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The Caddo Confederacies and Other Woodland Indians in Texas

Caddo Links
Alabama-Coushatta, Kickapoo, Delaware, Cherokee and Other Woodland Indians of Texas
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Outline of Class Discussion: The Caddo Confederacy of Texas
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Caddo Links:
The Official Site of the Caddo Nation
Caddo Mounds State Historic Site
The Caddo Indians
Handbook of Texas - Caddo Indians
Caddo Language
Caddo Nation of Oklahoma
Caddo Indian Nation
Caddo Documents
Caddo Social Dance (Youtube)
The Caddo Indians of Texas
Caddo Indian History
Caddo Bibliography
Who are the Caddo Indians?
Caddo History and Culture

Caddo House
This is a replica of a Caddo home that was destroyed by vandals. It was at the Caddoan Mounds Historic Site. Photo by Wanda Downing Jones
Other Woodland Peoples of Texas


Youtube: The Alabama-Coushatta Problems Today
Youtube Powwow
Alabama-Coushatta Reservation
Texas Handbook - Coushatta Indians
Alabama-Coushatta Indians
Alabama-Coushatta PowWow
Alabama History and Culture - Links
Alabama-Coushatta Indians
Alabama Coushatta Indians
Alabama Coushatta Indian Museum - Livingston, TX
Alabama Language
Resources on the Alabama-Coushatta
Youtube Alabama Coushatta History Youtube
Alabama Coushatta Powwow 2008 Youtube
The Alabama-Coushatta of Texas

Kiikaapoa (Kickapoo)

The Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas
Kickapoo Indian Tribe History
Handbook of Texas Online: Kickapoo Indians
Kickapoo History and Culture - Links
Kickapoo History
Kickapoo Culture and History
Kickapoo History
Kickapoo Education

Cherokee Messenger
Cherokee History
Sam Houston and the Cherokee
Cherokee Texas
Cherokee War of 1839
Battle of the Neches
Battle of the Neches Youtube
Texas Cherokees
Sovereign Cherokee Nation
Texas Cherokees
A Brief History of the Texas Cherokee
Handbook of Texas - Cherokees
Texas Cherokee and the Republic of Texas
Cherokee and Republic of Texas

Lenape (Delaware)
Delaware and Shawnee Indians and the Republic of Texas
Handbook of Texas - Delaware Indians
Outline of Class Discussion:
The Caddo Confederacies of East Texas

Introduction: The Caddoes were highly successful agriculturalists. With their abundant food supply, a relatively dense population with complex social institutions developed. To many Texans their significance comes from their naming of the state. The peoples of this confederation called each other "Tayshas," meaning "allies" or "friends." Spaniards used the word for them as well as other friendly Indians. Probably the pronunciation was closer to "Tayshas" or "Taychas" than to "Texas."

There were more than two dozen tribes joined loosely together into three confederacies. The largest of these was the Hasinai, occupying the upper Neches and Angelina River valleys. The second was the Kadhadachos or Caddo proper that occupied northeast Texas and southwest Arkansas. The third group, the Natchitoches, lived in Louisiana. There were also independent Caddo nations.

These tribes and confederacies shared a common language, Caddo, with dialectal differences. They probably originated in the Southeast as their cultures had the Circum-Caribbean influences.


  • People have lived in East Texas for about 12,000 years
  • Paleo-Indians lived in the region from about 9000-6000 BCE
  • Archaic culture followed from about 6000-200 BCE - hunters who used "atlatls"
  • About 200 AD revolutionary ideas began filtering into East Texas from more advanced cultures
  • Over several centuries introduction of corn agriculture, pottery, bow & arrow transformed nomadic hunters and gatherers into village dwellers
  • Late Archaic people were receptive to changes
  • Earliest pottery manufactured in East Texas was crude, but apparently superior to previously available containers
  • Change occurred more rapidly after the Caddo moved into the Neches Valley
  • Most successful of prehistoric groups, the Caddo who in the late 8th century settled in the Neches Valley
  • Caddo brought with them bow and arrow, agriculture, tradition of living in large family dwellings in permanent villages
  • Local Archaic peoples quickly accepted these new ideas, completing transition from nomad to farmer
  • Dominated life in East Texas forests for almost 1,000 years
  • Precise ancestry of Caddoes not determined and within the Caddo Area, different cultural groups
  • Eleven centuries of Caddoan culture - three major periods
  • Early Caddo (700-1300 CE)
  • Late Caddo (1300-1700 CE)
  • Historic Caddo (1700-1850 CE)
  • About 800 CE Early Caddo populations began to increase
  • Introduction from Southwest of eight-rowed corn, "maiz de ocho" caused increase
  • When the Early Caddoes settled in the Neches River Valley about 800 CE, they established the southwesternmost known ceremonial center of the Mound Builder culture
  • It was a frontier settlement
  • Remained within the sphere of influence of parent group by maintaining political and economic relationships with the Red River centers
  • Participated in great Mississippian trade networks
  • Brought a way of life previously unknown in East Texas
  • Caddoan Mounds of East Texas functioned as a major regional trade center
  • Archeologists believe that war played no significant role at Caddoan Mounds; no defensive fortications

The Mounds:

  • Caddoes brought to East Texas characteristics of older mound building cultures
  • Evolving in the woodlands of eastern North America since about 1000 BCE
  • Mound Builders three cultural divisions:
  • Early Woodland (1000-200 BCE)
  • Middle Woodland (200 BCE-500 CE)
  • Late Woodland (500-1600 CE)
  • The Late Woodland division included the Mississippian culture, of which the Caddos of East Texas were a part
  • Tradition of elaborate burial ceremonies during Early and Middle
  • Late Woodland Mississippian cultures added temple platform mounds
  • Early Caddos did not build the mounds immediately upon arrival, rather, the mounds slowly emerged in series of building stages for 400-500 years
  • The burial mound began with a large subsurface burial of five individuals
  • As decades passed, earth was mounded over the original burial as others added
  • The mound rose to twenty feet in height and over 90 feet in diameter
  • Exquisite artifacts placed in the burials
  • Although not totally excavated, the mound originally contained perhaps 90 individuals
  • Soil carried and deposited on the mounds in 30-50 pound basket-loads
  • Caddoan Mounds reached its peak population and influence about 1100 CE
  • Population was large enough to provide the labor necessary for construction of the three mounds
  • Ceremonies performed on or around mounds unknown
  • Analysis of excavated materials suggests that some ceremonial buildings were deliberately destroyed by fire
  • Moundbuilding strictly a cultural expression
Life Among the Caddoes
  • Physical Appearance
    • Europeans described as both attractive and repulsive
    • Negative view result of tattooing and cranial deformation which was not universal but burial site in Lamar County includes several
    • Tattooing basically universal throughout Texas - made with charcoal; streaks on faces from top of forehead down nose to tip of chin; intricate animal and plant deigns on bodies; women even more elaborate adding corners of eyes
    • Also body painting for special occasions; women from waist to shoulders in various colored stripes; men special vermillion/bright red color for war
    • Also used body piercing and jewelry - shells, bones, feathers, pretty stones worn in ears and nose as well as in hair; also as necklaces, wristlets and at knees
    • Hand sign for "Caddo" - point through nose to signify piecing
    • Hair styles varied -
      Commonly men 2 inches long except patch on top that grew to waist decorated with feathers; also shaved or plucked except narrow band from forehead to neck; hair sometimes greased and feathers stuck to for special occasions; also dyed hair

      Women - knot at neck with red dyed rabbit skin

      • Clothing - expert tanners using deer and buffalo brains in process to turn out lustrous black leather; garments fringed, decorated with small white seeds pierced and sewn on; moccasins, leggings, breechclouts (all men wore in summer; women wore under clothing as underwear), shirts

        Dressy clothing was richly painted and ornamented; socially prominent women wore skirts from nettle cloth or made from mulberry bark

        Caddoes wore very few clothes during the warm onths

While Europeans taken aback by Caddo notions of fashion, that was not their most disquietening trait

  • What really drove the Europeans nuts was their custom of weeping and wailing when they met strangers; both men and women; learned that women weeped in face of impending death which Europeans learned to watch for as signal
  • Despite weeping, Europeans were generally welcomed with great ceremony, presents, and ritual washing faces of visitors

Subsistence and Material Culture:

  • The Caddo welcome also revealed their material success - had surplus to give
  • They were first and foremost agriculturalists - corn, beans, squash, sunflower seeds, tobacco most important
  • Men helped clear land, women in charge of gardens in the MATRILINEAL society
  • Women also gathered nuts, fruits, spicy pepper weed, roots, tubers
  • Men responsible for hunting and fishing with deer most important; disguised selves with skin, antlers; also hunted bears (mainly for fat), bison, wild hogs (javelinas or razorbacks), prairie chickens, ducks, turkeys, rabbits, mice and snakes; also fished extensively (used trotlines with dough or meat bait identical to today's)
  • Women prepared food; preserved; stored in baskets placed in ashes to discourage weevils; smoke curing; dried meat in sun or fire to make jerk
  • Housing:
    • Although houses might be smoky in today's terms, they were comfortable dwellings
    • Scattered dwellings surrounded the "inner village" where elite lived around the temple and burial mounds
    • Houses "bee-hive" or conical shape, 25-45 feet in diameter, thatched
    • Up to 40 people in one
    • When family decided needed house, contacted the "caddi" who set date and delegated authority to "tammas"
    • Festive, congenial occasion although "tammas" used switches to punish the latecomers (in good will)
    • recipient family prepared feast
    • temples like houses only larger and on mounds
    • Fire in center of house constant; if went out, temple fire always burned
    • beds of reed matting with frame of sticks and buffalo skins
    • men helped build house which was rare among Texas Indians
  • Pottery:
    • Caddoes created a rich variety of durable pottery goods
    • Common technique of "coiling"
    • Delicate shapes of many of vessels and intricate geometric decorations applied by engraving or incising reveal the artistic talents of the Early Caddo craftsmen
    • Included fragile long-stemmed smaoking pipes, earspools and beads for personal adornment, and small human and animal figurines called "effigies"
    • Dark gray and chocolate brown; also yellowish to reddish wares depending on firing process
  • Trade:
    • Stone materials of superior quality, especially flint and fine-grained sandstone had to be imported
    • Flints came from Central Texas and the mountainous regions of Oklahoma and Arkansas
    • fine-grained sandstone for abrading bone and shell came from adjacent areas of East Texas or Louisiana

Occupational Specialists:

  1. Caddo had occupational specialists who were relieved of other responsibilities
  2. Reflects economic level - luxery of supporting specialists
    • included politic-religious leaders and perhaps artisans
    • no other Texas Indians reached that level
  3. Also extensive trade - used bow and salt for trade
    • Caddoan Mounds major regional trade center
    • Artifacts from Appalachian Mountains, copper from Great Lakes, shells from coast
  4. Woman's work: pottery, baskets, make utensils, both men and women tanned hides
  5. Of course, childbirth always woman's work

Childbirth and Raising Children:

  1. when approaching time, she built small hut on bank of creek or river with "clinging pole," unassisted birth, washed in stream even if icy and went home to resume regular duties (not much different than today)
  2. Naming ceremony about a week later by priest, usually diminutive name of parents - girls named by woman shaman, boys by men
  3. Name might be kept or take name of guardian spirit
  4. Unlike others, no fear of using name of dead
  5. Unwanted children, infanticide not regarded as criminal
  6. Nursing for several years
  7. Boys toughened by harships and deprvations, instructions by elders, foot races
  8. Grandmothers important in training both boys and girls in correct behavior although most important for males - maternal uncles more than father
  9. Ready for marriage when skilled hunters or successful warriors


  1. He had to gain favor of her parents; left venison, if they took meant approval
  2. No ceremony beyond announcement by "caddi"
  3. Divorce simple and common
  4. Wives exhcanged, bartered
  5. Noble women expected to be faithful, adultery punished
  6. Usually monogamous, some polygyny - inherited brother's wife and children
  7. Were "berdaches" among Caddoes


  1. Ceremony depended on social position
  2. body dressed in fine clothes
  3. burial in few hours for ordinary; 2 days if important so confederacy could gather
  4. Copious weeping
  5. food and personal items interred
  6. coffins for important
  7. in recent times believed that soul did not leave the vicinity of the body for six days so needed food
  8. practice of passing hands over corpse or grave
  9. Messages could be sent through a recently deceased person to dead relatives

Political Organization:

  1. bureaucratic, graded offices
  2. An "elite" ruling class and "common" class
  3. each confederacy headed by "xinesi" (pronounced "chenesi" or "shinesi"); hereditary by male line
  4. Next a "caddis" (plural "caddices") - tribal chiefs also inherited - some were women
  5. in large tribes next came canhas or canahas who assisted
  6. next the "chayas"
  7. Then "tammas" like sheriffs
  8. War heroes "amayxoya" who wore special insignia
  9. few quarrels, insolent and lazy punished
  10. much power of xinesi and caddi derived from roles as priest and as voices of the gods
  11. most government jobs/tasks by kinship units
  12. clan names - animals

Village Life:

  1. Divided into two distinct areas - the "inner" village and the "outer" village
  2. The inner village contained two temple mounds and a burial mound
  3. The "elite" ruling class lived and conducted ceremonial functions of government and religion
  4. The outer village consisted of the scattered dwellings, shaded work areas, and farming plots of the common class


  1. two general motives - revenge for slaying of relatives and personal glory
  2. Caddo not oriented around war
  3. centuries of relative peace
  4. elaborate preparations; communicate with smoke signals
  5. hit and run riads
  6. dying her's death not Caddo way
  7. spoils better
  8. tenacious defenders, though
  9. took scalps, tanned and worn or hung on doorway
  10. captives killed after women tortured by amputating fingers, cut off bits of flesh, gouging out eyes
  11. Before war, usually san and danced for seven or eight days, offering to their gods such things as corn, tobacco, bows, and arrows, incense
  12. Prayed for courage and strength; asked the water to drown their enemies, fire to burn them, arrows to kill them, wind to blow them away
  13. If killed in battle, body not buried but left to be devoured by beasts and birds; condition in other world better than those of natural causes


  1. foot racing, form of hockey, loop & pole game, dice, unlike many Texas Indians not much gambling


  1. Like other Southeastern Indians, believed in omnipotent deity - creator of universe and all within it - This "great spirit" - Ayanat Caddi or Ayo-Caddi-Aymay or "great captain"
  2. Several versions of how this god was created but all share the belief that in the beginning there was but one woman
    • She had 2 daughters - one a virgin and one pregnant
    • One day two girls attacked by hideous, giant monster - tore pregnant girl apart and ate her but the virgin escaped by climbing a tree
    • When monster attacked tree, maiden jumped into water and escaped despite his drinking all the water
    • Told mother who returned to site and found a drop of blood in acorn sheel, covered shell with another and carried it home where placed in a small covered jar
    • During night heard sound in jar, when opened discovered perfectly formed boy the size of a finger
    • overjoyed, covered jar, next day had become full-sized man
    • He defeated the onster and with grandmother and aunt went to sky where he ruled the world
  3. Not much known about Caddo religious beliefs
  4. Caddo adored the Sun
  5. Also "flood myth" in which surviving Caddo family became the origins of all Indians
  6. Some individuals had supernatural partners or helpers acquired without the guardian-spirit quest so common among Plains Indians - could be inanimate objects, natural phenomenon or animals
  7. Religious practices focused on temples attended by the xinesis
    • "coconicis" - two boys who the supreme being sent to help the Caddoes - intermediaries and oracles between supreme god and the xinesis
    • No one allowed to see the boys
    • Xinesi would predict disasters, misfortune if people did not bring enough food
  8. Probably annual ceremony of renewal
  9. also each tribe large group of shamans devoted to curing
    • Societies or guilds of medicine men like Beaver, Mescal-bean, Yuko
    • Interpreting their dreams
  10. Believed sickness caused by witches
  11. Sucking affected areas of body, sweating of patient, herbs
  12. If shaman unsuccessful could be killed by his own relatives
  13. Shaman also foretold events, blessed new homes, named new-born children, and consecrated crops
  14. Most important religious ceremonies at harvest; others at planting, clan rituals
  15. Used "black drink" fermented yaupon common in Southeast


  1. The reasons for the decline and eventual abandonment of Caddoan Mounds are not clear
  2. Possibly cycle of bison
  3. By 1300 CE, Caddoan Mounds lay abandoned
  4. Cultural deterioration took place - labeled by archeologists as the Late Caddo Period
  5. Late Caddo continued to build mounds
  6. Often late Caddoan ceremonial centers did not include burial mounds
  7. Abandonment suggests weakening of the old social tradition
  8. Trade changed - ceased to participate in the far-reaching exchange network
  9. Continued limited and indirect trade to the west - Puebloan-type pottery fragments found and a little turquoise from New Mexico
  10. Many characteristics of the older culture remained
  11. Social hieracrch, loose confederacies, growing crops, beehive-shaped houses, pottery although not as fine as Early Caddo vessels
  12. With arrival of Europeans, Caddos have undergone tremendous change, upheaval, and dislocation
  13. 1857 - forced to leave homeland, placed on Brazos River reservation where they starved, died of disease, suffered constant harrassment from hostile Plains tribes
  14. Today about 2000 Caddos

Related historical arrivals:

  1. Much in common culturally but distinctive peoples arrived in Texas in historic era from other areas of Southeast
  2. Included, among others, Delaware, Shwnee, Cheyenne, and ALABAMA-COUSHATTA
  3. Alabama-Coushatta have largest of only two reservations in Texas today but did not arrive in in Texas until 1780s - originally two tribes within Creek Confederacy

Resources: Newcomb, W. W., The Indians of Texas: The Caddo Confederacies: East Texas
Caddoan Mounds
Glover, William B., A History of the Caddo Indians
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