Thousands of years before Europeans discovered America…
… North America was home to many diversely complex Native American societies and cultures.
One such group was the Caddo Indians who lived in the Pine Forests of what is now East Texas. The name Caddo originally referred to the name of the major group of Caddo living along the Red river (Kadohadacho). Kadohadacho means true chiefs . The Caddo were also referred to as the Tejas Indians which meant friendly Indians. The name Tejas eventually became the name for the Lone Star state, Texas.
Caddo culture had many common characteristics from that of an older Native American culture known as Mississippian. Archaeologists refer to Mississippian culture as the Mound Builders.
Mississippian culture developed and spread across the southern and southeastern woodlands of North America along major river networks. Archaeologists call this period the Early Woodland (1000-200 B.C.). Population growths and trade are believed to be the reasons responsible for this.
The Caddo migrated into East Texas around 800 A.D. Archaeologists call this time period, the Early Caddo (700-1300 A.D.)
Eventually, the Caddo settled close to fertile river valley systems throughout northeast Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. Many of the cities and towns in East Texas are built on ancient Caddo settlements.
Once in East Texas, the Caddo established their own cultural identity (Hasinai). Their communities functioned and served as regional ceremonial areas and trade centers. These were very important functions of Caddo culture.
Just like their ancestors the Mississippians, the Caddo were also Mound Builders. Caddo Mounds State Historical Site in Alto, Texas represented the southwestern most influence of Mississippian culture that is known to Archaeologists.
Caddo social structure was stratified. There was an elite class as well as a common class. The elites ruled and governed the villages while the commoners provided labor. The chief was the principle ruler over the village and at times the spiritual leader.
Archaeologists discovered that the mounds were built in layers and served as burial chambers for the chiefs or the elite.
Over the centuries, the mounds gradually increased in size. This process occurred in stages and took some 400-500 years to complete. Temple and Burial mounds were built using elaborate ceremonial rituals and practices.
The Caddo did not live in teepees. Only nomadic tribes who followed the seasonal migration of bison on the Great Plains lived in teepees.
The Caddo were sedentary people. They lived in permanent homes and villages. Pine trees were used to make the frames while river grass was then inserted in layers to help provide protection from the elements. The Caddo had summer houses and winter houses.
The Caddo were peaceful farmers. They lived in farming communities where they cultivated and harvested a wide variety of food. They also gathered wild fruits such as berries, grapes, plums and maw-maws (may-haw fruit) to supplement their diets
Caddo women were creative artisans who crafted beautifully decorated clay pottery, pipes and celts. Their pottery was decorated using various patterns, engravings and designs.
Caddo pottery is still produced today by well known Caddoan artist Jeri Redcorn. Her work is proudly displayed in the Smithsonian’s Natural Museum of History as well as in the White House. Jeri also regularly participates in Caddo cultural events held at Caddo Mounds State Historic Site.
Caddo men were highly skilled hunters. Before bows were created, Native Americans used spear throwers or atlatls for well over ten thousand years.
Later on, the Caddo were renown for their bows made from Bois d;arc wood(Osage Orange). These bows were highly crafted and durable. Bois d;arc is a French term that simply means bow wood.
There is variety of wild game in the woods of East Texas that Caddo warriors would have hunted.