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Native American Society

Caddo


Living in a mild year-round climate was an asset to southeast farming tribes like the Caddo, "Chief," Indians. The fertile valley of Louisiana's Red River allowed the tribe to harvest two crop cycles a year, making corn, beans and squash plentiful. Caddo lands in Arkansas were as lush.

Caddo villages consisted of cone-shaped earth lodges placed in a circle around a common area used for ceremony and celebration. Foundations for the lodges were dug several feet below ground level and log frames were built to hold a covering of branches and sod.

During the big autumn hunt, the men would wear a disguise of a deer head to more effectively fool their prey. At the same time, the women and children would take to the woods to gather nuts and berries to accent the stored reserves of dried vegetable crops.

Dress for the men consisted of a buckskin breechcloth, and women wore skirts fashioned from mulberry bark. With the onset of winter they added fur robes, as buffalo, so essential to many tribes, were not available to the Caddo.

Tattooing was prevalent among the Caddo people. Ornate depictions of the nature surrounding them were scratched into the skin using simple tools of stone, bone or shell. Color was added by rubbing charcoal or natural vegetable dyes into the open wounds. Body painting was common as well. Beautifully decorated pottery bearing some of the same designs also was created.

An agricultural tribe, the sun was a main deity of the Caddo and many ceremonies were held to honor sowing and harvesting crops.

The conflict between the French and Spanish during the 1700s spilled into the lives of the Caddo when both sides commandeered villages to use as defense posts. As was so often the case, with the whites came disease unknown to the Caddo, and epidemics of small pox and measles soon wiped out many.

Those who remained were forced off their lands and moved to east Texas, but even that didn't last. A reservation was finally dedicated for them in Indian Territory, but ultimately it, too, was divided up to sell to white settlers, leaving a much smaller parcel for the Caddo.

Today, Caddo descendants live in Oklahoma.

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