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Caddo Cultures in Texas

by R. Edward Moore

New. we now have names/ language in Caddo!

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The Caddo were farmers who lived in East Texas. There were two main groups of the Caddo in Texas. One major Caddo tribe was the Kadohadacho. The Kadohadacho lived in large villages along the Red river near the present day Oklahoma - Arkansas border. The other was the Tejas or Hasinais Caddo who lived around present day Nacogdoches. In fact, modern Nacogdoches is built on top of one of the largest of the old Hasinai villages.

The Hasinai were made up of several tribes organized into a confederacy. They called the confederacy the Tejas. Tejas is the Spanish spelling of the Caddo word and it is pronounced Te-haas. Sound familiar? TEXAS!!! Yup, Texas is a Caddoan word. It means "those who are friends". The Tejas Caddo tribes were all "friends".

The Kadohadache seem to have been one large tribe. They had a main village were the paramount chief lived and a number of satellite villages up and down the Red river.

There are a number of closely related tribes who also speak versions of the Caddo language. The Wichita, and the Pawnee are two important tribes who speak a form of Caddoan. If this confuses you, think of English. The English speak English, and so do Americans, Canadians and Australians. A long time ago the Caddos, the Pawnee and the Wichita were all in the same tribe. They divided up and moved apart long ago. Their myths claim they all came out of Arkansas and this is very possible.

The Caddo lived in east Texas in the piney forests. Look at the map of East Texas Indian lands. Their territory extended into Louisiana. Arkansas and Oklahoma. This region has a good annual rainfall and is in a temperate region. This is a good climate for farming. There are many springs, creeks, streams and several large rivers in this area. There are also many large and small lakes, along with some large swamps. Although pine trees are the most common trees found here, there are many other kinds of trees growing in the piney woods. Along the river bottoms there are many hardwood trees such as oak, walnut, pecan and a tree called bois de arc. The pecan and walnut trees provided good nuts to eat along with their wood. The bois de arc is an important tree to the Caddo. It has a strong and flexible wood. Because it is so strong and flexible it is perfect for making bows for shooting arrows. Bows and arrows were the favorite weapon for hunting and for war. The bois de arc only grows in this region, so the Caddo had all the bois de arc wood. They didn't just make bows for themselves. They made bows to trade with other Indian tribes who did not have bois de arc wood.

Pine forest

Because they lived in the woods they used wood for many things. To cut down trees they used stone axes. Here is a stone axe. These were not very sharp and cutting down a tree took a long time and a lot of work.

Lisa Bennett holding a Caddo stone axe.

The Caddo lived in tall cone shaped grass huts. To build a hut, they made a wood frame and covered it with cut cane and long grasses. These huts were nicely furnished inside with furniture and were quite comfortable. One of the reasons the Spanish seemed to like the Caddo was because they had beds and chairs inside these huts. This reminded the Spanish of their own beds and chairs. They would use buffalo skins with the hair on them as blankets to keep warm in the winter. These huts could be very large. The inside of the huts had woven grass and split cane mats on the floors. These same mats were hung up as partitions inside the hut. Often several families would live in one hut. To see pictures of a Caddo house being built go to this site created by Bob Skiles. Click here to go to Bob's site. Please come back when you are done :-P

This is a reconstructed Caddo hut. It is covered with cane. The doorway gives you an idea of how big it is.


The Caddo would build more than one house for a family group. They would build a house like above for the winter and rainy weather. The Spanish sources tell us they would also build another summer house next to the winter house. The summer house had no sides on it, only a roof. The floor was special in the summer house. The floor was raised up off the ground and was made of woven cane or split wood. This woven floor was like a screen, it had small openings between the wood to let air pass through. This floor and the open sides were all to help keep cool in the hot humid East Texas Summers.

This is a Wichita hut drawn by George Catlin. It looks like a Caddo hut, but it is much smaller. Notice the pole frame and the grass covering. It may be covered with woven grass mats.

They were farmers. They planted crops in large clearings in the woods. They raised corn, beans and squash. They also hunted the deer, turkey, rabbits, squirrels and other animals in the pine woods around them. The women would gather wild plant food like acorns, black berries, persimmons, roots and many other plants and fruits. But, farming corn, beans, and squash provided the main source of food. Hunting parties of men would be formed to travel west onto the Southern Plains were there were many buffalo at certain times of the year. This was a long trip that could take several weeks. The men would dry the buffalo meat to preserve it so they could carry it home. They also saved the valuable buffalo skins to tan and use as robes. Buffalo skins with the hair on them are very soft and warm.

For food these Indians farmed corn, beans, squash and other crops. They would also hunt deer and gather berries, roots, and nuts. Early European explorers reported finding the woods cleared like a European park. This means the grass was short and the undergrowth was cleared away. The Indians did not have tractors or lawn mowers to do this. They would set fires in the woods to burn away the old taller grass and small shrubs and bushes without hurting the old trees with thick bark. If this is done every year or so, the fire keeps the undergrowth out. The Indians would do this in the fall and winter. In the spring new green grass would get more sun and grow better on the burned areas than in undergrowth. This tender green grass would attract deer and animals to hunt. These fires also made it easier to find acorns and nuts on the ground. The Southeastern Indians used a lot of acorns for food. So these fires were useful and not destructive. This is one way the Indians controlled their environment. Go here to the Alabama-Coushatta page to read a Myth about how the Indians got fire while gathering acorns. Read about the Alabama-Coushatta religion while there because the Caddo religion was almost the same.

Here is a clever Caddo myth about making corn meal. Thanks to Jane Archer and Wordware Publishing for sharing it with us.

Corn Mill Coyote

from Texas Indian Myths and Legends

by Jane Archer

A woman pounded corn in a favorite corn mill made from a tree trunk. Smooth with age, it was about two feet wide and three or four feet tall. She dropped corn inside and pounded it with a pole into fine meal.

This is a Cherokee woman using a corn mill just like a Caddo corn mill. Picture by R. E. Moore. Editor's note, added this picture to Jane Archer's myth so you could see what a corn mill looks like. Now back to the story.

As she pounded she noticed the corn disappeared faster than meal was ground. She pounded harder and faster, but she still lost more corn than she made meal. After pounding all her corn, she gathered her small portion of meal.
She waited for the next woman to pound her corn to see if the same thing happened. This woman pounded her corn but made very little meal. Now both were suspicious. They waited for the next woman. She pounded her corn, then gathered a small amount too. Now three women waited to watch the next one. This woman pounded and pounded, but the corn disappeared and little meal replaced it.
They discussed the situation, then decided something must be wrong with the corn mill. They turned the mill this way and that, and then realized it was not the same old mill they always used. Copyright, 2000, Jane Archer
One woman called for an axe to split the mill in half so they could see inside. As a woman ran to get it, the mill fell on its side and rolled around on the ground. The women jumped back in astonishment.
Coyote leaped up from what had been the corn mill and ran away.
All the women laughed. Now they understood that Coyote had hidden the old corn mill and then turned into a mill to eat all their corn.

Copyright, 2000, Jane Archer

If you enjoyed this myth, read more in Texas Indian Myths and Legends by Jane Archer. Ask your librarian to order Texas Indian Myths and Legends for your school.

Click here to send Wordware Publishing a thank you e-mail. for sharing this myth with us.

Did you like that myth? To learn more about Indian myths and for activities using myths check out our Indian Myths page.


  The Caddo made very beautiful pottery. Some of the pottery has elaborate decorations. Some of the pottery is decorated with designs engraved into the surface of the pots. On the left is a Caddo pot made by Jereldine Redcorn. Jeri is a Caddo woman who is trying to recreate the old ways of making pottery.

Jereldine Redcorn 

Holding a nice pot she made.

   Here is another Redcorn pot. Notice how shiny it is. She polishes the surface with a very smooth pebble. The design is etched into the surface. White or red clay is then rubbed into the engraved lines to make them stand out.

Other pottery was made with animal heads, tails, feet and other features molded onto it. This kind of molded pottery is called effigy pottery.

An effigy pot made to look like a bird

If you have read the "Anthropology Rules" page you know how important pottery is to people who farm. Farmers need containers that animals like rats cannot chew into to store their seeds and crops. Pottery is also good for cooking and eating out of. Making pottery was a woman's job. They made their pottery by coiling long strings of clay and squeezing them together. Then they would smooth the rough coils out.

This is an engraved pot. The design below is the picture on the pot rolled out to see the whole thing.


Copyright by R E. Moore and Texarch Associates, 1998, all rights reserved. Graphics may not be used or reproduced without prior permission. Short parts of text may be quoted in school reports. Longer quotes require prior written permission.


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