Histories of the tribes
the Caddos

Caddo Turkey Dance by Archie Blackowlwhen European explorers in the 16th through the 18th centuries encountered the Caddo peoples in the vicinity of the Red and Ouachita rivers in southwest Arkansas, they found a settled, sophisticated community, with family homesteads spaced generously apart to allow for farming. The houses commonly resembled a beehive, with a hearth in the center, and were sometimes as large as 60 feet in diameter. The household might contain extended matrilineal families. Other Caddo confederacies occupied areas of east Texas and northwest Louisiana.

Their social structure had the women preparing hides for clothing, cooking, weaving, raising children and gardening, while the men hunted, celebrated religious ceremonies and sometimes engaged in warfare. Other activities were shared communally, such as preparing soil and building houses.

Tattooing was also common in both sexes. The leader of the community, the caddi, greeted visitors and forged relationships with the smoking of a calumet, or peace pipe (as did some other tribes in Arkansas). Salt was of particular use and interest for food preparation, preservation and trade, and the saline water in marshes in southern Arkansas where the Caddos resided provided a plentiful supply, extracted by boiling the water in clay pans. Caddoan pottery was often intricately and beautifully decorated, and you can view many examples of it in the holdings of the Arkansas Archeological Survey at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

As the Caddo population was reduced by encounters with Europeans carrying smallpox and measles and by battles with the Osages and some other tribes, they were forced out of Arkansas by the late 18th century and officially ceded their Arkansas land under pressure in an 1835 treaty. They moved first to Texas and then to Oklahoma near the town of Binger, where the Caddo tribal rolls currently number about 5,000. The rotating site of the annual Caddo Conference (caddoconference.org) is often held in Arkansas, with many exhibits and sessions open to the public.