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Caddo Homeland

Image of stylized tree
Caddo people are like the "limbs and the twigs."
Swanton's map
John Swanton's map showing the approximate locations of some of the named Caddo groups and villages, as recorded by the Spanish and French in the late 1600s and early 1700s. From: Source Material on the History and Ethnology of the Caddo Indians, 1942, Smithsonian Institution.
boundaries in1803
No boundaries were mentioned in the terms of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. The boundary between Louisiana and the Spanish dominions remained uncertain until defined by the 1819 treaty negotiated by the U.S. Secretary of State and the Spanish Minister in Washington. From Carter, 1995, Caddo Indians: Where We Come From.

Caddo history begins with The Old People, "Kee-oh-na-wah'-wah ha-ee-may'-chee", who settled in the valley of Red River and uplands traced by tributaries draining into the river. In that place, The Old People became strong and prosperous, increasing in number and occupying greater territory. Descendants of the Old People say—Caddo people are like the "limbs and the twigs."

The first historical documents, written by Spanish and French explorers in the mid-1500s and late 1600's, describe individually named communities of Caddo, some quite large and others mere farmsteads. Interrelated communities were identified as belonging to one of three geographically separate branches of the Caddo nation: Cadohadacho along the great bend in Red River, Natchitoches farther down Red River where the present Louisiana city of that name stands, and Hasinai, "Our People," in east Texas. Over time, "hadacho" meaning sharp was dropped from Cadohadacho and the people were simply called Cado or Caddo. Spanish officials heard about "the great kingdom of Tejas" before introducing themselves to the Hasinai late in the 17th century. The name for the State of Texas comes from this Spanish spelling of a Caddo word "taysha," that means "friend" or "ally".

[Prior to 1874, the word Caddo (or Cado) referred to the Cadohadacho. Depending on context, we use "Caddo" to mean Cadohadacho and, more generally, to mean all of the Caddo-speaking peoples. For most references to historical events prior to the late 1800s, it means Cadohadacho. By the early 1800s many formerly independent named groups had joined up with the Cadohadacho and all were often referred to as the Caddo.]

Caddo leaders were skillful in arranging peaceful alliances with neighboring Indian groups. Their powerful influence and political astuteness became historically and politically significant during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when their homeland became a borderland between Louisiana Territory and Spanish-Mexican Territory called the Province of Texas. Spanish missionaries, military leaders, and government officials, French traders and governors, Mexican and American Presidents and officials vied for their support.

From the beginning of relations with Americans in the early 1800s, Caddos pledged and worked to keep a policy of peace and friendship with the United States. Exactly nine years after the signing of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Louisiana was admitted as the eighteenth state of the Union. Dehahuit, the Grand Caddo, a leader whose influence and leadership extended beyond Caddo, Natchitoches, and Hasinai to allied tribes, was soon invited to a meeting with the first American Governor of Louisiana, William C. Claiborne. Saying that he spoke for the President, Claiborne asked for the continued friendship of the Caddo people and emphasized that the current disagreement between the United States and Spain was a dispute between white people. He urged, "Let the red man keep quiet, and join neither side." Dehahuit's cautious response granted his loyalty but not his lands to the Americans.

terrain of the Caddo Homeland
Rivers and terrain of the Caddo Homeland.
Caddo(Cadohadacho), Hasinai, and closest neighbors in the eighteenth century. From Carter, 1995, Caddo Indians: Where We Come From.
William Claiborne
William C. Claiborne, first American Governor of Louisiana. Portrait in the Louisanana State Museum.

You request that our wars in future may be against the deer only, that is what we ourselves desire, and happen what will, our hands shall never be stained with white man's blood. Your words, which I have this day heard, shall be imprinted on my heart, they shall never be forgotten, but shall be communicated from one to another, till they reach the setting sun. . . .

My father was a chief; I did not succeed him till I was a man in years. I am now in his place, and will endeavor to do my duty, and see that not only my own nation, but other nations over whom I have influence, shall properly conduct themselves.

Grand Caddo Dehahuit's reply to Louisiana Governor Claiborne's address, 1806

Photo of view from Stormy Point View from Stormy Point. Photo by Cecile Carter.

Strong and gifted Caddo leadership was not enough to overcome epidemics that killed thousands, or the flood of immigrants that came to their homelands as the United States advanced its western frontier.

Early in 1835, Caddo leaders signed, by marks, a memorial addressed to the President of the United States. Written for them in formal English language, the message may or may not have been approved by the Caddo leaders. Parts at least were true to their sentiment—"heavy news" had put the Caddo "in great trouble." Their last American agent had told them he was no longer their agent and said he "does not know what will be done with or for the Caddo." Having placed their faith in assurances by representatives of the United States that no white man would ever settle on Caddo lands for more than thirty years, it is doubtful that the leaders of the Caddo nation now intended, or even knew, that the final paragraph offered "all our lands" for sale.

Stormy Point
Stormy Point on Ferry Lake (Caddo Lake) February 1993. There is a good possibility that the Grand Caddo Dehahuit, who died in 1835, was buried near Stormy Point, a favorite crossing to Shreveport as late as the 1860s. Photo by Cecile Carter.

To his excellency the President of the United States:

The memorial of the undersigned, chiefs and head men of the Caddo nation of Indians, HUMBLY REPRESENTS:

That they are now the same nation of people they were, and inhabit the same country and villages they did, when first invited to hold council with their new brothers, the Americans, thirty years ago; and our traditions inform us that our villages have been established where they now stand ever since the first Caddo was created, before the Americans owned Louisiana; the French and afterwards the Spaniards, always treated us as friends and brothers. No white man ever settled on our lands, and we were assured they never should. We were told the same things by the Americans in our first council at Natchitoches, and that we could not sell our lands to any body but our great father the President. Our two last agents, Captain Grey and Colonel Brooks, have driven a great many bad white people off from our lands; but now our last-named agent tells us that he is no longer our agent, and that we no longer have a gunsmith nor blacksmith, and says he does not know what will be done with us or for us.

This heavy news has put us in great trouble; we have held a great council, and finally come to the sorrowful resolution of offering all our lands to you which lie within the boundary of the United States, for sale, at such price as we can agree upon in council one with the other.


After waiting six months for a response from the President, the Caddos received a message that their former agent was at the agency house (near present Shreveport) and ready to negotiate with them. There was no true negotiation. The Caddo had no official counsel. Their former agent made it clear—Caddo people could sell the land of their forefathers for what the government now offered or wait only a short time for the white people to take it away without payment.


I...am again sent...to obtain that from you which is of no manner of use to yourselves, and which the whites will soon deprive you of, right or wrong, and am ready to give for it what you cannot otherwise obtain, or long exist without, in this or any other country. I am instructed to deal liberally with you.

U.S. Agent, Jeheil Brooks June 25, 1835


Thus coerced, Caddo chiefs, headmen, and warriors drew their marks by names pointed out to them at the Treaty signing on July 1, 1835.

Mural depicting scene of Caddo Indian Treaty of Cession
Caddo Indian Treaty of Cession, July 1, 1835. Mural in Louisiana State Exhibit Museum, Shreveport, courtesy of Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism.
Caddo marks
Marks of Caddo chiefs, headmen, and warriors on the Caddo Indian Treaty of Cession, July 1, 1835. Click to see entire signature page of treaty.

The Caddos gave up nearly a million acres of ancestral land. According to the Treaty, they would receive $80,000-thirty thousand in goods and horses on signing the Treaty, $10,000 in money within one year, and $10,000 in money each of the following four years. In exchange, the Caddos were required to move "at their own expense out of the boundaries of the United States and the territories belonging and appertaining thereto" within the period of one year after signing the treaty, and "never more return to live, settle, or establish themselves, as a nation, tribe, or community of people, within the same."

For what do you morn? Are you not starving in the midst of this land? And do you not travel far from it in quest of food? The game we live on is going further off, and the white man is coming nearer to us; and is not our condition getting worse daily? Then why lament for the loss of that which yields us nothing but misery? Let us be wise, then, and get all we can for it, and not wait till the white man steals it away, little by little, and then gives us nothing...

Tarshar (Ta'sha)principal Caddo leader speaking to his grief stricken people before the cession of Caddo lands in 1835

Tarshar his X mark
Tsauninot his X mark
Satiownhown his X mark
Tennehinun his X mark
Oat his X mark
Tinnowin his X mark
Chowabah his X mark
Kianhoon his X mark
Tiatesun his X mark
Tehowawinow his X mark
Tewinnun his X mark
Kardy his X mark
Tiohtow his X mark
Tehowahinno his X mark
Tooeksoach his X mark
Tehowainia his X mark
Sauninow his X mark
Saunivoat his X mark
Highahidock his X mark
Mattan his X mark
Towabinneh his X mark
Aach his X mark
Sookiantow his X mark
Sohone his X mark
Ossinse his X mark

map showing Caddo land cession
The Caddo nation gave up nearly one million acres of ancestral land by the Treaty with the United States in 1835. Sections showing Caddo land cession in 1835 Treaty outlined and designated 202 on Louisiana and Arkansas maps, Indian Land Cessions in the United States compiled by Charles C. Royce,1897, Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology.

...the Indians were asked for an amount of land large enough to be covered by a hide. After the bargain the hide was cut into thin strips and stretched around a large plot of land and claimed as per agreement....the whites raided the Indians, drove them from their villages and took a portion of their crops. After the treaty a part of the money was paid, but a part never was paid.

testimony of Mary Inkinish, Fort Cobb, Oklahoma, August 25th, 1929

Mary Inkinish was a child when her family left Louisiana but her memory of the move remained strong. In 1929, when she was past 100 years of age and the oldest member of the Caddo Indian tribe, she recalled things that happened during and after the 1835 Treaty. She did not speak English. One of her sons interpreted as she told how the Caddos did not understand the extent of the land sold, and that the money was never paid as it should have been.

The Caddos moved to different places at different times. The first to leave looked for new homes in Texas. Mary Inkinish was with a smaller group that traveled into Mexico before rejoining the Caddos in Texas. The last to leave followed Red River to Washita River in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) without entering Texas. All were virtually homeless for the next twenty years.

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Mary Inkinish
Mary Inkinish retained strong memories of events during and after the 1835 Treaty when she was past 100 years of age. Courtesy Western History Collection, University of Oklahoma Library.