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 Rebeline, 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 intertribal 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 been 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 nineteenth 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.

European Contact

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 1690s in such practices as the tribes holding Spanish-style horse fairs (Gregory 1974).

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).

St. Denis and the Natchitoches Indians
St. Denis and the Natchitoches Indians, 1714. Mural in Louisiana State Exhibit Museum, Shreveport. Photograph by Al Godoy

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 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.

Caddoan interaction in the eighteenth century.

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 1720s a number of them had Caddoan kinsmen.

European settlements in the Caddoan area, eighteenth century.

In 1723, to counter French attempts at establishing a western trade, the Spanish established an outpost, Nuestra Senora 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 50 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 Mezieres (Bolton 1914), St. Denis's son-in-law, became a power on the frontier because of his close relationship to the Caddo.

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.

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 1830s and 1840s. 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.

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, Francois 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.

Caddoan Indian Treaty of Cession, July 1, 1835. Mural in Louisiana. State Exhibit Museum, Shreveport. Photograph by Al Goody.