Caddoan Tribal Locations and Archaeology in Louisiana

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, Francois 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.

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

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 cornfields. 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 ground.

Caddoan and adjacent groups about 1700.

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 Piniere village (Bridges and Deville 1967:239), and Lac des Muire village (Sibley 1832, 1922). 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 Canard 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 PiPinierePine 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.

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 1960s 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

The Adaes (from Nadai 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 rancherias -the previously described Chamard site may be it.

In the 1720s 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 set for soldiers from Los Adaes (Blake Papers).

There was an Adaes village near Big Hill Firetower at a place called La Gran Montafla (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).

Tayler (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 (McClurken, 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 Mezieres (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 Nadais.

One Adaes chief who was their leader in the 1770s 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 descendents in northwestern Louisiana.