indian groups.

Recognizing that the past belongs to everyone, and not just to a handful
of scholars, the _Anthropological Studies_ are directed to a general
audience. It is hoped that these studies will bring cultural enrichment
to the people of Louisiana and stimulate an interest in preserving our
historic and archaeological resources for enjoyment and study by future

                                                     Alan Toth
                                                    _State Archaeologist_

       *       *       *       *       *

State of Louisiana


Baton Rouge




July 5, 1978


This second edition of the Anthropological Study Series of the Department
of Culture, Recreation and Tourism and the Louisiana Archaeological
Survey and Antiquities Commission is dedicated to the late Margaret
Elam Drew, a charter member of the Commission. Affectionately known by
professional and amateur archaeologists as “Lady Margaret,” Mrs. Drew
and her close friend, Mrs. Rita Krouse, were instrumental in fostering
statewide governmental and private sector support for the protection of
Louisiana’s archaeological resources.

Mrs. Drew was the wife of Representative Harmon R. Drew of Minden. Her
interest in archaeology began in 1962, with her daughter’s curiosity
about the location of Indian tribes in Northwest Louisiana. Mrs. Drew, a
devoted history buff, and Mrs. Krouse enthusiastically began researching
possible Indian sites.

The Drew-Krouse team contacted Dr. William Haag, the Louisiana
State University professor later named as Louisiana’s first State
Archaeologist, for advice. Their research marked the beginning of a
fifteen-year partnership of field excursions, field training schools
and dedicated efforts to enlighten the public on archaeology and its
importance to everyone.

Webster Parish had no registered archaeological sites in 1962. Through
the efforts of Mrs. Drew and Mrs. Krouse there are now twenty-nine
such sites. Claiborne Parish had two registered sites; there now are
twenty-five. Mmes. Drew and Krouse established seventeen sites in
Bienville Parish alone.

In 1974, on Dr. Haag’s recommendation, I was honored to appoint Margaret
Drew a charter member of the Louisiana Archaeological Survey and
Antiquities Commission. Her appointment was but a token of her colleagues
and my appreciation for her efforts to promote the establishment of the
Antiquities Commission and her work to obtain public and private funds
for archaeological site surveys.

The publication of this study recognizes and honors the late Margaret
Drew. Her selfless and tireless dedication to the preservation of our
archaeological resources will, through ages to come, be credited with
helping preserve this precious part of Louisiana’s cultural heritage.



       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: Margaret Elam Drew


       *       *       *       *       *


Northwestern Louisiana was occupied by the Caddo Indians during the
period of early Spanish, French, and American contacts. By combining
history and archaeology, the Caddo story can be traced back for a
thousand years—a unique opportunity made possible by a long tradition
of distinctive traits, especially in pottery forms and decorations. Our
story of the Caddo Indians in Louisiana, therefore, begins around A.D.
800-900 and can be traced by archaeology well into the historic period.

The center of Caddoan occupation during contact times and throughout
their prehistoric development was along Red River and its tributaries,
with extensions to other river valleys in the four-state area of northern
Louisiana, southwestern Arkansas, eastern Texas, and eastern Oklahoma.
The successful agriculture of these farming peoples was best adapted to
the fertile valleys of major streams like the Red, Sabine, Angelina,
Ouachita and—in Oklahoma—the Canadian and Arkansas rivers.

In spite of their linguistic (language) connections with Plains tribes
like the Wichita, Pawnee, and Arikara, the Caddos in Louisiana had
customs much like those of other Southeastern tribes. They maintained
trade and cultural contacts with the lower Mississippi Valley tribes of
eastern and southern Louisiana for many centuries.


Northwestern Louisiana was occupied for thousands of years before the
beginnings of Caddo culture. In the upland areas, along small streams
and bordering the river valleys, projectile points and tools of Early
and Late Paleo-Indian peoples have been found (Webb 1948b; Gagliano and
Gregory 1965). In the western plains, the makers of the fluted Clovis and
Folsom points hunted now extinct types of big game (mammoth, mastodon,
sloth) between 10,000 and 8000 B.C. The later Plainview, Angostura, and
Scottsbluff points have been found with the extinct large bison. Since
all of these distinctive projectile point types have been found in the
Louisiana uplands and mastodon bones, teeth, and tusks have been found in
Red River Valley, big game hunting was possible in the state. However, no
camp or kill sites of Paleo-Indian people have been found thus far.

The oldest camp sites in the Caddo area of northwestern Louisiana are
those of the San Patrice culture, thought to date between 8000 and 6000
B.C. This culture, which some students look upon as late Paleo-Indian and
others as early Archaic, was named for a stream in De Soto and Sabine
Parishes (Webb 1946). When a camp site of two bands of San Patrice people
was excavated south of Shreveport (Webb, Shiner and Roberts 1971), only
their typical points and a variety of small scraping, cutting, and
drilling stone tools were found. The tools indicated that they still
depended largely on hunting—probably deer, bear, bison, and smaller
animals—with a gradual increase in reliance on gathering wild plant
foods. Stone points and tools of San Patrice people have been found over
much of the terrace and upland parts of Louisiana.

A combination of hunting, fishing, and gathering of native foods by bands
of people, whom we call Archaic, was characteristic throughout Louisiana
from 6000 B.C. until almost the time of Christ. In favorable locations
they congregated in larger groups, at least during certain times of
the year, but did not form definite year-round settlements. Grinding
stones and pitted nut stones show that Archaic people harvested seeds
and nuts, such as hickory nuts, walnuts, pecans, acorns, and chinquapins
(chestnuts). They also made ground stone celts (hatchets) for wood
cutting and polished stone ornaments, especially beads. They hunted with
darts which are heavier than arrows and were thrown with the atlatl, or
throwing stick.

Toward the end of the long Archaic period, by 1500 B.C., the Poverty
Point culture developed in northeastern, central, and southern Louisiana.
Sites of this culture have not been found on Red River, but there are
Poverty Point sites on the Ouachita River and the late Archaic people on
Red River had a few items—soapstone vessels, hematite plummets or bolas
weights, polished or effigy beads—which may have been traded from Poverty

People who lived in small settlements and made pottery appeared in
the area about the time of Christ. Their crude pottery was generally
plain and resembled that of Fourche Maline people in eastern Oklahoma
and southwestern Arkansas. In northwestern Louisiana, the culture is
called Bellevue Focus, named for a small mound site on Bodcau Bayou near
Bellevue, in Bossier Parish (Fulton and Webb 1953). The small conical
Bellevue mound was found to cover flexed and partly cremated burials, and
is thought to represent the beginning of the trait of building mounds
as burial commemorations in this part of the state. There was no sign
of cultivated plants, although the Marksville people of this time may
have grown maize (corn) and squash. Probably, the Bellevue people lived
largely as had the Archaic folk, by hunting, fishing, and gathering of
the abundant native foods. At another half dozen small sites along the
Red River Valley margins and on the lateral lakes, small conical mounds
show a culture like that of Bellevue. One of these in Caddo Parish
also had polished stone and native copper beads with cremated burials.
An occasional decorated pottery sherd found at these Bellevue sites
resembles Marksville and Troyville pottery of the lower Mississippi

The Fredericks mound and village site, near Black Lake in Natchitoches
Parish, seems to be an outpost or colony of central Louisiana Marksville
and Troyville cultures, probably inhabited between A.D. 100 and 600.
A few scattered sherds at other sites along Red River show a thin
occupation or trade with Marksville, but Fredericks is the only large
mound and village site of this intrusive culture in the area.

The first widespread occupation of northwestern Louisiana by pottery
making, farming people was that of Coles Creek culture. This culture
developed along the lower Mississippi Valley, in Louisiana and
Mississippi, including the lower Red River, starting about A.D. 700.
Probably because their agriculture was more advanced, Coles Creek
populations increased and spread widely, up the Mississippi Valley,
throughout northern Louisiana, eventually into the Caddoan area of the
other three states, and even to the Arkansas River in central Arkansas
and eastern Oklahoma.

Coles Creek hamlets and villages were on the river banks, on the lateral
lakes, and on streams in the uplands. Many settlements were larger than
in previous times and large ceremonial centers evolved, some of which
featured mounds around a central plaza. There probably were temples atop
the flat-topped mounds and burials within other mounds. The temples were
either chiefs’ or priests’ lodges, or sacred temples, and ceremonies and
festivals presumably were held in the plazas. Pottery was well made and
hunting was with the bow and arrow which replaced the atlatl and dart in
this area about A.D. 600.

[Illustration: Distribution of principal archaeological sites in
northwestern Louisiana. Reprinted with permission of New World Research
and the U.S. Army Engineer District, New Orleans.]


At some time before A.D. 1000, and probably by A.D. 800, the traits
associated with the beginnings of prehistoric Caddo culture replaced
Coles Creek over the four-state area. The change may have started along
Red River in northwestern Louisiana, although others have thought that
a group of “culture bearers” entered the Caddoan area of eastern Texas
overland from the more advanced culture centers of the Mexican Highlands.

Whether the ideas that are shown in the prehistoric settlements came
overland or up the rivers, two conclusions seem certain: (1) early
Caddoan culture existed for a time with late Coles Creek; and (2) Caddo
beginnings added new customs and traits that seem to have originated in
Middle America, especially in the Mexican Highlands and on the upper
Mexican Gulf Coast.

The early Caddo unquestionably derived many things from Coles Creek.
Their settlement patterns were similar, a culture change from Coles
Creek to Caddo often occurring in the same village or even in
building levels of the same mound. The Caddo continued bow and arrow
hunting, with identical or slightly changed stone arrow points.
Coles Creek and Caddo peoples practiced the same kind of intensive
maize-beans-sunflower-squash-pumpkin agriculture or horticulture. They
both made clay or stone effigy pipes and smoked tobacco ceremonially. The
Caddo shared many of the Coles Creek pottery types, especially in the
utility vessels, with minor changes taking place through time, as is to
be expected. The Caddo retained strong religious and civil authority in
the villages and the major ceremonial centers and were organized under
a chieftain type of authority. There are similarities to Coles Creek,
finally, in Caddoan ceremonial festivities, games, and customs of burying
the dead in mounds alongside the plazas.

A Middle American origin can be assumed for a number of Caddoan ceramic
ideas. The bottle and the carinated bowl—a bowl with a sharp angle
separating the rim from the sides or the base—vessel shapes are likely
Mexican introductions. The same is true of the low-oxygen firing of
pottery and the burnishing or polishing of the exterior to produce glossy
mahogany brown or black surfaces. Decoration of these surfaces was often
by engraving after firing, combined with cut-out areas and insertion
of red pigment into the designs, and the frequent use of curved line
rather than straight line designs. The curved motifs included concentric
circles, spirals, scrolls, interlocking scrolls, meanders, volutes,
swastikas, and stylized serpent designs. A few curvilinear designs were
present in the earlier Marksville and Coles Creek pottery, but they
became more varied and frequent in Caddoan ceramics.

Another trait introduced from Middle America was that of placing the
burials of important people, such as chiefs, priests, and family members
of the ruling class, in shaft graves, sunk into mounds or special
cemetery areas. Some of the more important early Caddo tombs are quite
large, as much as fifteen to twenty feet in length and eight to sixteen
feet in depth. Many had special sands or pigments on the pit floor,
numerous offerings, and indications that retainers or servants were
sacrificed to accompany the revered person in the afterlife. Shaft tombs
in mounds and pyramids occurred in the Maya areas of Guatemala and
Yucatan, and also in the Mexican Highlands, before and during the time of
the early Caddos.

Other Mexican traits were the concepts of the long-nosed god and the
feathered serpent. These symbols are seen in the Caddo area in sheet
copper masks, on carved stone pipes, and on carved conch shells. In
Middle America, the long-nosed god symbol relates to the worship of the
rain god, Chaac, and the feathered serpent is the symbol of Quetzalcoatl
(Kukulcan in Maya).

Signs of elaborate ceremonialism have been found in large Caddoan mound
groups or centers in each of the four states: Davis, Sanders, and
Sam Kaufman sites in Texas; Spiro and Harlan in Oklahoma; Crenshaw,
Mineral Springs, Ozan, and East mounds in Arkansas. Along Red River in
northwestern Louisiana, the well-known early Caddo centers are Gahagan
and Mounds Plantation.

The Gahagan site is on the west side of Red River, almost equidistant
between Natchitoches and Shreveport. Formerly it was situated on an old
channel but much of the channel and site have been destroyed by river
caving. A village area, a conical burial mound, and a small flat-topped
mound surrounded a large plaza at Gahagan. Another small mound is about a
quarter mile distant. The burial mound was excavated by Clarence B. Moore
in 1912, and by Webb and Dodd (1939). Moore described a central shaft,
eleven feet in depth and thirteen by eight feet in dimensions, with five
burials and more than 200 offerings. Webb and Dodd found two additional
pits along the slopes, both starting at the mound surface and terminating
near the base. They were nineteen by fifteen and twelve by eleven feet in
dimensions, and contained six and three burials, respectively. Between
250 and 400 offerings were preserved in each pit.

The burial offerings at Gahagan included ornate pottery, beautifully
flaked stone knives (called Gahagan blades), batches of choice flint
arrow points, long stemmed or figurine pipes of clay and stone,
copper-plated ear ornaments, sheet copper plaques, copper hand
effigies, long-nosed god copper masks, polished greenstone celts (some
spade-shaped), bone hairpins, and shell beads or ornaments. All of these
are unusual for this area and show that the early Caddos had widespread
trade channels for these esoteric objects and materials. The sources are
as distant as the Gulf coast, the Kiamichi Mountains of Oklahoma, the
central Texas plateau, Tennessee or Kentucky, and, possibly, the Great
Lakes area.

[Illustration: Frog and human effigy stone pipes and polished and
engraved pottery vessel made about A.D. 1050. Artifacts from the Gahagan
Mound site, Red River Parish, Louisiana.]

The second Caddo site where high ceremonialism existed is at Mounds
Plantation, on an old Red River channel just north of Shreveport. An
oval plaza, more than 600 yards in length and 200 yards in width (about
twenty-five acres), is surrounded by seven mounds of varying sizes,
with two smaller mounds at some distance. It was first described by
Clarence B. Moore (1912), then studied by surface collections and limited
excavations by Ralph R. McKinney, Robert Plants, and Clarence H. Webb,
with assistance of friends (Webb and McKinney 1975). At least four
culture periods were indicated by pottery sherds. Excavations proved
that Coles Creek people established and laid out the site, probably
constructing at least four of the mounds around the plaza. A flat mound
on the northwest corner, started by these people, was built higher by the
early Caddos in what seems to have been a period of rapid culture change.
The mound may have been the location of an arbor or lodge where food was
prepared and served during festivals or ceremonies held in the adjoining

At the southeast end of the plaza, the Coles Creek people prepared a
large burial pit, measuring sixteen by fourteen feet, in which they
placed ten adult or adolescent burials in two parallel rows. Offerings
found by the investigators were limited to flint arrow points, bone
pins, smoothing stones, traces of copper-plated ear ornaments, and ankle
rattles of tortoise shells filled with pebbles. A small mound had been
built over this pit, and into this mound later Coles Creek burials had
been placed.

Subsequently, the Alto Caddos also used this mound for burials, digging
four large shaft tombs and three smaller pits. All but one of these
features contained offerings of superior quality. The most spectacular of
the graves was a large crater-shaped pit adjoining the Coles Creek pit.
It was nineteen by seventeen feet in dimensions, and was cut through the
mound to a depth of four feet below its base. In it were the skeletons
of twenty-one persons, from elderly adults to unborn infants. An adult
male, six feet tall, was provided with numerous personal effects which
included a sheathed knife on his left forearm and a well-preserved five
and one-half foot bow of bois d’arc wood placed by his left side. He is
thought to have been the paramount person whose death occasioned the
immense tomb, the ceremonial offerings, and the presumed sacrifice of
tribal members to accompany him in the afterlife. Part of the tomb was
covered with a framework of cedar logs, thus accounting for the unusual
preservation of many cane and wooden objects.

[Illustration: Prehistoric Caddoan stone knives, finely chipped arrow
points, and ceremonial polished greenstone celts from Gahagan Mound site.
These Early Caddo artifacts date to the 11th century A.D.]

Preserved offerings included an ornate pottery bowl, decorated with
a thumb-finger cross and eye symbols, flint knives of Gahagan type,
fifty-three arrow points, a long-stemmed pipe, copper-plated ear
ornaments, puma teeth, and objects of wood which included knife handles,
a comb, a baton, several small bows, and wooden frames. Also present were
leather, plaited cording or twine, and about 200 fragments of split cane
woven mats, some of them with diamond or bird head designs. A half pint
of seeds beside the important male were identified later as purslane
(_Portulaca oleracea_), a plant sometimes used for food by aboriginal
people. Also beside the male were four objects typical of Poverty Point
or late Archaic manufacture: two long polished stone beads, a polished
hematite plummet, and half of a perforated slate gorget. These ancient
objects, from a time 2000 years before the Caddo burial occurred, must
have been found and kept as venerated talismans by the Caddo leaders.

Gahagan and Mounds Plantation have their counterparts as early Caddoan
ceremonial and trade centers at a dozen similar large sites in Texas,
Oklahoma, and Arkansas. The best known is the Spiro mound center on the
Arkansas River in eastern Oklahoma, where enormous amounts of well-made
and exotic objects from the entire midportion of the United States
were gathered or made as offerings. Close contact between these large
ceremonial centers is shown by the similarity of objects, materials,
or artistic concepts across the entire Caddo area. Contacts with other
cultural centers in the Mississippi Valley and into the Southeast also
are seen.

Contrasting with these important centers, with their reflection of
Middle American ceremonialism, organized religio-civil leadership class,
and expensive cruel burial ceremonies, there were many small villages
and hamlets of early Caddo people. Their habitations, tools, and some
customs are known by explorations of sites at Smithport Landing (Webb
1963), Allen, Wilkinson, Swanson’s Landing, and Harrison’s Bayou along
the western valley escarpment (Ford 1936; Webb and McKinney 1975; Gregory
and Webb 1965). Colbert and Greer sites on upland streams in Bienville
Parish, and the recent study of a hamlet at Hanna on the Red River below
Gahagan (Thomas, Campbell and Ahler 1977).

[Illustration: Early Caddo copper objects from Gahagan include beads, a
hand effigy, a finger cover, a Long-Nosed God mask, and copper-plated ear

Many other small settlements of this time are known but have not been
studied, thirty to forty altogether between Natchitoches and the
Arkansas state line (Thomas, Campbell and Ahler 1977; Webb 1975). They
are found in the Red River Valley, on lateral lakes and streams, and in
the uplands. Apparently, these were simple farming, gathering, hunting,
and fishing folk who did not share in the exotic materials of the
complex regional centers. They probably did participate in ceremonies,
festivities, and renewals of faith by visits to the centers and may have
provided food, local materials, and occasional man-power in exchange for
leadership and protection. For the next 500 years there is no evidence of
the Caddo being threatened by outsiders.


Between A.D. 1100 and 1200 the early Caddo culture was changing into a
simpler culture that has been named Bossier, for the parish in which
it was first discovered (Webb 1948a). The large centers faded out or
were inhabited by small groups. The people seem to have been secure,
not menaced, and beginning to spread out along the streams in small
settlements or family homesteads. Local materials were used and few
exotic objects have been found. Burial customs became simpler, usually
single graves with a few offerings and situated near the home or in small
cemeteries. The pottery of the Bossier folk was of good quality and
still had some of the decoration by engraving, incising, and punctating
techniques of the earlier period, but increasing amounts of everyday
wares were decorated by simple brushing (similar to Plaquemine pottery of
eastern and southern Louisiana).

Between Caddo Lake and Natchitoches the location of settlements in the
Red River Valley almost disappeared at this time, possibly signifying the
beginning of the Great Raft. The villages and hamlets were on the lateral
streams, lakes, and into the uplands, along virtually every watercourse.
A calm period of pastoral life is indicated and probably lasted until
it was shattered in 1542 by Moscoso’s tattered Spanish army and the
subsequent arrival of other Europeans.

One such hamlet or family homestead of Bossier people is under study at
the Montgomery site in upper Webster Parish at the Springhill Airport
(Webb and Jeane 1977). The people seem to have lived here long enough
for their thatched roof, clay-daubed houses to have been repaired and
relocated a number of times, leaving numerous post molds. Their simple
tools and arrow points were made of local cherts; ornaments are missing
and polished stone tools are rare. Residues of gathered or hunted food
stuffs are present: hickory nuts, acorns, persimmons, mussels, turtle,
fish, and deer bones. No corn, beans, or pumpkin seeds have been found,
but they must have grown these crops and probably did so in gardens
rather than in fields. Their pottery, as shown by broken sherds, ranged
from rough culinary or storage pots to nicely engraved bowls and
red-surfaced or engraved bottles.

[Illustration: Bossier Focus pottery from Mill Creek site, Lake
Bistineau. Photos courtesy of Sergeant O. H. Davis.]

A Bossier group of higher culture lived along Willow Chute, an old Red
River channel in the valley east of Bossier City. Farming homesteads and
hamlets are strung along its course and two large mounds—Vanceville and
Werner—mark the Bossier ceremonial centers. Beneath the Werner mound,
destroyed in the 1930’s, were the ruins of an immense lodge which was
circular with a projecting entrance. The entire lodge measured eighty
by ninety feet. It was probably ceremonial, or the lodge of a _Caddi_
(chief), as few arrows, tools, or personal possessions were found. There
were quantities of deer and other animal bones, fish and turtle bones,
and mussel shells. Broken pottery in large amounts denoted feasts and the
ceramics were of exceptional quality. No burials or whole vessels were

Each lateral lake along Red River—Black Bayou, Caddo, Wallace, Clear,
and Smithport lakes on the west side; Bodcau, Bistineau, Swan, and
Black lakes on the east—has Bossier period sites around its margins.
Occupations continue westward to Sabine River and into eastern Texas,
southward almost to Catahoula Lake, eastward along D’Arbonne and Corney
bayous toward the Ouachita, and northward into Arkansas. Either late
Bossier or Belcher people could have been in the populous Naguatex
district described by the De Soto chroniclers, encountered just before
the Spaniards crossed Red River.


The Belcher mound site, in Red River Valley about twenty miles north of
Shreveport, gives its name to this Caddo culture period. Radiocarbon
dates at the site and comparisons with other cultures suggest that the
Belcher Focus began about A.D. 1400 and lasted into the 17th century.
During its beginning. Belcher culture probably overlapped and coexisted
with Bossier culture.

The Belcher site was excavated by Webb (1959) and his associates over
a ten year period. The Belcher mound contained a succession of levels
on which houses were built, burned or deserted, and covered over with
new buildings. Burials were placed in pits beneath the house floors or
through the ruins of burned houses. It is inferred that the houses were
ceremonial lodges or chiefs’ houses. The earliest house was rectangular,
with wall posts erected in trenches and packed with clay; a seven-foot
entranceway projected northeastward. The walls were clay-daubed, and the
gabled roof covered with grass thatch. Later houses were circular, also
with projecting entranceways, and with interior roof supports and central
hearths. They also were daubed and thatch-covered, but were divided into
compartments, which contained internal posts for seats or couches and
sometimes small hearths for each compartment. Food remains found on the
floors of Belcher houses included maize, beans, hickory nuts, persimmon
seeds, pecans, mussel and snail shells, and bones of deer, rabbit,
squirrel, fox, mink, birds, fish (gar, catfish, buffalo, sheepshead, and
bowfin), and turtle. Belcher tools encompassed stone celts (hatchets or
chisels), arrow points which had tiny pointed stems, flint scrapers and
gravers, sandstone hones, bone awls, needles and Chisels, shell hoes,
spoons and saws, and pottery spindle weights.

[Illustration: Prehistoric Caddo pottery, conch shell ceremonial drinking
cups, and lizard effigy shell necklace from Belcher Mound, Caddo Parish,
Louisiana. Artifacts date approximately A.D. 1300 to 1400.]

Ornaments found with burials or on house floors at Belcher include beads,
anklets, pendants and gorgets of shell, pearls, ear ornaments of shell,
bone and pottery, bone hairpins, bear tooth pendants, shell inlays, and
small shell bangles. Some of the shell pendants were carved in lizard or
salamander effigy forms. Ceremonial drinking cups made of conch shells
were sometimes decorated, one bearing a composite flying serpent-eagle
design. Platform and elbow pipes were of baked clay. Split cane basketry
or matting fragments show herringbone or 1-over-4-under weave.

Belcher pottery was superior to that of the Bossier people and, indeed,
is some of the best in the entire Caddoan area. There was a diversity
of bowl, bottle, urn, jar, vase, miniature, and compound forms. Large
storage ollas were found broken on house floors. Techniques of decoration
involved engraving, stamping, incising, trailing, ridging, punctating,
brushing, applique nodes, insertion of red or white pigment into designs,
red slipping, polishing, pedestal elevation, rattle bowls, bird and
turtle effigies, and tripod and tetrapod legs. Many of the vessels had
ornate or intricate curvilinear designs, with scrolls, circles, meanders,
spirals, and guilloches; sun symbols, crosses, swastikas, and triskeles
were added.

Many of the twenty-six burials found in Belcher mound exhibited a
carry-over of the early Caddo burial ceremonialism, presumably including
human sacrifice. Individuals or groups of up to seven persons were
placed in shaft burial pits, and often were surrounded by many pottery
vessels—sometimes in stacks—in addition to tools, arrows, ornaments,
food offerings, vessels with spoons, decorated drinking cups, pipes, and
other indicators of high rank. As many as twenty to forty pottery vessels
had been placed in a single pit. Even small children had ornaments and
numerous vessels, as though they were of the nobility. This suggests a
hereditary social ranking as was found among the Natchez Indians.

Other mound centers of Belcher culture, occurring along Red River
into southwestern Arkansas, show similar ceremonialism. Villages and
hamlets along the river to Natchitoches and into the uplands are marked
by typical Belcher pottery sherds. In all, late Belcher people were
dispersed widely, and their way of life gave rise to the generalized
cultural base that existed at the time of European intrusion.


If one views the Caddoan archaeological sequence as a tree trunk,
identifiable branches seem to begin spreading by about A.D. 1450
(Belcher Focus). After that point, several distinct tribal branches can
be recognized, each with its own particular language, or dialect, and
customs. Within relatively short distances these groups often exhibited
striking differences.

The Louisiana Caddoan-speaking groups were the Adaes, Doustioni,
Natchitoches, Ouachita and Yatasi. These groups seem to have been
concentrated around Natchitoches, Mansfield, Monroe, and Robeline,
Louisiana. Their total aboriginal territory stretched from the Ouachita
River west to the Sabine River and south to the mouth of Cane River.

On Red River, in northeastern Texas and southwestern Arkansas, there were
other Caddoan groups: Kadohadacho, Petit Caddo, Nasoni, Nanatsoho, and
Upper Natchitoches. Eventually, due to pressure from the Osage, these
groups migrated south to Louisiana and settled north of the Yatasi, near
Caddo Prairie and Caddo Lake.

The Caddoan tribes seem to have had strong cultural affiliations. In
fact, some anthropologists have considered them part of three vast
inter-tribal confederacies (Swanton 1942; Hodge 1907). In eastern Texas
another group, led by the Hasinai, consisted of the Ais, Anadarko,
Hainai, Hasinai, Nabiti, Nacogdoches, and Nabedache. This group also has
been considered a large confederacy (Hodge 1907).

The various peoples mentioned above seem to have been regional groups,
fairly fluid in nature, but tied to general geographic boundaries.
Linguistic differences served to differentiate them (Taylor 1963:51-59)
and some, like the Adaes, could hardly be understood by the others.
However, the Kadohadacho language dominated in the east—where nearly
everyone understood it—and the Hasinai language in the west.

These groups had chiefs, or _Caddi_. Generally one man had more prestige
than any other _Caddi_, but multiple chiefs—usually two—were present
in most communities. Other groups seem to have had _tama_ (local
organizers), but chiefs were weak or lacking. Polity, then, consisted
of the _Caddi_, or chiefs, and _tama_, a sort of organizational leader
(often confused with the chief by early Europeans) who was powerful
enough to gather the people for work, war, or ceremonials. The _Caddi_
were a select group—likely the historic equivalent to the priest-chiefs
of prehistoric times. Priests and witches composed a non-secular
leadership among the Caddoan groups, but by historic times they had
become somewhat separate from the warrior-chiefs who led the tribes.

It can be seen, then, that the Caddoan peoples had several of the
criteria of true chiefdoms (Service 1962): territory, leadership, and
linguistic-cultural distinctiveness. All of the Europeans—French, Spanish
and Anglo-American—who dealt with them left records relative to their
character and intelligence. As late as the 19th century the Caddo still
boasted that they had never shed white blood (Swanton 1942) and their
chiefs still were respected.

In the age of tribal self-determination and Indian sovereignty, it
seems in order to explain basic Caddo tribalism. Contrary to many other
southeastern Indian groups, the Caddoan people seem to have clung
tenaciously to land and leadership even after the erosive effects of
European contact. The fact that their roots extended into prehistory gave
them strength and self-confidence. They kept their faith and polity, and
their traditions remain even today.


The earliest contacts with Europeans in Louisiana were fleeting. The best
accounts were left by Henri de Tonti who reached a Natchitoches village
in February of 1690. He was searching for the lost La Salle expedition
and went on to visit the Yatasi, Kadohadacho, and Nacogdoches (Williams
1964). No other visits seem to be recorded for the next decade, even
though Spanish efforts to Christianize the East Texas Caddo intensified.
Contact is indicated by the 1690’s in such practices as the tribes
holding Spanish-style horse fairs (Gregory 1974).

[Illustration: St. Denis and the Natchitoches Indians, 1714. Mural in
Louisiana State Exhibit Museum, Shreveport.]

In 1701 Governor Bienville and Louis Juchereau de St. Denis, guided by
the Tunica chief, Bride les Boeufs or Buffalo Tamer, arrived at the
Natchitoches area. They visited the Doustioni, Natchitoches, and Yatasi
villages, and then returned to New Orleans. Bienville was especially
desirous of contacting the Kadohadacho to the north (Williams 1964;
Rowland and Sanders 1929). This trip, ostensibly for exploration, was
probably an attempt to obtain two commodities the French in lower
Louisiana were desperate for: livestock and salt (Gregory 1974). The
Tunica had long engaged in the Caddoan salt, and later, horse trades
(Brain 1977), and like them, the Natchitoches quickly began capitalizing
on their French connection. The Natchitoches employed an old Caddoan
trade strategy, that of moving to the edge of another tribe’s territory,
in order to be near their customers, and later returning to their own
territory. Accordingly, the Natchitoches claimed a crop failure and
relocated to the vicinity of Lake Pontchartrain, to trade with the
French. Eventually, in 1714, they returned to Red River with St. Denis
(McWilliams 1953). Likewise, the Ouachita had just moved back from the
Ouachita River where they had relocated in order to trade with Tunican
speakers (Gregory 1974).

After St. Denis returned to Red River in 1714, the Caddoan people in
Louisiana were to be impacted constantly by European migrants. Indian
polity and territory were eroded severely by more European settlements
and the depredations of displaced populations of other Indian tribes like
the Choctaw, Quapaw, and Osage.

Fort St. Jean Baptiste aux Natchitos was founded in 1714; it was the
earliest European settlement in northwestern Louisiana. The East Texas
missions, started in 1690, had not introduced many non-Indians to that
area. The French settlements were different, however, and the Caddoan
people began to see a gradual augmentation of European population. The
French had, in general, good relations with the Caddo and by the 1720’s a
number of them had Caddoan kinsmen.

In 1723, to counter French attempts at establishing a western trade,
the Spanish established an outpost, Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Los
Adaes (Bolton 1914). The Spanish _presidio_, or fort, became a hub for
clandestine traders—French, Indian and Spanish—and lasted for some fifty
years (Gregory 1974). Horses, cattle, and Lipan Apache (Connechi) slaves
were traded via Los Adaes, and by the mid-eighteenth century the Spanish
governors had named the site the capital of Spanish Texas.

The Caddo—Adaes, Natchitoches, Ouachita, Doustioni, and all the
others—were caught between the political and economic machinations of the
European powers. Gradually, the seesaw of European boundaries crossed
what the Caddo all knew as their tribal territories. Traders resided in
their larger communities, and seasonal hunts to the west tied them to the
mercantile policies of the French and Spanish. After Louisiana was ceded
to Spain at the end of the French and Indian War, French traders were
left in charge of most Indian affairs in Louisiana because of the quality
of their relationship to the Indians. For example, Athanase de Mézières
(Bolton 1914), St. Denis’ son-in-law, became a power on the frontier
because of his close relationship to the Caddo.

[Illustration: Caddoan interaction, 18th century A.D.]

Caddoan-European ties remained close until 1803 when the Louisiana
Purchase brought Anglo-Americans into contact with the Caddoan groups.
The Anglo-Americans had new trade and military policies, and in spite of
their agreement to recognize all prior treaties between France, Spain,
and Indian tribes, they were not very careful to do this. The French and
Spanish had ratified land sales by tribes and had insisted that their
citizens respect Caddoan land and sovereignty, but the Americans saw new
lands with few settlements, and were quick to encourage white settlement.
The old Caddo-French-Spanish symbiosis was ending.

[Illustration: European settlements in Caddoan area, 18th century A.D.]

The Caddoan-speaking groups began to move together by the late eighteenth
century. The Kadohadacho apparently absorbed several smaller groups—Upper
Natchitoches, Nanatsoho, and Nasoni—and shifted south. Osage raids had
taken their toll and the Kadohadacho moved to Caddo Prairie, farther from
the plains, on marginal land (Swanton 1942). They settled on the hills to
the southwest of the prairie (Soda Lake) near modern Caddo Station and
added their numbers to the other Red River tribes in Louisiana.

Beset by many problems, the American agents at Natchitoches began moving
the agency about, trying to keep the Caddo away from white settlements.
It was moved to Grand Ecore, Sulphur Fork, Caddo Prairie, and finally to
Bayou Pierre about six to seven miles south of Shreveport (Williams 1964).

The Louisiana Caddoans also found themselves estranged from their
cultural kinsmen in eastern Texas. First, the East Texas tribes remained
under Spanish domination while their neighbors were American. Policies in
Texas were quite different until the Texas Revolution and the foundation
of the Republic in the 1830’s and 1840’s. The new Texicans refused to
allow old patterns of trade and traverse for fear of having to deal with
even larger Indian populations.

The Caddoan tribes were consolidated enough by 1834 that the American
agents had begun to treat them as though they were a single group. The
term Caddo, an abbreviated cover term for Kadohadacho, one of the larger
groups, began to cover _all_ the tribes in the American Period. It was
this amalgam of tribal units with which the United States decided to deal.

[Illustration: Caddo Indian Treaty of Cession, July 1, 1835. Mural in
Louisiana State Exhibit Museum, Shreveport.]

On June 25-26, 1835, some 489 Caddo gathered at the Caddo Agency seven
or eight miles south of Shreveport on Bayou Pierre and on July 1, 1835,
they agreed to sell to the United States approximately one million acres
of land in the area above Texarkana, Arkansas, south to De Soto Parish,
Louisiana (Swanton 1942). Two chiefs, Tarsher (Wolf) and Tsauninot, were
the leaders of the Caddoan groups present at the land cession.

Present also at the land cession was their interpreter, Larkin Edwards,
a man they regarded so highly that they reserved him a sizable piece of
land (McClure and Howe 1937; Swanton 1942). Further, the treaty reserved
a sizable block of land for the mixed Caddo-French Grappe family.
Descended from a Kadohadacho woman and a French settler, François Grappe
had served his people well. His efforts to protect not only the Caddo,
but also the Bidai and others in East Texas, from American traders had
resulted in his termination as chief interpreter for the American agents.
The Caddoan people continued to respect and honor him.

The Caddo were to be paid $80,000, of which $30,000 was in goods
delivered at the signing, and the remainder in annual $10,000
installments for another five years. Immediately Tarsher led his people
into Texas and settled on the Brazos River, much to the chagrin of Texas
authorities (Gullick 1921). Another group, led by Chief Cissany, stayed
in Louisiana. They lived near Caddo Station in 1842 (seven years after
the land cession). Texicans actually invaded the United States to insist
that the Caddos disarm, the rumor in Texas being that the American
agent had armed the Caddo and made incendiary remarks regarding the new
Republic. The Louisiana chiefs offered to go to Nacogdoches as hostages
to show their good faith, but the Texicans refused them on the grounds
it might mean recognition of Caddoan land rights and polity in Texas
(Gullick 1921).

Eventually these Louisiana Caddo left—their credit was cut off by local
merchants, their payments ended, and the United States protection was
failing—and headed for the Kiamichi River country in Oklahoma. The
Caddoan presence in Louisiana, after a millennium, or more, was over.


One of the most difficult problems in American archaeology is the firm
connection of historic tribal locations to specific material remains and
sites. In recent years a number of efforts (Wyckoff 1974; Tanner 1974;
Williams 1964; Gregory and Webb 1965; Neuman 1974) have dealt with this
topic for the Louisiana Caddoan groups.

Again, the term Caddo has no real meaning. Each of the groups had its
own political existence, and both the Spanish and French realized that.
Their approach to Indian affairs has left us much better information than
that of the Americans. John Sibley, the first American agent, with the
aid of the half-Caddo, François Grappe, gave us good information, but
through time the American policy increasingly obscured tribal groups. By
the time of the 1835 land cession the Americans were talking merely of
the Caddo Nation. In the 1835 Treaty not a single warrior was identified
by tribe, nor were the chiefs (Swanton 1942); this was a purely political
machination by the Americans.

[Illustration: Caddoan and adjacent Indian groups about A.D. 1700.]

Since the early American policy has obscured the tribal diversity and
history of the Caddoan groups in Louisiana, it seems in order to return
to the older practice of recognizing the individual groups. Each will be
discussed briefly, in turn, and archaeological sites will be related
where possible. As was the practice in French and Spanish days, the
tribes will be discussed from southernmost to northernmost, as they would
be encountered as one ascended the Red River.


The Natchitoches, or “Place of the Paw-Paw” (all translations by Melford
Williams, personal communication, 1973), sometimes simply stated as the
“Paw-Paw People,” were the southernmost Caddoan group. They had absorbed
the Ouachita (“Cow River People”) by 1690 (Gregory 1974) and will be
treated as a single group here.

The Natchitoches lived in a series of small hamlets, each with its own
cemetery and corn fields. One hamlet had a temple which was described
by Tonti (Walker 1935) and their whole settlement stretched from about
Bermuda, Louisiana, to the vicinity of Natchitoches. Throughout their
early history they remained in the alluvial valley of the Red River where
only a few areas, usually “islands” of older terraces, were above the
active floodplain. Wyckoff (1974) has stated that they preferred the
tupelo gum-bald cypress biotic zone along the Red River, but in reality
they seem to have lived on the mixed hardwood, cane-covered natural
levees or in the oak-hickory ecological communities found on higher

Natchitoches chiefs’ names are scarce, and one gets the impression that
their chiefs were not very powerful. However, St. Denis seems to have
purchased property from a chief called the White Chief. It can be assumed
that the tribes all had _Caddi_, _tama_ and priests. However, it seems
that there were more egalitarian structures among the Natchitoches,
Adaes, and Yatasi than in the East Texas or Great Bend groups.

Documents indicate that at least four sites were occupied by the
Natchitoches between 1690 and 1803: White Chief’s village, Captain’s
village (Pintado Papers), La Pinière village (Bridges and Deville
1967:239), and Lac des Muire village (Sibley 1832; Abel 1933). There are
a larger number of archaeological sites which have yielded _Natchitoches
Engraved_, _Keno Trailed_, or _Emory Incised_ ceramic vessels or sherds,
catlinite pipes, glass trade beads, copper or brass objects, knives,
and gun parts. These include the U. S. Fish Hatchery (Walker 1935),
the Lawton (Webb 1945), the Southern Compress (Gregory and Webb 1965),
Natchitoches Country Club, Chamard House, American Cemetery, Settle’s
Camp, and Kenny Place sites (Gregory 1974).

The Southern Compress and American Cemetery sites seem to correspond
to White Chief’s villages. The Fish Hatchery and Kenny Place sites are
likely combinations of Ouachita and Natchitoches groups visited by Tonti
and others. Settle’s Camp site and Country Club site are along the
high hills west of the modern town of Natchitoches and may well be the
dispersed settlement known as La Pinière (Pine Woods) to the French.
Chamard House site may have belonged to the French trader Chamard, or
possibly one of the Grappes; located on the bluff overlooking the active
Red River, it remains undocumented.

[Illustration: Historic Natchitoches pottery, French iron tripod pots,
and Venetian glass trade beads. These 18th century A.D. artifacts were
found at the Southern Compress and Lawton sites.]

The Lawton site was the site seized for debts from the son of the
Christian Indian, known as Pierre Captain, probably a sub-chief or
possibly a _tama_, of the Natchitoches (Pintado Papers: 139). The latest
Natchitoches village, Lac des Muire, was north of Powhatan and on the
west bank of the Red River. Sibley (1922) pointed out that although the
tribe was reduced in number they retained their language and distinctive
dress. They were farmers and lived in houses, presumably their
traditional wattle-daub constructions.

Natchitoches land was gradually surrounded by Anglo-Americans and, by
the time of the Caddo Treaty, Natchitoches was a thriving community.
The tribe lived north of the town, near the Grappes (their cultural
broker with the whites). Local tradition holds that they were loaded
on a steamboat on the Front Street dock and taken to Oklahoma in
1835—something that obviously did _not_ happen. In 1843 the tribe
was still together under Chief Cho-wee (The Bow) and living near the
Kadohadacho on the Trinity River in Texas (Swanton 1942:96).

In the 1960’s Caddos living near Anadarko, Oklahoma, still could sing
a few Natchitoches songs (Claude Medford, Jr., personal communication,
1975) and the late Mrs. Sadie Weller recorded in that language. Most
contemporary Caddo remember the tribal name and a few “old” words, but
as a distinct group the Natchitoches seem to have been absorbed by the
Kadohadacho and Hasinai.


The Adaes (from _Na·dai_ which meant “A Place Along a Stream”) were
supposed to have had a village on Red River, near the Natchitoches. If
their reported village is taken to mean a dispersed series of kin-based
hamlets—what Spanish colonial people called _rancherías_—the previously
described Chamard site may be it.

In the 1720’s the Spanish established a mission for the Adaes, but its
priest and one lay-soldier were expelled by the French lieutenant,
Blondel (Bolton 1921). At the time there were no Indians living at the
mission. Apparently, they relocated nearer the Spanish, but conversions
were rare, and the Adaes were more interested in trade than religion. So,
for that matter, were the Spanish, and when the _presidio_ (now called
Los Adaes) was established in 1723, ostensibly to protect the mission,
the Adaes seem to have lived all around the vicinity.

Los Adaes then became essentially an Indian dominated community: Lipan,
Coahuiltecans, Adaes, Wichita, Tawakoni, and others lived there off
and on. Even the commandant, Gil Ybarbo, was married to a _mestiza_,
a half-Indian woman. Whenever the Spanish authorities in Texas needed
translators for Caddoan languages, they sent for soldiers from Los Adaes
(Blake Papers).

There was an Adaes village near Big Hill Firetower at a place called
La Gran Montaña (Bolton 1962) which has never been found, and another
nineteenth century village on Lac Macdon. The latter is probably a later
village than the one known on Spanish Lake where burials with European
goods were excavated by James A. Ford (1936, unpublished fieldnotes,
Museum of Geoscience, Louisiana State University).

[Illustration: Historic archaeological sites in the Caddoan area.]

Taylor (1963:51-59) finally placed Adaes as a definite Caddoan language,
but it was the most deviant of all (Sibley 1832), and the Adaes became
more and more western in their cultural orientation (Gregory 1974). They
gradually extended to the Sabine River where a late trash pit (A.D. 1740)
at Coral Snake Mound may be evidence of their presence (McClurkan, Field
and Woodall 1966). It contained glass trade beads, and a French musket
lock was found nearby. Their Lac Macdon village, where they remained as
late as 1820, was probably near the water body known today as Berry Brake
and may well be on Allen Plantation.

Little is known of Adaes history or culture. De Mézières (Bolton
1914:173) noted that they were severely impacted by Europeans and
“extremely given to the vice of drunkenness.” Like the Natchitoches, they
seem to have had close relationships with the Yatasi who were sometimes
called the Nadas, likely a homonym for _Na·dais_.

One Adaes chief who was their leader in the 1770’s has been identified
and they are clearly an archaeologically distinct group. Gregory (1974)
has pointed out the higher frequencies of bone-tempered pottery and the
ceramic types _Patton Engraved_ and _Emory Incised_ from trash pits at
Los Adaes.

Unlike the Natchitoches and others, the Adaes are not remembered by
contemporary Caddo who may have heard of them merely as part of the
Yatasi, who are remembered as a group. Many may have been absorbed, as
Christians, into the general _mestizo_ population at Los Adaes and still
have descendants in northwestern Louisiana.


Swanton (1942) translates Doustioni as “Salt People,” and they seem to
have lived near the salines northeast of Natchitoches. Little else is
known about them, and they do not seem to persist into the nineteenth
century. They either disappeared or mingled with the Natchitoches.

A large village site, on Little Cedar Lick, has yielded shell-tempered
sherds, Venetian glass beads, and French faience, all early to middle
eighteenth century artifact types. The site probably was the major
Doustioni settlement. Other evidence of late occupations appears at
Drake’s Lick. Williams (1964) points out that the Doustioni once had a
village below the Natchitoches, and, though it has not been located,
it may have been near the confluence of Saline Bayou and Red River,
somewhere below Clarence, Louisiana. Saline Bayou provides easy access to
the salt licks and was described by several early travelers (Le Page du
Pratz 1774).


The Ouachita were living on the river of that name before 1690. The
most likely site is Pargoud Landing at Monroe where recent excavations
have yielded early trade beads but no other goods (Lorraine Heartfield,
personal communication, 1977). Other sites considered for the historic
Ouachita were the Keno and Glendora sites (Gregory 1974; Williams
1964), but these are not certain since they may represent a Koroa
(Tunica) village with Caddoan trade connections or vice-versa. However,
animal burials and grave arrangements show that these sites are closer
culturally to the Red River sites than to other sites on the Ouachita.
Gregory (1974) has discussed the Moon Lake and Ransom sites northeast of
Monroe as possible Ouachita sites, but these may have been earlier Koroa
sites also.

As was discussed earlier, the Ouachita fused with the Natchitoches,
likely at or near the U.S. Fish Hatchery site, which revealed their
ceramic styles and animal burials. Fish Hatchery was a very early French
contact site (Gregory and Webb 1965; Gregory 1974), and it is the only
historic Caddo site to share deliberate burial of animals (horses)
with the Ouachita River sites. The Ouachita apparently were absorbed
completely before the 1720’s.


The name Yatasi, meaning simply “Those Other People” in Kadohadacho
language (Melford Williams, personal communication, 1977) apparently was
applied to a number of groups living in the hills north of the Adaes
and south of Caddo Lake. At least three villages are attributed to them
historically. One, located near Mansfield on Bayou Pierre in the Red
River Valley north of Natchitoches, was large enough to have a resident
trader (Bolton 1914). The Pintado Papers also refer to a group and their
chief, Antoine, who were living on a prairie known as _Nabutscahe_ near
Mansfield as late as 1784. Another village was located near LaPointe
on Bayou Pierre (American State Papers 1859), and a third was near the
Sabine River close to modern Logansport (Darby 1816).

As was pointed out, the Adaes and Yatasi apparently were fairly closely
related, and they may not have been real tribes, but rather a series
of kin-linked bands, each with its own autonomy. The Caddoan term for
these groups sounds much like a more inclusive term which lumps small,
scattered groups. Whether their “chiefs” were really chiefs or local,
heuristic leaders remains problematical. Bolton (1914) mentions chiefs,
stating that the Athanase de Mézières gave peace medals to two chiefs,
Cocay and Gunkan, in 1768.

[Illustration: Historic 18th century A.D. Caddoan pottery vessels from
Los Adaes, Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana.]

Presently, the archaeological picture seems to support the hypothesis
that the Yatasi included a number of small autonomous bands. A cluster
of sites is located around Chamard Lake: the Arnold or Bead Hill site
(Gregory and Webb 1965), the Wilkinson site (Ford 1936), and the Eagle
Brake site (Gregory 1974). These sites have fairly large, deep middens
and all have yielded _Natchitoches Engraved_ sherds and trade goods.
This is somewhat different from the scattered shallow sites nearer
Natchitoches and suggests more clustered populations, but still a
dispersed settlement pattern. None of these archaeological sites seems
to correspond to the Red River-Bayou Pierre sites, though they shared
the drainage. Although it is known that the Lafittes, Poisot, and Rambin
claims were near the Yatasi villages, and all of these settlers traded
with the tribe (Pintado Papers:82-84), their documented sites remain to
be found.

Contemporary Caddo, most of whom are Kadohadacho or Hasinai, frequently
mention the Yatasi when asked about other groups and know they once
existed. However, it remains obscure whether the Yatasi were one or many
little groups. They seem to have been absorbed by the Kadohadacho, but it
is hard to trace them after the American land sales.


The Kadohadacho (“Great Chiefs” in the Caddoan languages) were the
dominant Caddoan-speaking group in the Red River Valley. They occupied a
widely dispersed settlement with a temple and a mound, in northeastern
Texas and probably near the Great Bend at Texarkana. The Petit Caddo,
Nasoni, Nanatsoho, and Upper Natchitoches were absorbed by the
Kadohadacho, and the tribes abandoned their Great Bend villages (at
least four archaeological sites there seem related to these groups) and
shifted south to Caddo Lake. Once there, their chief, Tinhiouen, dealt
politically with both the Spanish (Bolton 1914) and the Americans.

The Kadohadacho language was the most widely understood of all the
Caddoan tongues, and, according to early accounts (Sibley 1922), the
tribe was the most influential of all the Caddos. They had a sort of
warrior class comparable to the “Knights of Malta.” It is, therefore, not
surprising that the Kadohadacho became the Caddo Nation of the American
Period (Williams 1964).

The Kadohadacho settled, at least by 1797 (Swanton 1942), at a location
known as Timber Hill (Mooney 1896:323) near Caddo Lake (Swanton 1942).
Williams (1964) has pointed out that this village has never been located
archaeologically. However, it should be noted that the Texicans placed
the tribe near Caddo Station in 1842 (Gullick 1921).

Immediately after the American land treaty, the tribe apparently split
into factions. A group under Tarsher moved to the Brazos River in Texas;
the others stayed in Louisiana until at least 1842, when they apparently
moved to live with the Choctaw some time that year (Swanton 1942:95).

The late Miss Caroline Dormon (1935, unpublished field notes, Special
Collections, Eugene Watson Library, Northwestern State University)
recorded a single burial, with a “silver crown, copper, etc.,” which
was found near Stormy Point on Ferry Lake by James Shenich, son-in-law
of Larkin Edwards. This burial may have been very near the Kadohadacho
village. According to the Dormon notes, this was a favorite crossing
to Shreveport and the Indian trace was visible as late as the 1860’s.
In spite of the fact that “Glendora Focus” artifacts were not present
(Williams 1964), it can no longer be said that there were no historic
Caddoan sites in the Treaty Cession areas of De Soto and Caddo parishes.
In fact there is a good possibility that this was the grave of the
powerful chief, Dahaut, who died in 1833 (Caddo Agency Letters).


The Caddo left their names, art, and culture in Louisiana. A number of
colonial European families can boast of Caddoan ancestors: Grappes,
Brevelles, Balthazars, and others. In Oklahoma, after years of wandering,
the Kadohadacho and Hasinai have become the dominant groups. Yet, as has
been pointed out, old traditions persist. People still recall stories
of floods on Caddo Prairie which left cows hanging by their horns in
the trees, and know that Natchitoches meant the place of “little yellow
fruits” that do not grow in Oklahoma.

At Binger and near Hinton, Oklahoma, the old songs and dances continue to
be heard and seen. The Turkey Dance still is held before the sun sets,
and individuals sing the “Dawn Song” or “Tom Cat Song” on their way home
from the dancing.

The Caddo now visit Louisiana, especially Natchitoches and Shreveport, to
see the places of their tradition. Places are part of Indian tradition
and pilgrimages are sacred acts. Perhaps now other Louisianians
will join the Caddo who realize how much Indian culture remains in
northwestern Louisiana.


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