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Caddo Tribe Facts and History

Caddo Tribe

The Caddo Tribe was Southeast Indian Tribe that inhabited parts of East Texas, Louisiana, southern Arkansas, and Oklahoma. 

The tribe is able to date themselves back to one of the earliest Native American cultures in North America which is known as the Caddoan Mississippian culture. During their early existence they were mound builders like most of the natives in North America.

The Caddo tribe was more than just a tribe, but rather a group of tribes that would be a considered a nation.

Caddo Tribe History

Hernando de Soto was the first famous explorer to make contact with the tribe in 1541. The conquistador quickly mobilized his men and attacked a Caddo tribe known as Tula. It would be actions like this that would cause the Southeast Indians to despise the Spanish.

The French made contact with the Caddo tribe when they met the Natchitoche people. The French unlike the Spanish, were interested in fur trade rather than conquest. They preferred to work with the Native American tribes because they believed it to be more profitable.

The French set up trading posts nearby the Caddo villages. This resulted in a profitable network as these villages were already hubs for many different Native American tribes to trade. 

These stations attracted more French and other European settlers. Among such settlements are the present-day communities of Elysian Fields and Nacogdoches, Texas, and Natchitoches, Louisiana.

In the latter two towns, early explorers and settlers kept the original Caddo names of the villages.

Disease

The Caddo tribe suffered from the same problem as every other tribe in North America, disease. When Europeans arrived they did not know they were carrying deadly viruses with them as they had built up some immunity over the years of European disease and death.

The natives did not have immunity and when they came in contact with the Europeans they contracted it and the results were devastating.

Their populations dropped significantly with the many deaths. Large tribes became much smaller and small tribes became extinct. This was one of the primary causes that led to their demise. Without a dwindling population they were unable to occupy the land they had possessed with as much force.

The diseases that tore into the Caddo tribe was smallpox, measles, influenza, and malaria. 

American Expansion

With their population in decline and America’s population growing steadily, it was only a matter of time before American expansion would claim the lands of the Caddo.

However, that would not happen immediately. 

Northeast Indian tribes located in the Ohio Valley had grown in power. The Iroquois Confederacy seemed to dominate the fur trade and were significant force that caused an imbalance in power throughout the region. These tribes had pushed the Caddo tribe further south.

In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson more than doubled America’s land with the Louisiana Purchase. Soon settlers would begin moving west into the frontier and known Indian territory. 

Nine years later the War of 1812 broke out and many of the Southeast Indians took up arms against the Americans. The Caddo tribe stayed neutral which was fortunate for the tribe. Generals William Henry Harrison and Andrew Jackson crushed the British and the natives at many battles of the War of 1812 that would include: Battle of Tippecanoe, Battle of Horseshoe Bend, and Battle of New Orleans. 

The death of Tecumseh also hurt the leadership of tribes as he wished to united Northeast tribes with the Southeast and other tribes throughout the continent in order to create a separate country.

Due to the Caddo’s neutrality and their importance as a source of information for the Louisiana Territory government, the US forces left them alone.

But following Congressional passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830 under President Andrew Jackson, the federal government embarked on a program of removal of tribes from the Southeast in order to enable American expansion. 

In 1835 the Kadohadacho, the northernmost Caddo confederacy, signed a treaty with the US to relocate to independent Mexico (which then included present-day Texas). The area for their reservation in East Texas had been lightly settled by Mexican colonists, but there was rapidly increasing immigration of Americans here.

In 1836, the Texans declared independence from Mexico and established the Republic of Texas, an independent nation. 

On December 29, 1845, Texas was admitted to the US as a state. At that time, the federal government forced the relocation of both the Hasinai and the Kadohadacho, as well as remnants of the allied Lenape tribe and Yowani onto the Brazos Reservation.

Pressures increased on the Brazos Reservation Indians to remove north to Indian Territory. Texans violently attacked a Caddo encampment just off the reservation on December 26, 1858.

This vigilante group was led by Captain Peter Garland and from Erath County. Choctaw Tom, led the Caddo. Married to a Hasinai woman, he was killed in this fight, along with twenty-seven other Caddo.

In 1859, many of the Caddo were relocated to Indian Territory north of Texas. After the Civil War, the Caddo were concentrated on a reservation located between the Washita and Canadian rivers in Indian Territory.

The Caddo people still survive today on the Indian reservation located in Oklahoma.

Conclusion

While many of the Native Americans fought against the Americans the Caddo was one of the few that did not and remained neutral. This would allow them to survive for a few decades more, but eventually American population would overwhelm them and they would again be forced off of the land.

While they did not face the immediate destruction of their tribe like many others that tried to fight a superior military force, their tribe would suffer a similar fate.

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