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CADDO INDIANS (Extract from the Handbook of Texas Online article Indians.)

Ethnologists have identified hundreds of groups of Texas "Indians," as the first European explorers to arrive called the peoples they found. Some of these were true tribes, accumulations of families or clans with social customs, traditions, and rules for order; these were occasionally quite large. At the opposite extreme, some were merely small family groups whose names or ethnic designations were taken for "tribal" names by the Spanish and French and in subsequent secondary literature. The extant names of Texas Indian groups present a dazzling array of variants, partly because the Spanish, French, and English heard the newly "discovered" peoples differently and recorded their names differently. Some names in the historical records are mistakes for groups that never existed.

Spanish period. The variety of the peoples and cultures whom Europeans first found in Texas and the different histories of each group make generalizations about Indians hazardous. Texas was not simply a Spanish-Indian or Anglo-Indian frontier, but rather a multisided frontier, a Spanish-Anglo-Comanche-Wichita-Apache-etc. frontier, where multiple groups acted for their own reasons. A few generalizations, however, apply to all Texas Indian groups. First, diseases introduced by the Europeans decimated them, especially after mission and military institutions brought people in contact so that they could be infected (see HEALTH AND MEDICINE). More broadly, anthropologist John C. Ewers has identified no fewer than thirty major epidemics-mainly of smallpox and cholera-between 1528 and 1890 that wiped out perhaps 95 percent of Texas Indians.

Texas also became a "horse-and-gun" frontier for Indians located between competing European powers. French and English traders from the East introduced firearms to the Indians in order to purchase peltry from them and win them as allies in both trade and war. The Spanish introduced horses. Groups able to obtain these two important items had a powerful advantage over others. The introduction of the horse, especially, produced nothing less than a cultural, technological, and economic revolution, enabling groups to move their habitats, intensify their raiding and trading activities, and hunt buffaloqv more effectively. When the French gun trade met the Spanish horse trade in the late 1600s, the situation impelled the Spanish to settle Texas in order to block French efforts to move southward and westward toward the Spanish provinces of Mexico and New Mexico. Texas, in effect, was of little importance except as a buffer to be occupied for the protection of more important Spanish possessions.

In the late 1680s, Spanish soldiers and missionaries ventured far beyond existing Spanish settlement to the woodland home of the Caddo Indians.qv The Caddos were twenty-five to thirty distinct groups that shared the same language, political structure, and religious beliefs and ceremonies. In the 1690s they assembled themselves into three loose confederacies-the westernmost Hasinai Indiansqv (including the Tejas Indiansqv or Tay-sha, from whom Texas got its name) settled on the Angelina and Neches rivers, the Kadodachos along the bend of the Red River at what is now the Texas-Louisiana-Arkansas border, and the eastern Natchitoch Indians.qv The Caddos were an agricultural people who lived in stable villages and were not especially warlike except for their traditional conflicts with Osages to the north and Tonkawaqv bands to the west over hunting grounds. Franciscansqv and Spanish soldiers settled among the Hasinais in 1689. Caddos resisted Spanish efforts to "reduce" them to compact towns; instead, they preferred to live in small clusters stretching through fertile river valleys. The missionaries had little success in converting them to Christianity, and resorted in frustration to ridicule of Caddo beliefs in the effort. A smallpox epidemic swept through the area in the winter of 1690-91, killing 3,000 Caddos, whose religious leaders blamed the friars for the pestilence. Aside from disease, Caddo tenacity in holding onto their religion, and the disrespect offered by the missionaries, other problems smoldered as well. The Caddos invited the Spanish into their villages mainly to get trade advantages, especially a steady supply of firearms with which to defend themselves against Osage raids, but trade was meager and the Spanish refused to supply weapons.

The Wichita bands traded surplus crops to the Comanches for horses, then supplied horses to the French and Caddos living to the east. This trade system-from the French through the Caddos through the Wichitas to the Comanches-defined the diplomacy, economy, and general issues of war and peace from the early 1700s until the early years of Anglo-American settlement near the South Plains.

George Klos

 Citation: "Caddo Indians," extract from The Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association, 2001, <http://www.tshaonline.org/tools/article_extracts/bzi4_caddo.html> [Access Date].

For bibliography and complete article go to Indians.
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